The first image we have of popular Marvel Comics anti-hero Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in Deadpool is his bulging crotch, crowned by a belt-buckle emblem of his red-and-black mask and pressed against the face of a thug. The film's humour is unashamedly juvenile, the humour of arrested (and actual) adolescent males. And having Deadpool's face (in belt-buckle form) right above the bulge in his pants seems quite apropos, as Deadpool is, for want of a better word, a dick.
The implied sexual dominance of Deadpool pressing his taint against a thug's mouth and nose is the first instance of a theme across the film, in which implied male-on-male sex is used to show one male's power over another. (At one point, Deadpool jokingly casts himself in the submissive role instead: 'Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my very own movie?') This is the brand [End Page 158] of homophobic homoerotica that is stereotypically associated with boarding schools, fraternities and prisons– and while Deadpool wraps this commentary in winking irony, for some male fans the movie may dovetail with an American political tendency that favours 'alpha males' over 'pajama boys' and dismisses opponents as 'cucks' (cuckolds).
In the comics, Deadpool is bisexual or even pansexual. However, despite the recurrent references to homosexual sex acts as either empowering or humiliating, Movie Deadpool only has eyes for Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a prostitute/stripper Wade Wilson meets before his transformation into Deadpool. Introducing the flashback that includes Wade and Vanessa's romance, Deadpool tells the audience that the movie is 'a love story'. However, it is a love story tailored for the adolescent male point of view. The approach is reminiscent of the late comedian Richard Jeni's description of a porn film as 'a beautiful love story with all the boring parts cut out'. Wade and Vanessa's first meeting at a mercenary bar is a variation on Monty Python's 'Four Yorkshiremen' sketch, with each claiming to have had the worse childhood. Their months of living together are covered in a montage of holiday-themed sex jokes (cunnilingus with vampire teeth for Halloween, for example). However, after Wade gets the cancer diagnosis that leads him to enrol in experimental treatments that give him his regenerative superpowers, Vanessa only serves the traditional purpose of superhero girlfriends and sidekicks: hostage. She is captured by the villain Ajax (Ed Skrein) and trapped in a glass tube for Deadpool to save in the final showdown. (The sequel ups the ante by killing her off in the first scene, only to resurrect her via time-travel mid-credits.)
As the first R-rated superhero film, Deadpool is also the first to be able to add explicit sexual references to the menu of adolescent wish fulfilment that the genre has always served up. Although the mainstream comic-book audience has expanded over time, the target readership in comics' Golden Age was adolescent boys who dreamed of not only being bigger and stronger than they were but also bigger and stronger than mere mortal men. One of the most popular Golden Age superheroes, Captain Marvel, offered the ultimate fantasy: he was an adolescent boy who spoke a magic word and became 'the world's mightiest mortal'. Other features offered the next best thing: adolescent sidekicks. Although the adult superhero/boy sidekick relationship has been misunderstood as sexual, consideration of the prepubescent audience suggests that the fantasy is of a playmate with all the physical and social power of an adult. During their first two decades, superheroes were kids at play. Although Deadpool definitely comes from a postpubescent tradition of explicit sexuality and violence, he also–more than most contemporary heroes–embodies the [End Page 159] playful kid in adult costume. However, unlike the pure-hearted model of old, Deadpool's inner child is a violent, foul-mouthed delinquent.
As a comic foil for its delinquent hero, Deadpool offers as truant officer the X-Man Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), who...