Considering myself a casual, psuedo-fan of the comic book world, and especially the X-Men universe, I was pretty excited to see Deadpool. All marketing-stunts and jokes aside, it was a really good date movie.
Despite yet again featuring a male lead in the powerful, badass, funny role, Deadpool offers the viewer women who, even if they can’t compete with Ryan Reynolds’ overwhelmingly crass charisma, are strong and do not function as mere accessories.
Deadpool’s girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), fluctuates throughout the film between the role of lover, motivator, and ego-checker, which isn’t anything new when it comes to superhero* movies. What is cool and different, is that she is given the leeway in the movie to be, essentially, just as crass and unapologetically sexual, raw, and f**ked up as Wade Wilson is (Deadpool). No one in the film bats an eye at their equal partnership; the film itself doesn’t make it a big deal, doesn’t congratulate itself on it; it just let’s it be.
(Oh, and Vanessa becomes a super later in the Deadpool story line. *crosses fingers for a sequel*)
The other women, two supers (mutants, actually, in this world), while much flatter characters than the super-men, are at least the most physically strong and powerful mutants on the scene. That was an interesting role reversal: the men were emotional and the women were the brute strength. The two “good” mutants, who spend the movie trying to contend with Deadpool’s lack of adherence to “traditional superhero morals” and hoping to redirect his energies to The X-Men, are Colossus, played by Stefan Kapicic, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (best name in the movie), played by Brianna Hildebrand. NTW, though largely brooding and silent, is a total badass in the big fight scene, effectively winning the battle of the side-kicks when Colossus can’t overpower “bad” mutant Angel Dust, Gina Carano.
All of that is to say this: while Deadpool is by no means a movie “about women,” it’s effort to throw every superhero convention in your face and make fun of it results in more realistic, representative female characters by default. They don’t deliver the classic, supportive-yet-scared female lines from past hero films (think “Go get ’em, tiger” a la Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman); they swear and have normal, human reactions to things that aren’t framed so obnoxiously in the context of their gender–Vanessa’s heartbroken-yet-determined reaction Wade’s cancer, her reaction when she realizes he’s been alive this whole time, two years later (“You asshole!”): these things somehow came off as just relational, just human, and not necessarily “womanly.”
*Deadpool is actually more of an anti-hero; closer to the villians of Suicide Squad than to Captain America. See Stokes Piercy’s quote(s) in this article.