I'll make this quick: IMO, Deadpool is not a good example of a queer representation in comics.
Wait, I have to explain myself? Really? The last time I wrote a thousand words about Deadpool, a small contingent of his fandom jumped all over my case and did that thing where they forget that a real human person is reading their dismissively hateful language (I am a person, by the way, a real human). Writing about Deadpool is something I never wanted to do again because a subset of Deadheads decided that no, no one should be allowed to disagree with them about their favorite merc. I fear I'm now going to anger the polar opposite side of Deadpool fandom. Ugh, here we go.
Last time I criticized "Deadpool's" Comic-Con trailer for replacing original jokes with lazy ones that struck me as homophobic. This time around, I want to discuss why I think Deadpool's sexuality is a frustrating topic that I kinda never want to discuss again.
Here's the thing: seemingly a lot of fans perceive Deadpool to be pansexual. Whereas Marvel's Hercules only has one page alluding to his queerness, there's a metric crap-ton of hints and flat-out references to Wade Wilson's queerness. "Deadpool" writers Gerry Duggan and Fabian Nicieza have openly admitted to DP being omnisexual and pansexual among various other sexual orientations. Again, this is different from Hercules whose bisexuality was only briefly referenced once and, as far as I know, never flat-out confirmed by any of his writers.
So if Deadpool has a history of being depicted as queer and his writers have acknowledged it, why do I champion the demigod as a potential bisexual leading man over the mercenary as an omnisexual one? Because it annoys me.
Seriously, I have to elaborate on that? Yeah... yeah you're right. It annoys me. And I want to preface this by saying that we are diving into the deep end of the opinion pool here; this is one million percent my opinion and I in no way intend for this to be misconstrued as me trying to overwrite or negate the opinions of other queer readers who do find value and positivity in reading Deadpool as a not-straight character. I'd actually love to hear from people that do have that relationship with him, because I just can't figure it out. Is the way his queerness portrayed month-in and month-out actually good?
The reason the recent focus on Deadpool's sexuality annoys me is because it feels exactly like the character gets to have his queer cake and eat it too. Writers get to claim that Deadpool is all sexualities at once, attracted to nothing and everything depending on whatever. But Deadpool also gets to fly under other readers' gaydar as straight passing because the character never acts on any sexual and/or romantic urges that are not presented as heterosexual. The character attracts a queer readership but never actually pursues or engages in any type of queer relationship.
Vanessa, Siryn, Mercedes Wilson, Gretchen Wilson, Carmelita Camacho -- all of Deadpool's spouses and primary love interests have been women. Yeah, DP has definitely not let species get in his way when it comes to romance, as he's wooed the alien Orksa, the succubus Shiklah and the very concept of Death itself -- but all of them were individuals that were either female or coded as female. We get lip service paid to what Deadpool apparently is, an omnisexual/pansexual/queer/anything goes mercenary, but that only ever manifests itself through jokes.
I'll throw in that I want to be proven wrong here; if there's a panel out there that shows Deadpool engaging in a consensual romantic encounter of any sort with a non-female-presenting character that is not played for laughs, send it over.
As far as I know, Deadpool's sexual orientation is used solely as fodder for visual gags and innuendo -- and that actually doesn't annoy me. A lot of those jokes are good jokes, and I do acknowledge that this is Deadpool. He's a character that's elastic enough to mercilessly make fun of literally everything from everywhen, as Duggan and Brian Posehn's run has proven through their series of flashback issues. Co-creator Fabian Nicieza baked this into the very DNA of Deadpool, and his nonstop come-ons towards everyone within his line of sight is part of his character. That's undeniable.
Yeah, it's absolutely ludicrous that I'm trying to apply logical, critical thought to a character that's certifiably and canonically all over the place. Nothing is sacred with this character; that's part of the appeal. But there's a big disconnect between the readers that desperately want, need and absolutely deserve to see a true omnisexual character, and what we are actually given in the comics. We definitely get a Deadpool that definitely expresses attraction to pretty much everyone (again, this post is super thorough), but this joker only ever gets serious with women.
That's what annoys me. The "Deadpool is a comedy character who takes nothing seriously" defense is one that I mostly agree with -- except that Deadpool does get serious. Deadpool gets dark. That's what makes him a tragic, rich, fascinating and complex character. I'm miffed that that level of seriousness -- I'm talking Vanessa and Shiklah levels of serious commitment -- only happens with female-presenting characters despite assertions outside of comics that Deadpool doesn't let gender determine his partners/attraction/sex buds. Because Deadpool has zero men or non-cisgender characters in his canonical dating history, his sexuality feels like a joke to me because that's as far as it's ever gone. And it's not a bad joke, either, not inherently -- and it's not one I want writers to stop making. But as a gay reader, I personally cannot get behind Deadpool specifically as a queer lead because his own series don't really treat him that way yet. As a comedy lead, definitely; as a queer lead, though, I need more than jokes.
And to loosen my super serious grip for a second, I actually don't even expect for Deadpool to have serious relationships. Romance is not even a defining aspect of this character; the guy barely has time for a love life what with all the eviscerations. What would be cool, though, would be to see DP actually act on at least one of those flirtatious comments he throws around. Deadpool's not a character prone to stable -- or even healthy -- relationships, so expecting him to ruminate on the nature of his orientation or even "go steady" feels like expecting something that's out of character and out of line with what readers -- myself included -- even want. But his orientation can be played as a joke in a progressive way; just substitute a guy in for any past storyline involving a female love interest, even -- or perhaps especially -- the jokey ones. Done, that's what it looks like. Then, at least the joke would heighten past where it's been at since day one when Nicieza had DP come on to Nomad.
And this seems like a good place to mention that I see and mostly agree with the points made by Nicieza in a recent Twitter back-and-forth (the
There's also danger in rigidly upholding metaphors in fictional works: sometimes real-life analogues aren't present in science fiction, fantasy or superhero comics. The metaphor of mutants as real-world minorities can provide valuable and interesting commentary, but it doesn't mean that real-world minorities have stars in their brains that can incinerate the planet. Likewise, Deadpool is valuable to those that view him as a representative of omnisexuality on the page -- that his sexuality is the result of his total sci-fi brain's reforming and regeneration does not mean that all omnisexual people necessarily live with brain abnormalities.
Joe Kelly's writing a Spider-Man and Deadpool series and, considering Deadpool's well documented crush on Spider-Man, it'd be great to see something happen there. Not that Spider-Man should take DP up on his advances (no, no not at all, no, never), but it would be, I dunno, interesting to see at least a panel of 'Pool dropping his defenses and honestly admitting his attraction to Spidey. Undercut the hell out of it a panel later for a brutally inappropriate joke, sure, but Deadpool admitting a same-sex attraction and/or revealing that he's been with men before would be a big step forward. And, as I said, undercut the hell out of it because it's Deadpool.
But again, this is just my preference. The kind of representation I personally want in comics looks like characters whose sexuality is a big part of their story (like what we're hopefully about to get with a couple of Icemen) or is treated as incidental yet is undeniably in the forefront, like in "Midnighter." Hell, why can't "Deadpool" be more like "Midnighter"? There's a hyper-violent, over-the-top punch-fest with an aggressively sadistic leading man who just so happens to hook up with dudes. Or the current "Constantine: The Hellblazer" series, which has all sorts of hellish mystery right at the fore -- and then John Constantine keeps bumping into one burly guy who could end up being a love interest.
That's not to say that people can't or shouldn't relate to Deadpool because they perceive his queerness to be in the forefront. This is my take rooted in my specific idea of what I want out of queer representation in fiction. I want it to be more than just a joke, and this is why I will never be satisfied when I get "Um, actually there's Deadpool" replies to my tweets lamenting Marvel's current lack of queer leads. And to reiterate, I've never ever been offended by Deadpool's comical come-ons. Like I wrote earlier, they're part of the character, have been almost from the beginning, and are usually good jokes. I'm not crusading for any of that to go away, I'm just saying that, for me, good jokes don't equal good representation.
Brett White is a writer and comedian living in New York City. He made videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1 and writes for the podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).