The Social Cut | The Curious Case of Deadpool 2’s Female Characters

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The Social Cut is a monthly column by Rishika Aggarwal that intends to critically analyse various media shows, movies and documentaries, from an intersectionalist feminist standpoint.


Superhero films have, since the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, been rightly criticized for their lack of female characters.

If you’ve never read the source comics, you could be forgiven for thinking that superheroes are by and large the domain of men, with the occasional woman – sometimes a fellow superhero, more often than not a love interest or supporting character, and almost always white, young, and able-bodied – thrown in to add diversity to the whole enterprise or act as a crutch for the male main character.

Despite this, there does seem that there’s progress – however gradual – happening in regards to this tendency. Wonder Woman remains, in this author’s opinion, one of the best films of the past decade for the way it treated its female characters, and Marvel recently released it’s first film with a titular superhero, Ant Man and the Wasp.

The summer’s last superhero feature (before the aforementioned Ant Man and the Wasp) in Deadpool 2 seems, on the face of it, like it too is working at combating the problem that is the treatment of women in superhero films. But if one digs a little deeper, it becomes obvious that this is simply another case of women who, by and large, serve to exist as props for the men around them.

The most obvious and egregious examples of this come in the forms of Vanessa, Deadpool/Wade Wilson’s girlfriend, and Cable’s unnamed wife and daughter. All three are killed off for no reason apart from the furthering of their respective partner/father’s stories. It should be noted that this is a fact that the screenwriters have confirmed themselves. To quote Rhett Reese, who wrote the script alongside partner Paul Wernick and lead actor Ryan Reynolds, ‘if you’re doing a movie where you are trying to get Deadpool at his lowest… the only thing to really take away from him is Vanessa.’ He also goes on to say, in terms of Cable and his family, ‘the desire was to give a motivation to both Cable and Deadpool, and have it be a parallel motivation that they both lost their family.’

This practice, of female characters being killed off in order to provide motivation for the female hero, is a trope commonly known as ‘fridging,’ based on writer Gail Simone’s phrase “women in refrigerators.” Indeed, in the case of Cable’s wife and child, this practice is used to the extent that we, the audience, don’t even know what their names are, forcing us to refer to them by their relationship to the male figure in their lives, a fact that smacks more than a little of the naming of the handmaids in Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.

Even for the unfridged women of Deadpool 2, their personhood is sometimes incomplete and limited. Yukio, introduced as Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s girlfriend, is one of the characters that occupy this space.

In her relationship with Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Yukio inhabits a commendable space as one of the first two (alongside her girlfriend) queer major characters in a superhero movie. However, this relationship is by and large the defining reality of her characterization in the movie. By and large, the only time she speaks is when she greets and says goodbye to Deadpool, and the only time audiences see her as the truly kickass member of the X-Men that she is is for the few seconds in which she is shown to be fighting Juggernaut. Furthermore, her pink hair and saccharinely sweet characterization and little waves come across less as charming and more as a reflection of the stereotype of the cute, naïve, bubbly and smiling Japanese girl. She becomes, in essence, the personification of ‘seen and not heard,’ to such an extent that actress Shioli Kutsuna commented that should she return to portray the character again, she would “like to see her talk more.”

There is no doubt that the creators of Deadpool 2 should be commended for their work – Domino is undoubtedly one of the most interesting female superhero characters we have as audiences, and the only black woman in this role. Even the women of Black Panther, awe-inspiring as they were, do not fall under the technical category of the superhero in a superhero movie. Blind Al, another supporting character in the movie, represents another underrepresented group on the big screen – as the character’s name suggests, she is blind. And Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Yukio’s girlfriend, is a character with unmatched untapped potential – the literal definition of an explosive teenager, she represents the powerful and destructive female superhero that is rarely, if ever, showcased to audiences. (This said, it should be noted that like Cable’s wife and child, Domino and Negasonic remain unnamed apart from their superhero names in the film.)

But even given their positives, the negatives of the movie cannot be ignored. In a particularly interesting scene in the end credits, Negasonic and Yukio fix the device that allowed Cable to travel through time, giving it to Deadpool. While this leaves the question of if Cable will ever return to the future and his family up in the air for the moment, what Deadpool first uses it for provides an interesting coda to this piece.

Deadpool returns to the past, moving Vanessa out of the path of the bullet that took her life, therefore preventing her death, and – if we’re to take the scriptwriters at their word – Deadpool’s motivation. And, given any other evidence, the audience is left to believe that this is not a fact that past Deadpool is unaware of.

Yet, as we the audience are led to believe, the movie still happens as the plotline we have seen shows it to have. Vanessa’s death ultimately has no meaning, not even of being the only thing that can motivate her boyfriend.

So why kill her at all?

Rishika Aggarwal is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

References:

http://www.vulture.com/2018/05/deadpool-2-writers-defend-treatment-of-female-characters.html

https://thenerdsofcolor.org/2018/05/18/exclusive-shioli-kutsuna-reveals-her-secret-deadpool-2-role/

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One Future Events I Peace Adda I Celebrating Independence through Poetry and Peace

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For Indian Independence Day, 2018, One Future Collective, organised a Peace Adda in collaboration with Prajnya Trust’s Education for Peace Initiative, facilitated by Chintan Girish Modi.


The Peace Adda was an intimate gathering of professionals from different fields, excited about the idea of celebrating and understanding peace through dialogue and poetry. The sessions started with a conversation on peace and our personal understanding of peace and moved across three poems, to delve into it deeper.

Poem 1: The Unknown Citizen by WH Auden

The first poem made the participants explore themes of peace as flowing from an individual to the society and the idea of a state regulated being of a person. It lead to multifaceted discussions around what influences our decisions and choices, how do we respond to and absorb news, the idea of manufactured narratives – it also tapped into discussions around the surveillance state, data privacy, and its relevance and context in present day India.  

Poem 2: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

This poem aided discussion around empathy for the other and for oneself as a way to peace. It discussed the theme of kindness being the key to the world moving forward.

Poem 3: The Place Where We Are Right by Yehuda Amichai

This poem helped participants explore ideas of collaboration and community as a way to peace. It focused on discussions around the idea of being stuck in a ‘hard place’ and how growth and synergy cannot originate from such a place. An interesting example that came up was a quote by Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” and a corresponding experience of an exercise at a Seeds of Peace camp which had an open area tagged, ‘this is the field’, where people of different nationalities played games as a way to learn to work together.

Photos from the event:

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Earth Up! | Plastic is a Pollution Problem

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Earth Up! is a monthly column by Ayesha Mehrotra that intends to cover varied issues and solutions with respect to environmental sustainability in India.


Everything goes somewhere. Lost by you, found by someone else. Have you ever wondered where all your waste goes?

Let me fill you in. 90% of our waste lands up in oceans. Almost ALL of our waste is toxic for the water, soil and air because it contains chemicals which leach into the environments they land up in. I’m not here to scare you, rather engage with you in a conversation about the concept of sustainability and what really matters, INDIVIDUAL IMPACT. The biggest trigger of environmental degradation is WASTE. Every paper, foil, plastic wrapper or earbud you discard ends up going into huge landfills, spreading pollution to it’s surrounding environment. This burgeoning mountain of waste has reached levels of severe toxicity, ill-health and ecological impact.

So today, let’s talk about ways of reducing your waste on an individual level. Baby steps always lead to good and progressive targets. If we look at this situation in a micro-level scenario, it gives us a clearer idea of what our waste production looks like.

India produces an estimated amount of 1,33,760 tonnes per day (TPD) of garbage generated daily, and this is just an approximate figure given by government of the states and union territories in India. This includes an estimated 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste, of which 6,000 tonnes remain uncollected, unaccounted for, and littered. This boils down to about 3.7 kgs/capita/day in urban areas alone. If these numbers have got you thinking and you’re wondering what you can do about it, let’s discuss! Simple ways of eliminating toxic waste would be: avoiding plastic products such as plastic bags, water bottles, cutlery, and plates. These are a daily consumption in large amounts.

Plastic takes millions of years to decompose, and the first forms of plastic produced still remain in our soil throughout the world! Not so shocking, right? With recent movements and initiatives such as Plastic Free July and Beat Plastic Pollution, many people have taken pledges to eliminate all forms of plastic in their daily consumption practices, looking at the long-term perspectives and benefits of this pledge. Simple math being taken into account, we could then individually reduce an estimated 11-15 kgs per person annually! Imagine multiplying this elimination by about 70% of India’s entire population. The impact would be huge.

At a global perspective, let’s look at the facts, figures and estimates quoted with respect to plastic. Experts say that we are recovering just around 5% of the plastic bags that we produce. According to a research done by Ellen MacArthur Foundation in January, the total amount of plastic waste will be greater than the total number of fish found in our oceans by 2050. Further, this amount is predicted to increase ten times by 2020. Most of the plastic bags once used are thrown away as waste instead of being collected and recycled for later use. Very few plastic bags are recycled which is not healthy for our environment and human health in the long run. Plastic has reached even bath and beauty products in the form of micro-beads, which have toxic and environmentally hazardous effects on human and marine life. Despite pledging to recycle our plastic, most of this usually ends up in landfills and oceans, and breaks down instead of degrading in areas where they are disposed.

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

There are countries that have already banned or even restricted the use of plastic bags such as China, Australia, Ireland and Bangladesh among other nations. However, Bangladesh and India have only banned those of over 5 microns. Yet, these countries still face the battle of single use plastic products as well as plastic in the form of packaging and containers. The simple solution to this would be to eliminate plastic completely, with better alternatives such as glass, paper and cloth. Despite this being a challenge for many global scale economies due to the cheap plastic consumption and liberal policy implementations on the same, a systematic removal of plastic will require massive changes with regards to production, consumption and policy.

Plastic has plagued our lives in several ways, and this has generated a major part of the solid waste our country produces. The only way we can look at reducing and eliminating this material is if we understand the requirement of removing it from our lives. The urgency is massive. We see stories and pictures of plastic almost on a daily basis through news, social media and articles highlighting massive environmental pollution across the world. Information and data available on plastic will help in further examining the issues arising in current and future scenarios, where our consumption of plastic even in the smallest of things such as wrappers and packets in products and even straws are not left behind. Each of this is contributing to a sea of plastic (literally!), where the rate of use is overpowering the rate of solutions for the same.

Hopefully, this column helps us unpack these concepts and gives us a better understanding of integrating environment with human action and impact, so we can live in a better, healthier and safer environment! Let’s all create awareness, build a base of environmental consciousness and understand the repercussions of our actions on the environment.

Ayesha Mehrotra is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

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The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression