FilmOpinion

‘Deadpool’: An Allegory For The Disabled

Tori Loubert ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

There are many reasons to go see Deadpool. Maybe you’ll see it for the potty-mouthed assassin making dick jokes while chopping people’s heads off. Maybe you’ll see it because you’re a longtime fan of the comics. Maybe you’ll see it because you’re hoping that Fox redeems our leading man after the flame-embroiled catastrophe that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, something  that superhero fans have spent seven years trying to forget about.

But among the profanity and violence, Deadpool brings up the important topic of unconventional disabilities.

You’re going to say, how could the back-flipping, katana-wielding mercenary be considered disabled? Well, not all disabilities are alike. Wade (Ryan Reynolds) is diagnosed with terminal cancer in his liver, lungs, prostate, and brain; then, after entering a secret scientific program, he is tortured until his mutation reveals itself, which heals the cancer as quickly as it can generate, severely disfiguring his body, inside and out.

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Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

The cancer and the disfigurement are the major forces behind Wade’s actions, with a vast majority of the film being spent trying to fix one of these two ailments.

The first is the cancer, which gets him into the whole Deadpool mess initially. After collapsing on his apartment floor, Wade finds out that he has terminal cancer affecting four major organs in his body, for which he does not perceive a likely chance of him surviving. Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wade’s significant other, however, takes the wheel and starts questioning his doctor about next steps, while Wade lets it sink in that he has only a few remaining months with her.

Now, how is cancer a disability? Well, aside from impending death in Wade’s case, when someone is diagnosed with curable cancer, they are not technically “cancer-free” until five years after their treatment. In addition to that, they are not allowed to donate organs or blood, even to a family member. Additionally, people miss work for extended periods of time and may never be able to return, depending on the type of job. Not to mention the possibility of chemo, organ removal, or even the never-ending danger of the cancer coming back.

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Because of his cancer and his will to not let Vanessa down, Wade joins the movie-Deadpool version of what was in the comic the Weapon X program. (Yes, the same one as Wolverine.) Like many other people with terminal or lifelong illnesses who join experimental drug or treatment programs, Wade sees this as his best, if not only, chance for survival. Instead, he goes through torture, which is sometimes what treatment can feel like. Though it is brought to the extreme, because this is a dramatization, this hell that Wade is experiencing can be very similar to what many patients go through when finding the best cure to their illness by going through many unsuccessful doctor-recommended or insurance-forced drugs. When Wade finally finds this cure, it comes as a double-edged sword.

His second motive throughout the film is to fix the disfigurement that comes with being cured of cancer and invincible to any and all bodily harm, including things that would actually kill him. Keeping up with the allegory, this is something anyone with a disability would recognize as one of the more unpleasant side-effects, disclosed or unexpected, to whatever life-preserving drug or treatment they happen to be on, which can vary from rashes and stomach aches to, you guessed it, cancer and possibly death.

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Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Wade is then promised by Francis (Ed Skrein), the guy who cured/tortured him in the first place, that he can cure Wade’s disfigurement, just before Wade is about to kill him. Due to a distraction, Francis escapes, providing Wade with his second motive throughout the film. This translates to real life in two ways: One, being that patients are sometimes given second drugs to combat the side-effects of the first; Two, that there is a cure for those side effects and finding out there might not be.

Wade, much to his deep disappointment, finds out that Francis was lying about a cure for Wade’s skin. Because of this Wade must face revealing to the most important person in his life, Vanessa, how he looks, which has become a source of great shame and anxiety for him. This reveal is something that disabled people face every day. Those who have visible disabilities, like Wade, don’t necessarily get to choose when they reveal it, unless wearing a red and black bodysuit 24/7 becomes socially acceptable, and that still excludes some people from this group. For those with invisible disabilities, this means coming out on the regular, oftentimes to hearing either “I’m sorry” or “That’s not real.” Wade experiences both of these issues. He doesn’t want to show Vanessa to face either rejection or pity, but he knows that her seeing his disability is a painful inevitability if he wants to be with her.

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To keep this entire film from being a Lifetime drama, there is a thick layer of gratuitous violence and R-rated humor slathered on top. This is a common coping mechanism for those who deal with disability daily. Maybe not the gratuitous violence part, although I’m certain we’ve all imagined one or two scenes from Deadpool after hearing an able-bodied person say, “Have you tried yoga?” On the humor side of things, the majority of Deadpool’s jokes do attempt to make light of a serious situation and are largely sarcastic in nature. Sarcasm has been known as a tactic that gives the world a chance to see a superficial part of a person, while a deeper issue lies underneath. Wade, for the sake of himself and the film, downplays his illness and how it affects him. Almost right after arising from the dead, he has a joke-off with Weasel (T.J. Miller) about how he looks like “an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado” and so on. Throughout the film, Wade is still learning to cope with his new body and carrying around the emotional baggage that he may never be able to resume his relationship with Vanessa or any part of his former life. But, rather than bring everyone else down with him, he sugar-coats the situation with self-deprecating humor to make it appear as though he is coping, regardless of how well he is actually functioning.

All of this makes Deadpool very different from his also disabled-and-superpowered compatriots. Unlike the savior-complexed Daredevil or the very literally omniscient Professor X, Deadpool is no martyr. He is not level-headed, he doesn’t care what people think of him, and he’s fighting for reasonable albeit selfish reasons. He’s an asshole. Which is fantastic. Because being disabled is a mixture of martyrdom and pity thrust upon you by others–a thing which Deadpool completely rejects. He does not become stoic, he’s not afraid to call people out, and he won’t do things because he feels socially obligated to be grateful. His range of emotions are uninhibited by others’ notions of his life, like a normal person.

Deadpool is now in theaters nation wide. Check out Emertainment Monthly’ Review of Deadpool 

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