Spoilers for Deadpool 2 below.
When it comes to female representation in comics and comic book movies, there’s a big hideous trope that needs to be overcome and it’s called “fridging.” Essentially, this is when female characters are introduced not so much to be 3-dimensional people, but more to be a plot point to give the male hero feelings by being brutalized or murdered. The term arises from comic writer Gail Simone “Women in Refrigerators” discussion, which refers to a horrible moment from Green Lantern #54, in which the hero’s girlfriend was murdered by the baddie and shoved into a fridge.
The problem here is that this trope reduces women to things that are soiled to upset the male hero. The female character has no value beyond being a tool to hurt the male protagonist. And it’s not something that just happens in comics. Christopher Nolan and Guy Ritchie are fans of this misogynistic cliche too! And so it seems are Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote Deadpool 2. This wild sequel not only introduces Cable’s wife and daughter only to immediately murder them to kick off his revenge plot, but also slaughters Deadpool’s lover Vanessa to get his revenge plot rolling. While Vanessa was a vibrant character in the first film, she showed up her to be sexy, and then die. She existed here chiefly to give Deadpool sad feels. And when asked about this controversial screenwriting device, Reese and Wernick have claimed complete ignorance.
Asked if they were concerned about being criticized for fridging, Reese told Vulture, “I would say no, we didn’t even think about it. And that was maybe our mistake, not to think about it. But it didn’t really even occur to us.We didn’t know what fridging was.” He added, “Maybe that’s a sexist thing. I don’t know. And maybe some women will have an issue with that. I don’t know. I don’t think that that’ll be a large concern, but it didn’t even really occur to us.”
Wernick attempted to defend their decision by saying, “I know it wasn’t consciously sexist. It may appear that way as the film progresses and Cable loses his family as well, but again, the desire was to give a motivation to both Cable and to Deadpool, and have it be a parallel motivation that they both lost their family, and they’re both trying to kind of find their way in the world without them.”
Which, yes. Storytelling-wise you want to strip your hero of what they care about to give new stakes and high drama. But what they overlooked is that in both cases they used women as tools to do this. One was a beloved character from the first film who is reduced to vague visions. The other are two female characters introduced solely to die horribly. There are other female characters in the film, (Blind Al, Domino, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Yukio) but none get much in the way of development. So essentially, Deadpool 2 killed off its most complex female character in service to its male hero. And its writers never thought about why that might be cliched and off-putting, because despite writing about one of comic’s most subversive figures they weren’t even aware of this shitty, sexist trope. Which is all the more shocking when you realize Gail Simone has famously written Deadpool comics.
Do better, dudes.