Damsels, Distress, and Deadpool: An Indictment of Movie Trailers

So this won’t be a movie review, per se. This movie lived up to the hype and, while not perfect by any stretch, was enjoyable and did the main characters justice. Plus, it was a fantastic setup for future projects.

Note: Spoilers for Deadpool and Star Wars: The Force Awakens follow.

That being said, I’m here to talk today about trailers: how they hype us up and, often, let us down. Love Actually is a standard one that comes up (and one I remember vividly): Mark’s cue cards have a different setup in the trailer than the movie (one card was cut for obvious reasons—the fat joke was awful). Both the Fantastic Four trailers and the extended preview prior to Jurassic World this summer made me actually hold out hope that it would be a faithful, fun rendition of the source material.

Oops. My bad.  Sorry, Sue. Let’s just ruin your origin story.

My partner has a strict no-trailers-for-things-I-care about policy that he holds to religiously—complete with bringing noise-cancelling headphones to the theater. I’ll admit, I scoffed at first (read: a while)—how could trailers possibly be that big of a deal? Because, he reminds me, you spend the entire time watching the movie just waiting for those scenes. And when they don’t happen (or, happen in an order you don’t expect), it throws off the entire viewing experience.  Plus, often, trailers give away far too much information.

Here’s a great example. When we went to see The Force Awakens, he had somehow magically missed every trailer before entering the theater. When we hit the scene where we see Darth Vader’s mangled-up mask, he reacted, audibly. I watched his split-second flinch of recognition of Vader’s theme followed by his shock at seeing the mask.

After the movie, one of his first comments was along the lines of “the trailer would have ruined that moment for me!”

He’s not wrong.

Enter Deadpool. I’ll admit that while my partner’s no-trailers policy has influenced me quite a bit (I’d seen the teaser for TFA but purposely had avoided the full-length trailers), where my curiosity has gotten the better of me lately has been with all-things-Marvel. So I immediately watched both the Deadpool trailers and the trailers for Civil War upon release.

My most anticipated moment of the upcoming film came from the second red-band trailer (NSFW, y’all.  Especially you, Dad):

Morena Baccarin! Calling out, through pithy dialogue, the lack of strong women in comic book movies (and most movies)! And then punching someone in the face![1]

I watched the movie, excited for this one moment to occur, and then…

Nothing.

WHAT?

I’d been set up for disappointment by a trailer.

Of course, I know a couple things are true. First, we’ll get a copy of this scene on the Blu-ray (either as part of an extended cut or as a deleted scenes). Second, the spirit of the line is still there, even if the line (and the really satisfying punch) are not in the theatrical cut.  Third, Angel Dust and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are both amazing characters I can’t wait to analyze further.

And fourth, I know now beyond a shadow of a doubt that my partner is right about trailers.  Laugh it up, fuzzball.

Deadpool did so much right (as of the writing of this blog post, it has an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). For one thing, in true Deadpool fashion, it’s so self-referential and fourth-wall-breaking about how it handles itself. From the references back to Reynolds’ other failed superhero stints to the acknowledgment that they, in fact, are breaking the fourth wall from within the fourth wall, to the comments about the lack of other X-Men, the movie is aware of what it’s doing right and what it’s failing to do.  The self-congratulatory tone of the entire film is wonderfully overwhelming.

What the film does, quite well, is deal with issues of gender. From the sexual fluidity of Deadpool himself to the complete lack of concern over gender in fight scenes,[2] this film pushes boundaries in ways no other superhero film has.  By the end, I found myself rather unfazed by the fact that it had failed the Bechdel test.

So, back to the trailer.  The choice to cut Vanessa’s line hurt because she’s right, she’s not a damsel in distress. When the only way to escape a cage is to grasp a sword by the blade and shove it back through a glass door, she doesn’t hesitate. She’s no Princess Buttercup that only realizes three-quarters of the way through Westley’s struggle with the ROUS that “Oh, hey, I suppose I can pick up a stick and whack the huge rat!” Vanessa is a BAMF that does not act the way we “expect” superheroes’ girlfriends to act, and I love her for all her glories and flaws (and killer haircuts).

So here’s my actual beef with the line being cut:  while Deadpool (and yes, I understand he’s the titular character) gets to congratulate himself on being amazing throughout the entire movie, it is disappointing that Vanessa doesn’t get the same opportunity.

My disappointment is heightened by the fact that, had some decisions not been made on the cutting room floor, she would have had the same opportunity.

Which I only know from having watched the trailer. 

#@$%ing trailers…

[1] Oh wait, I could see how that last bit might upset some people—but if it does, you probably shouldn’t see Deadpool.
[2] With the exception, of course, of Deadpool narrating his internal concern over whether hitting Angel Dust is sexist (or, conversely, if not hitting her is also sexist).

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