When I went to see “Deadpool 2” two weeks ago, it wasn’t surprising to see the enormity of pop culture references and clever meta-humor jokes that the franchise is known for. However, what did surprise me was Domino, played by the free-spirited Zazie Beetz. She not only carries the film, but epitomizes the female empowerment that is desperately needed in today’s social climate.
At one point during the film, Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool (whose real name is Wade) holds auditions to assemble his team, X-Force, which is the politically correct version of X-Men, Wade insists.
An assortment of characters try out for his team, including Bedlam, played by Terry Crews from the Old Spice commercials, and Zeitgeist, played by Bill Skarsgård who famously plays Pennywise in “It.” While all the characters are interesting, Domino stands out from the start.
During tryouts, when her character is first introduced, the flamboyant character stands tall, with her domino-shaped porcelain birthmark around her eye and natural curls, and proclaims her superpower comes from luck. Wade is skeptical and argues that luck isn’t a superpower, but Domino remains firm and is eventually welcomed to the team.
Evidence of her power is shown throughout the film, as she evades crashing cars, shows unbelievable athletic prowess and comes out without a scratch. While most superheroes use their abilities consciously, Domino’s activate via subconscious telekinesis and manifest when she is in grave danger.
In contrast to the movie, the “Deadpool” comic portrays Domino as a white character with a black circle around her eye and straight black hair. In a barrage of pseudo-racist statements, comic fans balked at Domino’s changed race, calling her natural afro impractical, her altered racial identity distracting and labeling “Deadpool 2” as just “another social justice experiment.”
These comments are exemplative of people’s critical attitude toward natural black hair, which has resulted in black women feeling pressured to use chemicals to relax and straighten their hair in order to emulate the wavy hairstyle that is attributed to white women and deemed desirable.
Not only is Beetz’ talented mercenary a positive role model for women of color, who are often underrepresented in media, but also for those with vitiligo, a condition that causes skin cells to die or stop producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin color. Domino’s white patch over her lighter-colored eye is likely a result of the skin disorder.
Throughout the film, Domino zips around effortlessly, kicking ass and taking no one’s shit. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Beetz remarked on the rarity of seeing black women in such a role. “I think black women are often depicted specifically in terms of the struggle, and never having the privilege of feeling light at heart and feeling that release, right?” she said. “And that is a pretty cool thing to see on a screen.”
Domino’s persona as a confident feminist is cemented when you consider that her character also has armpit hair. Beetz insisted that this wasn’t an intentional choice and came about naturally due to her busy filming schedule, but her boyfriend remarked that she should keep it, which is exactly what she did.
In an interview with The Independent, Beetz said people’s opinions on female bodies are “about social conditioning and about people’s perception of what women should look like. And I felt if people got offended by that, that’s not something I really have to worry about.” She emphasized that body hair isn’t gross or shameful.
It should be noted that not only is Domino’s armpit hair avoided by Deadpool’s jokes, but it isn’t mentioned at all, and is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. With her schedule full of ass-kicking, it makes sense that removing her body hair would be the last thing on her mind.
The film joins the ranks of other recent movies that feature strong black characters, such as Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time” reboot and Marvel’s “Black Panther,” with 2016’s “Ghostbusters” remake portraying strong self-assured women who aren’t sexualized or marginalized as the male’s love interests.
However, despite the witty writing and diverse casting in “Deadpool 2,” the film has been criticized of fridging, using a female character’s death to further the plot. In the beginning of the movie, Wade’s wife Vanessa is fatally shot; Cable, the time-traveling, bionic-arm-wielding, soldier, also lost his wife and daughter.
Rhett Reese, one of the film’s co-writers said they weren’t aware of the term, and didn’t purposefully intend to include it, but perhaps it was something they should have thought about. Reese and his fellow co-writer, Paul Wernicke, said their intention was to take away the thing Wade cares about the most: Vanessa. Similarly, Cable’s loss of his family acts as the catalyst for the decisions he makes throughout the film.
On the contrary, with the addition of Domino and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (one half of the first LGBT relationship to be portrayed in a mainstream superhero movie), the writers wanted the film to be diverse, and “definitely made a point of not having this just be a testosterone-fueled thing.”
The film’s critique of modern society is further exemplified with certain references to the white-male-centric patriarchy, such as Domino deadpanning, “I’m with the old, white guy on this one, that’s a twist,” and Deadpool’s line about needing a rape whistle when viewing pictures of old white guys in the X-Men mansion.
Regardless of what the film may or may not have done successfully, Beetz did a fantastic job of crafting Domino into a character that many fans can look up to, simply by managing to be a skilled fighter with a charming wit who is worth betting on.