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Like many people, I fell head over heels in love with "Deadpool" last year.

The film, based on the Marvel comic, raked in over $700 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing R-rated film ever made. Executives raced to get a sequel into production to feed America's unquenchable thirst for more Ryan Reynolds in a tight red suit (yes, please). "Deadpool 2" is slated for summer 2018.


A year and some odd months after "Deadpool's" release, GLAAD's Studio Responsibility Index (SRI)— the group's annual study on how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer characters are depicted in film — landed in my inbox. "Deadpool" was one of the 125 films the study analyzed, and for my beloved superhero flick, the results weren't great.

Don't get me wrong; I still love the movie. But GLAAD's findings demonstrate just how problematic the superhero flick — and so many of our other Hollywood faves — really can be.

So buckle up, fellow "Deadpool" fans — this may not be easy to read.

GIF via "Deadpool."

1. For starters, Deadpool is pansexual. But you wouldn't know it from the movie.

In the Marvel universe, Deadpool was created as pansexual — meaning he's interested in all genders and orientations. When director Tim Miller confirmed before the movie's release that Deadpool's sexuality would stay true to its origins, many fans rejoiced — this would be the first big-budget superhero flick with an openly queer lead.

Then the film came out, and fans watched as Deadpool ... didn't.

GIF via "Deadpool."

In a press release, GLAAD pointed to "Deadpool" as an example of a film that "still [requires] the audience to have read press coverage or have outside knowledge" of a character's sexual orientation or gender identity because their queerness won't be identifiable in the film. (Honestly, I saw far more homoerotic behavior at frat parties in college than I did in "Deadpool.")

As a gay man, I want to support movies that show characters with stories like mine on screen, and it's frustrating when there's buzz surrounding an LBGTQ character in an upcoming film, only to have their on-screen queerness reduced to a suggestive sentence or ambiguous same-sex interaction (looking at you, new "Power Rangers" movie). Why can't openly queer characters actually be openly queer in their films?

2. "Deadpool" fails the Vito Russo Test — big time.

The Vito Russo Test — inspired by the feminist Bechdel Test and named after GLAAD co-founder Vito Russo — is a set of basic criteria to examine how LGBTQ characters and films are portrayed on screen.

To pass the test, the film must: 1. contain an LGBTQ character who is identifiably queer who is 2. intricately woven into the plot in a meaningful way and 3. not solely defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Deadpool" fails on the test's first, basic requirement: Reynolds' character, although technically pansexual, wasn't identifiably queer.

If you didn't know he was pansexual before seeing the film, would you have guessed he's not a straight, cisgender character? Probably not.

GIF via "Deadpool."

Sadly, "Deadpool" isn't the rare exception among LGBTQ films. Of the 23 movies in the study that featured queer characters in 2016, only nine of them passed the Vito Russo Test, according to GLAAD.

3. Deadpool is a big jokester. And while that's great for laughs, the jokes in the movie were not always great for the LGBTQ community.

And I say that as a gay man who thought "Deadpool" was hilarious.

As GLAAD wrote in its report:

"While director Tim Miller told press ahead of the film’s release that Deadpool was pansexual, the only references that made it to screen were played for comedic effect in throwaway jokes intended to emphasize just how outrageous the character is rather than any real sense of desire."

GIF via "Deadpool."

This isn't uncommon in films featuring LGBTQ characters, according to GLAAD's report. Often, queer characters and their identities are soley included as fodder for cheap jokes.

I truly hate being a buzzkill. But those throwaway jokes in "Deadpool" really do have an effect. As GLAAD continued:

"The portrayal of a pansexual identity as a brazen or scandalous trait, rather than a lived identity, has real consequences for bisexual+ people. Because their identities are often misunderstood, bisexual+ people are less likely to be out to family and friends than gay and lesbian people."

Pansexuality is an identity — not a punchline.

I write all of this not to rain all over "Deadpool's" parade, but in hopes that the sequel — and all of Hollywood, really — will do better next time.

Maybe "Deadpool 2" will include a queer main character of color; as the report noted, we need a whole lot more of those. Maybe that character will be a complex, fully realized woman, who doesn't fall into the tired tropes queer women often do on screen; as the report also noted, we desperately need more of those, too.

Or maybe — just maybe — Deadpool will find himself a man.

“I certainly wouldn’t be the guy standing in the way of that,” Reynolds responded in February 2016 to the prospect of Deadpool having a boyfriend. “That would be great.”

In more ways than one, yes it would, Ryan.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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