T.J. Miller’s Problematic Presence in ‘Deadpool 2’
The comedy actor, who’s been accused of a violent sexual assault, transphobia, and phoning in a fake bomb threat on an Amtrak train, stars in two of summer’s biggest movies.
Deadpool has always occupied a unique position—or rather positions—within the Marvel superhero canon.
When he was first introduced as a one-off villain in 1991’s New Mutants #98, the lethal assassin formerly known as Wade Wilson appeared rather derivative, boasting the tactical suit, guns-and-swords arsenal, disfigurement, and regenerative healing abilities of DC’s Deathstroke (aka Slade Wilson) spliced with Wolverine’s Weapon X backstory. But after surviving three knives in the back courtesy of Domino, the Merc with a Mouth evolved into a strangely compelling—and complex—antihero: a pansexual enfant terrible whose fourth-wall-breaking wisecracks mask his deep psychological scars.
During his childhood in Canada, Wilson was molested by his mother while his father was away (as revealed in Deadpool MAX). When his dad found out, instead of reprimanding his wife, he beat young Wade senseless. The child was soon banished to a foster home, where his new mother figure also molested him. After transforming into a self-described “testicle with teeth,” Deadpool is sexually assaulted by the villainous Typhoid Mary (who poses as his infatuation, Siryn, in the crossover event Deadpool #13), further exacerbating his intimacy issues and scattershot memories, while serving as the catalyst for a roaring rampage of revenge.
It’s odd and off-putting, then, given Wilson’s queerness and history of sexual abuse, to see the actor T.J. Miller appear in this weekend’s Deadpool 2 as his best pal, Weasel.
Miller’s erratic behavior has been whispered about for years, leading to his eventual dismissal from the hit HBO series Silicon Valley last year. Prior to that, a month after the presidential election, Miller was arrested for allegedly attacking an Uber driver due to an argument over then-President-elect Trump. But the biggest bombshell came in December, when The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng reported that a woman, who wished to remain anonymous, had accused Miller of a violent sexual assault while the two were at George Washington University.
“He pulled me back to bed and more things happened,” the woman recounted. “He anally penetrated me without my consent, which I actually believe at that point I cried out, like, ‘No,’ and he didn’t continue to do that—but he also had a [beer] bottle with him the entire time. He used the bottle at one point to penetrate me without my consent.”
Several of the woman’s friends at the time told The Daily Beast that she had either confided in them about the alleged assault, or they remember the student court proceedings that followed (the woman says she was afraid to go to the police). They claim that Miller was “expelled after he graduated” as a result; other sources in the comedy world, meanwhile, informed Suebsaeng that Miller had “privately joked about committing violence against a woman in his past,” and that the story of the alleged college assault had made its way through comedy circles. (Miller and his wife denied the allegations and insinuated that the accuser was motivated by jealousy.)
The day of The Daily Beast’s report, Comedy Central announced its plans to cancel Miller’s puppet series The Gorburger Show after one season. One day later, a transgender film critic, Danielle Solzman, came forward to accuse Miller of transphobia. Solzman, a former friend of Miller’s, provided an email to HuffPost in which, after she pointed out that Miller should reconsider a joke on his website about “tranny dumpster sex,” the comic lashed out at her.
Referring to her as “Daniel” and “a weird strange terrible man,” Miller wrote, in part: “You have merely confirmed what I always knew… This pursuit of transgender identity is nothing more than an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself as someone who is special, but what is really special is how retarded it is that you would ever think to attack me or say that I’ve been offensive.”
The coup de grâce came last month, when the 36-year-old comedian was hit with federal charges for allegedly calling in a fake bomb threat on an Amtrak train.
“According to a Department of Justice press release, Miller called a 911 dispatcher in New Jersey on March 18 and reported that he was on Amtrak Train 2256 traveling from Washington, D.C., toward Penn Station in New York City with a female passenger, who, he said, had a ‘bomb in her bag.’ Amtrak officials stopped Train 2256 at Green’s Farms Station in Westport, Connecticut. Passengers were told to detrain before bomb squad members boarded and searched the train. No evidence of any explosive device or materials was detected, officials said,” reported CNN. It was later revealed that Miller wasn’t even on Train 2256 but 2258, and that, according to witnesses, he appeared to be heavily inebriated.
Which brings us to Deadpool 2.
According to sources close to the film, distributor 20th Century Fox has taken pains to reduce Miller’s presence on both the film’s press tour, where interviews with the star have been scarce, to promotional materials for the blockbuster (by contrast, Miller was a very visible presence surrounding the first Deadpool film). His character, Weasel, meanwhile, has been reduced from a main supporting player in Deadpool to a few brief interstitial sequences in Deadpool 2.
(A similar fate befell Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, released on March 29. It too was filmed prior to the allegations surfacing against Miller, so the film’s solution, it seems, was to not show Miller’s character i-R0k’s IRL counterpart, instead depicting him only in animated VR form. Miller’s is noticeably the only central character whose physical form remains hidden.)
And yes, Wade Wilson’s past abuse and pansexuality are only briefly alluded to in the Deadpool films, with both reduced to cheap laugh-grabbing devices. Deadpool 2 is littered with jokes about killing the pedophilic staffers of a sinister mutant orphanage, as well as a juvenile crack about a male Scout leader exposing himself to Wilson (a tip of the hat to his own molestation by a female Scout leader); the nods to his sexual fluidity, meanwhile, come in the form of a stripping-in-drag scene, his professed fondness for pegging, and his occasional fondling of Colossus.
Still, considering what we know about Deadpool’s history, the appearance of Miller—someone who flies in the face of everything the superhero stands for—is an unnecessary distraction. Fortunately for audiences, he won’t be returning for Deadpool 3 or a rumored X-Force spinoff.