Deadpool: Fixing a Broken 16th Wall

Let’s dispel this fiction that Deadpool doesn’t know what it’s doing.  Deadpool knows exactly what it’s doing.  …  You see what I did there?  That’s a meme.  And Deadpool is rife with them.  Now let me ask you a question.  Name a meme from say, 5 years ago. Not exactly easy, is it?  And herein lies the issue with topical humor and what I see plaguing the future for Deadpool.  In its defense, it’s sharply funny and incessant in it’s depravity.  It’s a quality in a film I truly appreciate.  But, avocado sex jokes aside, it was written for an audience in February 2016.  And I worry that come February 2020, this film will have turned into the MySpace of the superhero genre.  Existentially irrelevant.  And that’s the real troubling thing here, because it really was hilarious.  But is this just capturing lightning in a bottle?  Successful because of the norm is goes so strongly against, or can it perpetuate?

From the opening title slides it was apparent Deadpool was written as an open letter to green lighters and the studio elite.  And the money it took in certainly caught their attention.  It was written as a commentary on an increasingly dulling superhero archetype. Starring a “hot girl” and produced by “ass hats”, it was obvious that Deadpool was going to go “balls-deep”, to continue the vernacular.  At points the film becomes self-aware to fault.  And I can understand the urge to turn the meta up to 11, but it became unnecessary at times.  Less about calling attention to the genre, and more about “look at me, doing what I want over here.”  There is a scene where Reynold’s character, Wade, breaks the fourth wall by recalling an earlier scene for you specifically, the viewer, and then acknowledging that the fourth wall was just broken and that we both now know about it. And then in its excessive Deadpool way, the Wade in said flashback suddenly turns to the camera and addresses the viewer again, just to say how cool is it that he did it again?, and that fourth wall breaking may in fact be exponential and this is now a broken 16th wall, etc., etc.  It goes on like that.  And this is a microcosm of a bigger question, do we want films this aware?   Cinema is supposed to be escapist theater.  Quit reminding me I’m escaping from something!

Apparently Ryan Reynold is as big a Deadpool fan as any and he had been pushing for this movie’s production for years.  And with Deadpool being the Marvel Universe’s black swan character anyway, its irreverence to the genre seems not only fitting but maybe necessary for a movie about him to work.  Regardless, the appetite for a riskier, more risque type of film is obviously there and I think we’ll see a reaction to this from major studios over the next handful of years.

Even if Deadpool does end up in a Walgreen’s value bin in under two years, it will have done it’s job.  The acceptance of this crass, ultra-violent, self-flagellating Hollywood bugaboo made the statement that we can handle crossing lines of taboo.  We are not all the SJWs the internet makes us out to be, and we want more.  We too are aware of the game and we’re ready for its subversion. Is it time to go full-meta?  Maybe not.  But a little acknowledgement of the system now and again would be nice.


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