DEADPOOL CRITIQUE: WHAT THE FIG NEWTON?
Alright, I was actually a bit hesitant about doing a Deadpool article because I can see from the comment sections of multiple critical articles that another portion of the population is suffering yet again from the Star Wars Syndrome.
What’s that, you ask?
It’s when a large group of individuals revert to the mentality of a child or teenager, claiming ownership over things they don’t own, refuting all claims of criticism no matter how logical, and (my personal favorite) telling any naysayers that they just don’t understand and therefore should go die…or something.
But one can’t blame them really. It’s not their fault. Just a standard case of your organic, homegrown, American fanaticism. It’s practically in our blood. We’re so predisposed to obsess over, well…anything for no real reason other than to fill the vast voids in our souls, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Anyway, Deadpool is no exception to this phenomenon.
It’s funny because I thought Deadpool would be my sort of thing. Self-aware, self-deprecating, subversive, satirical, really meta stuff, right?
One could say Deadpool’s penchant for references is akin to the later Scary Movie films, wherein merely pointing something out is meant to be considered comedic. The only difference being that Deadpool is actually funny (more often than not), but although this method of alluding to any and everything may cause hilarity to ensue instantaneously, it isn’t nearly as edgy or game-changing as the movie believes itself to be.
DEADPOOL: THE NOT-SO-SUBVERSIVE SUPERHERO
Strangely enough, I didn’t notice anything particularly off while I was in the theater. I laughed and I laughed some more, but in between laughs I never stopped to think,
“Is this what subversion looks like? Is Deadpool the antithesis to super heroes or is he just pointing and laughing at them all the while being one himself?”
Exhibit A: The (oh-my-gosh-that-was-so-hilarious) Intro
Granted it was, but we need to go deeper. The movie shows us that it knows what tropes and cliches are at work in these superhero films. In response, it breaks the fourth wall to poke fun. Cool, that’s great.
The issue is that they went along and used all of the very same tropes they exposed and not in any new or inventive way. I am failing to see the point of unmasking repetitive, formulaic storytelling and then implementing said formula yourself with no real or substantial irony. Deadpool, in terms of the plot, played these tropes pretty straight.
What’s the point of being meta if it changes nothing substantial?
The Hot Chick is actually a hot chick and/or your standard hooker with a heart of gold. The villain is in fact British. There is indeed a CGI character. And that’s fine, but what does this all mean? Is Deadpool saying something about the genre as a whole, or is he just laughing at how a movie won’t sell without these specific structures in place? Is it that in reality this is what the general public wants, a semblance of satire not actual satire? He’s not really saying anything, is what I’m saying.
NO PARODY, NO CLEVER SATIRE, NO SUBSTANCE
parody: an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.
- What is exaggerated in Deadpool? And if anything is exaggerated is it done ironically or not? One could argue the violence is parody, but is the explicit violence in Deadpool considered comedic?
- Teenage Negasonic Warhead (?) is the only viable example that comes to mind, parodying how ridiculous and arbitrary both the names and powers of X-men can be. (I did, however, recently hear that this name as well is yet another reference, just adding to the list of references).
satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
- This is what’s sorely lacking: criticism. Deadpool does not criticize. I do however distinctly remember him criticizing one thing, the Super Hero Jump, as he calls it. He remarks on how everyone does it despite how terrible it is for the knees. That was great.
- Calling out movies like Green Lantern and Wolverine Origins for how bad they are can barely count as criticism, since virtually everyone knows these movies were in fact terrible. There’s no debate.
- We can see that it’s far easier to point something out than to actually criticize or develop some kind of commentary. Like a kid in math class who never shows his work, at face value Deadpool has all the answers, but nothing to show for and for me, despite all my laughter, it felt vapid.
subvert: to overthrow (something established or existing). to undermine the principles of; corrupt.
- Deadpool succeeded in this partially by simply being a raunchy and foul-mouthed superhero, something most superheros are not. This makes him somewhat of a foil. His differences. however, are only skin deep. The film can pile on sex and explicit language all they want, but he does the heroic / right thing regardless. In this way, I found the film to be ironically safe.
WHAT COULD’VE BEEN DONE
The hot chick could’ve been ugly and mean. The British villain could’ve been a country hick or even like super British, going around drinking tea speaking indecipherable hackneyed English which wouldn’t even matter because we as an audience know what villains in superhero films do, a testament to how redundant they are. The CGI character could’ve been a muppet for all I care. There’s an infinite amount of ways to play with these tropes. I admit that last one with the muppet is stupid, but you get the point. Not to mention all the while claiming not to be a hero. A mercenary who donates his earnings to charity?
Hyperbole as parody could’ve been just as effective, exaggerating tropes and cliches to levels never before seen, resulting in utter ridiculousness, while ultimately exposing how silly or bizarre these tropes are in reality.
Now that would’ve made this movie insane, but those things are not only risky, but difficult to execute correctly. That would require a decent amount of effort unlike explicit sex scenes and foul adult language, things we are all very familiar with in this day and age of film and television. Achieving an R rating even for a superhero film isn’t scandalous, innovative, or even progressive especially if it was so painfully deliberate.
Deadpool, as a film and character, is half-baked. For being an “adult” superhero film starring an “adult” superhero, the film is surprisingly childish and yet still sufficiently entertaining. Even if the Deadpool in the comic is like this, I still hold the same criticism for his character, but I really can’t speak to that because I’m not extraordinarily familiar with the source material, chimichonga jokes included.
In my humble opinion, either do satire or not. Yes it was still funny, but funny is simply funny, not groundbreaking or even worth a second glance in many cases. You know what else is funny? Cats. Cats are funny (and the mere mention of chimichongas, apparently). Deadpool’s truly game-changing potential is squandered on infinite references leading nowhere, jokes of far more quantity than quality, and unicorn masturbation.
Perhaps Deadpool is ultimately too afraid to truly bite the hand that feeds the superhero machine (cue NIN), resorting to basic shenanigans and petty jabs instead of potentially stepping on the toes of producers and fans alike.
I sentence Deadpool and its writers to thorough readings of Voltaire and Watchmen, along with multiple viewings of Airplane! and a dash of The Boondocks in the hopes that some semblance of satire, deconstruction, or parody of the superhero genre will rub off on the next film.
Do you think Deadpool is offering something of substance, or are you just here to tell me that
and that I should go and die? Let me know in the comments!