The thing that fascinates me about Deadpool is the unique blend of immortality and (god) complex personality. At surface level, he seems pretty normal (I mean… for a Marvel character). But there’s a little more to the Merc with a Mouth once we dig around.
It’s not just his inability to die that attracts us: he’s forever alive thanks to his cancerous mutation. But the irony that grabs me by the heartstrings is that he’s his own worst enemy. He’s dead on the inside. He openly admits to hating his reality.
I think we can all relate to that feeling. A silent suffering from within. Being damaged from the inside out, regardless of what we look like.
We all know how to wear a mask and we all know how to seek betterment — look at all the self-help books out there.
But that’s not Deadpool. He doesn’t want to be better.
Deadpool wears a mask to hide more than his damaged shell. He’s partly embarassed that his skin’s all fcked up, but he wears a mask to hide the pain inside too. That deeper layer of suffering that’s eating at his soul.
What a human thing to experience.
Sure, he’s the iconic definition of ‘antihero.’ Sure, he’s a wise-crack. Sure, he’s Canadian. But Deadpool has a lot of other things going for him, especially since creators didn’t expect him to make it as a recurring character.
So I think there’s a few things Wade Wilson can teach us here:
Lesson 1: Deadpool taught me to break the rules with a good heart.
First, understand the traditional conventions of storytelling via your chosen medium. I write things. Some people cook, some landscape, and some program artificial intelligence. Everyone has their own art with its own rules.
Once you understand those rules, set out to intentionally break them with a good heart. Especially the ones that resonate with your audience.
Be bold and push the boundaries. They aren’t limits. They’re guidelines.
One of the things that makes Deadpool, Deadpool, it’s his self-awareness of his fictional comic book existence. He breaks the 4th wall, which is a narrative no-no. AND he’s one of the only Marvel characters to do so.
I can’t tell you how many of my college creative writing professors taught me to NEVER acknowledge the reader. NEVER break that wall.
Well, Deadpool said ‘fck that.’ He’s self-aware of his fictional presence and the fans love it. In fact, the more I think about it, the more times we see things break rules like this — the more we enjoy them. There’s something about a small revolution, isn’t there?
It adds another layer to the complexity that is Deadpool. Stupid rules are meant to be broken.
Lesson 2: Deadpool taught me to stick to my guns.
Know you’re the oddball. Accept your weirdness and embrace it. Full force. Be you and be authentic about it. Your time will come.
Deadpool murders people. But only bad people — a self-proclaimed “less-bad-guy” as he’s stated before. He makes it a joke — because life’s a joke to him. He’s complex and dead inside and trying to reconcile with his own existence. Identifying himself as a hero isn’t in his cards.
He understands the necessary steps that need to be made toward perennial success. He knows it won’t be easy. But what other choice does he have? He can’t die. Ever.
Sometimes the things you believe in aren’t all Captain America. Sometimes they include putting yourself first. Not at the expense of others, of course, but to prevent any mental breakdowns, we must practice self-care. Wade Wilson is no exception to that. In his eyes, putting himself first is something heroes do.
He must power on through the absurdity. (Not that he cares what any of us think. Again — it’s for himself.)
He also recognizes the power of teamwork. That much is clear from the Deadpool 2 trailers.
Sure, you can kick ass by yourself. But there are times in life where you’ll need to collaborate. You’ll need social skills and the ability to work together.
This means you must recognize and accept your strengths and weaknesses. In order to do that you must do you.
Lesson 3: Deadpool taught me to never take life too seriously.
We’re all going to die anyway. He had this attitude before the mutation. He knew how fcked up things could be and he was grateful for what little things he had. Of course, he puts his own dark, little twist on it.
This is an important lesson that most adults I know still haven’t learned.
Life’s too short to not have fun, no matter how small or large the act.
Yes, we have to work sometimes. Yes, work is different for everybody. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it fun. That doesn’t mean we can’t take a good hard look at ourselves and recognize the sheer irony in the fact that we alone are responsible for our own perceptions of reality around us.
Deadpool does the only thing he knows how to do and that’s make fun of what he’s doing.
He’s got intrinsic motivations just like the rest of us — even if they are fueled by chimichangas and HelloKitty. The fact of the matter is, he’s aware of his existence and his limited abilities to change it. All he can do is find the humor in it in.
We should all try to live our lives as such. Yes, things can really suck sometimes. But that helps us better appreciate the good times. And, compared to Deadpool, our lives aren’t so bad. We know we’re going to die eventually. Deadpool has to live every day knowing he’ll never have that luxury.
Some personal reflection
I find it awkward when my middle school students ask me about my thoughts on Deadpool. The first thing I usually do is a failed attempted to redirect their attention: “Your parents let you watch that?”
Most of the time they end up staring at their shoes or exaggerate and brag about how cool their parents are.
I never tell them that Deadpool was how I became interested in comic books during my middle school years, stashed away at my best friend’s house. (He had cool parents.)
All I say is, “Yeah, he’s a complex character and protagonists like that always get me.”
I think my favorite aspect of Wade Wilson’s persona is the self-awareness. He knows he’s a comic book character. He knows when he’s in a film or on a lunchbox. He’ll admit it shamelessly, as if it’s all a joke anyway.
This, to me, is captivating — because as a writer we are told oh so often to stick to traditional conventions. Use 3 acts in your plot. Keep your protagonist admirable. Give them a love interest and some scars.
While these literary devices work for most classics, they are usually pretty boring. Mostly because we’ve seen them done millions of times before.
This is why I enjoy Deadpool. He nods to some of these “rules” and breaks the 4th wall.
Breaking the 4th wall was a technique I’d never heard of before reading Deadpool and the concept blew my mind, based on all the reading I’d done up until that point.
It doesn’t stop there. The 2016 release of the original Deadpool marked a change for the superhero film industry. With an R-rating, it forced many, many people to question their understanding of what superhero movies were. And the film did this intentionally, recognizing that potential market that Disney was missing out on with The Avengers.
But after learning of Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, I realized what was happening. And I’m not mad. Because I think a Deadpool/Spiderman flick would be awesome.
People would actually call him ninja-Spiderman. Team Red could see the big screen. We could even potentially witness the Wolverine/Deadpool mashup we’ve all been waiting for!
With the 2nd film in the franchise releasing this week, I find myself revisiting many memories of the Merc with a Mouth. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. Marvel has some great writers and the team behind Deadpool has been conscientious about keeping it for the fans, thus far.
While there are many things we can learn from the character, I think it’s important to remember that it’s entertainment. And entertainment usually adheres to these 3 lessons, among many others.
It’s not always about the money.
To read more about the history of Deadpool, I recommend starting with Marvel’s Wiki. From there, you’re on your own. Maximum effort.
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