Lessons from Deadpool

So, I’m just back from seeing Deadpool (which I very much enjoyed), and I thought I’d write a post about it. I mean, it’s already out-earned all the other X-Men movies (and it’s sort of technically an X-Man movie, maybe?) and every other R-rated (or 15 certificate) movie ever, and it’s only been out a couple of weeks, so clearly someone’s done something right. Could it be because it’s the first R-rated comic book adaption?

Boo.

Okay, not exactly. But it’s the first R-rated *Marvel* comic adaption, anyway-

Only two things life are certain: death and taxes. Wesley Snipes did his best to prove at least half of that saying wrong.

Yeah, I always forget that Blade’s from Marvel too. Okay, so-

JUST DON’T GO THERE, OKAY?

So, I think we can safely say that Deadpool’s success is not down to the fact that it’s a superhero movie that contains blood and swearing. Not *solely* down to that, anyway.

That said, I think it’s a good thing.

I actually think it raises some interesting points. I mean, think back, if you will, to the start of X-Men 2 when William Stryker’s forces attack Xavier’s School For Gifted Mutants, and then Wolverine goes apeshit and kills a load of them. Kind of grim for a 12-certificate, right? And yeah, he’s doing it to protect his home and a bunch of kids, but I think all too often that side of things isn’t really considered. Faceless bad guys getting totalled by good guys, and it’s all okay because they’re justified and their motives are pure, or something.

Well… no.

This is why I’ve found it so hard to write straight-up good guys in anything for quite a while now, because the stuff I write will feature violence at some point: the characters might not set out with the intention of doing violence, but they tend to at least know that it’s a possibility due to what they’re doing. Which is very much not like me, who treats violence as so much of a last resort that I don’t think I’ve actually been in a fight since I was a kid.

More importantly, I think, it’s hard to write faceless *bad* guys. There can be people who are opposed, perhaps violently opposed to the protagonists, but they’ll have reasons for doing so that aren’t just “they’re bad people”. Some of them might arguably be bad people, but there might well be reasons for *that*, too. I think one of the things you quickly pick up when working in homelessness is everyone’s got a story, and sometimes it’s a story that you really wouldn’t expect. And sure, sometimes that story features some really bad choices, or some really nasty choices, but sometimes you look at someone and realise that with just a couple of different twists in fortune that could be you, or someone you know.

Now, Deadpool kills a hell of a lot of faceless bad guys in his movie, but there’s one bit at the end where he shouts at a bunch of gun-wielding thugs about how they just work for the guy he’s after, so if they put the guns down he’ll let them off. And that’s sort of the point. Some of the baddies are heavily involved in the Bad Things That Have Gone Down, others just work for the guy. Deadpool kills people, and he’s *not* portrayed as a hero. There’s no happily bloodless deaths: there’s blood, and quite a lot of it.

I hesitate to use the word ‘realistic’ about a superhero movie involving a protagonist who can heal from virtually anything and a giant guy made from living metal, but at the very least the Deadpool movie isn’t sanitised. If you use your super-powered strength, speed, agility and the ability to get shot and not die to beat up/kill people in order to achieve your (arguably worthy) goal, it’s going to be messy. There is no such thing as clean violence, barring a suddenly- and expertly-applied blood choke that renders someone unconscious for a length of time that is short enough to avoid any chance of oxygen starvation to the brain. I approve of a movie like that this that shows it… not because it’s gratuitous, not because it’s edgy, but because at least it’s honest.

I do enjoy action blockbusters, and I’m not adverse to watching violence (within reason), but let’s not pretend that by keeping blood out of shot it really makes it any better. If you can put a violent act in a movie or TV show, you can put the consequence of that violence in the movie. Otherwise you’re avoiding the reality of the situation, and that is the real fantasy. Not a man with a healing factor that mean bullet wounds are a fleeting inconvenience.

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