The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for “X-Men: The Exterminated #1.”
How do you navigate a world where everything is ultimately meaningless? That is a question that self-proclaimed nihilists and “Rick and Morty” fans often struggle with in heated philosophical debates.
I’ve tried contributing to that debate before with my own insights. I’d like to do so again while also tying the discussion one of my favorite superheroes, who just happens to have had a very successful movie this year. For me, that’s as big a win-win I’ll get without also referencing ice cream and bikini models.
I still want to further the nihilism debate, though. To do that, I need to re-frame the initial question I stated. How do you navigate a world where you know you’re just a comic book character and everything you do is subject to endless retcons, marketing gimmicks, and the occasional time traveler?
That’s basically the life Deadpool lives every hour of every day. Unlike the myriad of other iconic superheroes owned by Marvel and governed by their Disney overlords, he knows he’s a comic book character. His tendency to break the fourth wall is the most common manifestation of that knowledge.
It doesn’t seem to bother him, though. It hasn’t stopped him from doing things like joining the Avengers, teaming up with Cable, and marrying a succubus. He still cracks dirty jokes, shoots people and the occasional shape-shifting alien for money, and generally does his own thing outside the traditional superhero archetype.
Deadpool is the PERFECT nihilist hero.
I know “nihilist hero” isn’t really a thing, but given the philosophical underpinnings of nihilism, that really doesn’t matter much. When I say Deadpool is a nihilist hero, I don’t just mean that he’s someone who personifies a concept the same way Captain America personifies American ideals. With Deadpool, I’m referring more to the way we process the often-depressing implications of nihilism.
Those concepts can be pretty difficult to anyone who thinks about them for more than two minutes. At the core of nihilism is the idea that life, the universe, and everything in between has no inherent purpose. Nothing you or anyone else does matters in the grand scheme of things. Whether we’re random clumps of matter or comic book characters, it’s all ultimately pointless.
For many, that’s a scary notion. That’s why it’s only natural that people will cling to ideologies, religions, and simple hobbies to forge some semblance of meaning out of a meaningless universe. It often requires that we not care about the truth and simply accept the possibility of truth, which can be difficult when the universe constantly reminds us how harsh and unfair it can be.
For someone like Rick Sanchez of “Rick and Morty,” there’s no getting around the meaninglessness of it all. His approach and advice in navigating a nihilistic universe often boils down to not thinking about it. While that advice is actually more useful than it sounds, it’s not very heroic.
This is where Deadpool sets himself apart. The fact that Deadpool knows he’s a fictional character establishes that he understands how meaningless his existence truly is. Everything he knows, loves, and holds dear is nothing more than the whim of comic creators who ripped his name and his appearance from an established DC character.
How does anyone deal with that kind of knowledge? Even the smartest, most capable characters in the entire Marvel universe, which includes gods, aliens, and alien gods, don’t have the insight that Deadpool has. It’s the kind of thing that would drive even a powerful mind insane.
However, Deadpool is not insane. He’s crude, vulgar, obnoxious, annoying, self-destructive, immature, and impulsive. He once made 372,844 pancakes for no reason. That’s absurd, but it isn’t insane. You could even argue he’s “super sane” in the sense that he’s more aware than most of how the world works.
That sort of awareness tends to inspire chaos in characters like the Joker or misanthropy in characters like Rick Sanchez. With Deadpool, though, that knowledge inspires something different. Instead of misery or clown makeup, Deadpool embraces this understanding and jokes about it.
He does all that while being a wise-cracking anti-hero who will help the Avengers save the world while also shooting a dishonest pizza guy. That may sound eccentric, but it also reflects the key component that establishes Deadpool as a nihilist hero.
Part of what makes a hero heroic is why they do what they do. Superman is often held up as the gold standard because he does the right thing just because it’s the right thing. He doesn’t need another reason. You could argue that’s the most important reason for any hero.
While Superman’s morality still works in a nihilistic context, I don’t consider him a nihilist hero because he operates under the assumption that his life, his role, and his actions have meaning. Deadpool knows this isn’t true because he knows he’s a fictional character. However, that makes his style of heroism more nuanced.
There are times when Deadpool’s actions are selfish and other times when they’re entirely selfless, often within the same story. In both his movies, he alternates between heroic and not-so-heroic actions fairly easily. There’s no internal conflict. He just does it, doesn’t bother with the particulars, and cracks a dirty joke along the way.
For other heroes, the reason for their heroic actions is often as critical as the actions themselves. To them, there is a larger meaning to their heroic roles. That’s why they’ll often hesitate or agonize over doing something for selfish reasons. That basically happens with Spider-Man every other issue.
That’s not an issue for Deadpool, though. He’ll be selfless and selfish, depending on the situation and his mood. If the world is in danger of being overrun by renegade space gods, he’ll step up and be a hero. If the world is not in danger, though, he’ll gladly take a few mercenary gigs and shoot some people for money.
In both cases, there’s no moral conflict. In the context of nihilism, there shouldn’t be because those details don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Whether Deadpool saves the world or makes a few quick bucks shooting a pick-pocket carries no significant weight. He does what he does because he chooses to. He even dares to enjoy himself along the way.
In a meaningless universe, you can be a selfless hero. You can be a greedy prick, too. It doesn’t matter either way. The only thing that matters, in the context of nihilism, is that someone chooses it because they want to and not because they think it serves some higher purpose. For someone who knows he’s a comic book character, those are the only choices Deadpool makes.
He’s willing to make jokes about that. He’s even willing to exploit it, as evidenced in the post-credits scene of “Deadpool 2.” I would even argue that entire movie cemented Deadpool as a nihilist hero because what he did rendered a great deal of the plot meaningless in the end. However, it still counted as meaningful to him because he chose to be both heroic and selfish at the same time.
There’s no question that there are characters who are more heroic than Deadpool. There are also plenty of characters who are more selfish than Deadpool, but still call themselves heroes. However, it’s Deadpool’s ability to be both and laugh at the meaninglessness of his existence that makes him the greatest nihilist hero.
When a movie becomes an unexpected hit, both with critics and at the box office, the biggest question isn’t whether or not the studio will make a sequel. Major studios just love money too much. It’s just a matter of whether or not the sequel will be able to capture the magic of what made the first movie so great.
The first “Deadpool” movie was an unexpected hit that Fox didn’t even want to make. It broke so many rules, both with its R-rating and with its unorthodox approach to making superhero movies. In fact, it spent a good chunk of its overly violent first act establishing that “Deadpool” is not a superhero movie and Deadpool, the character, isn’t a traditional superhero.
By daring to be different while also embracing everything that’s lovable and unique about the character, “Deadpool” found a way to work, despite a paltry budget and an audience that still hadn’t forgotten Deadpool’s disastrous first appearance in “Wolverine Origins.” Now, “Deadpool 2” faces a new, but less daunting challenge in following up the unprecedented success of its predecessor.
Well, I’ll gladly spoil one detail about this movie. It matches, exceeds, and kicks the ever-loving shit out of those challenges. If you enjoyed the first “Deadpool” movie, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy with “Deadpool 2” and then some. Even if you found yourself unsatisfied with the first “Deadpool” movie, “Deadpool 2” will hit leave you feeling content in a way not possible without the aid of heavy stimulants and skilled hookers.
I realize that’s an overly vulgar way of saying that “Deadpool 2” is a great movie, but after seeing it, I think that’s perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the movie. It is, like its predecessor, an R-rated spectacle that does plenty to earn that rating. There’s plenty of profanity, violence, adult themes, and a lot of butt jokes.
Seriously, this movie doubles down on the appeal of butt jokes. It’s not quite in the same cartoonish mold as “South Park,” but it works because it’s a Deadpool movie. It needs to be vulgar and crude for the same reason water needs to be wet.
However, it’s not just the butt jokes, the violence, the crude humor, or the inherent lovability of Ryan “Mr. Blake Lively” Reynolds brings to the table. There are deeper, less juvenile appeals in “Deadpool 2” that help distinguish it from other superhero movies. It’s true to the Deadpool brand, but still finds a way to transcend its genre.
In the same way the first “Deadpool” movie mixed its superhero narrative with that of a genuine, sex-positive romance story, “Deadpool 2” does something similar. Instead of a romance story, though, the movie frames itself as a story about family and how to find one in an unfair, unjust world.
It’s a story that deals with serious issues of abandonment, abuse, and injustice. It does much more than its predecessor to incorporate the struggles minorities face that have played out in previous “X-men” movies. However, “Deadpool 2” never feels too much like an X-men movie. It keeps things personal and that’s key to making its story work.
Besides butt jokes and breaking the 4th wall, the underlying theme that drives the narrative in this movie is how everyone’s family gets shattered by various forces. Deadpool loses his family. Cable loses his family. Russell, also known as Firefist, is basically without a family from the beginning.
Those respective losses are what drive the characters through the story. That gives it a level of emotional weight that you wouldn’t expect for a movie based on a wise-cracking, exceedingly violent character who was heavily derived from an established DC character. That emotional weight is critical for both Deadpool and his supporting cast.
It’s here where “Deadpool 2” further improves on its predecessor. Unlike the first movie, it digs a little deeper into the vast catalog of X-men characters. The most important of those characters is Cable, the time-traveling badass whose convoluted origin story involves a clone of Jean Grey. It’s a character that Josh Brolin brings to life perfectly.
Already riding high from how he played Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” Brolin’s Cable brings a gruff balance to Deadpool’s quirky persona. That’s not just critical for the overall feel of the movie. It’s a critical element to their relationship, as established in the comics.
It’s not at all necessary to be familiar with their history in the comics to appreciate it in this movie, but as a life-long X-men fan, it’s nice bonus to see the spirit of the comics find their way into the movies. Given how often superhero movies take liberties with comic lore these days, that does count for something for fans like me.
As a result, Cable’s gruff, overly serious demeanor complements Deadpool’s eccentricities perfectly. Having both suffered immense personal losses, they both seek the same thing. Their methods are just very different and that makes for some glorious conflict, complete with references to Brolin’s role as Thanos and his role in “The Goonies.”
Aside from Cable, “Deadpool 2” also brings in other familiar X-men characters. That includes Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who had significant roles in the first movie. It also involves newcomers Bedlam, Shatterstar, and most notably, Zazie Beetz’s Domino. While not all these characters get a chance to shine, Domino does plenty to steal the show in multiple scenes.
There’s even a lengthy list of cameos throughout the movie and not just of the Stan Lee variety. The movie, even with its more serious themes involving family and loss, still finds plenty of ways to lighten the mood and have fun with itself. It never takes itself too seriously or gets too dark. It finds a way to mix in just the right amount of humor into everything.
By nearly every measure, “Deadpool 2” checks all the necessary boxes for an appropriately uncanny sequel. It offers a rich array of content that builds on what the first movie established along with plenty of bonus material, including one of the best post-credits scene of any superhero movie. Even if you don’t care for the movie, that post-credits scene will put a smile on your face, especially if you hated “Wolverine Origins.”
That’s not to say it’s a flawless movie. I wouldn’t put this movie above “Avengers: Infinity War” and not just because it’s a different kind of movie. “Deadpool 2” does a lot of things right, but it leaves some things unfinished. There are times when it rushes certain plot elements. As a result, characters like Vanessa and the lovably under-powered Peter feel wasted.
There are also a few instances where the the story feels choppy. Those instances are minor, though. While it would’ve been nice to establish a few other details about characters like Cable and Domino, the overall structure of the movie still works because it keeps the plot of “Deadpool 2” concise. It never tries to cram too much into the story, which has derailed more than a few superhero movies. See “Spider-Man 3.”
Overall, “Deadpool 2” is awesome because it has an identity and sticks to it. There’s crude humor, violence, and plenty of 4th wall breaking. There’s also genuine heart. In the same way the romance elements in the first movie felt sincere, the themes of family and finding a place in an unjust world feel just as sincere in this movie.
You’ll laugh and you’ll feel throughout “Deadpool 2,” but chances are you’ll probably do more laughing. As a whole package, “Deadpool 2” gives you plenty of reasons to leave the movie with a big smile on your face. Whether you’re an X-men fan, a superhero fan, or a fan of neither, this movie gives you something to enjoy.
If I had to score “Deadpool 2,” I would give it a 9 out of 10. It’s not flawless, but it’s pretty damn close. It’s exactly what you want it to be and then some. The ability to make more butt jokes is just a nice bonus.
I thought about doing a post on this sooner. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I got so caught up in talking about the prospect of a second sexual revolution that it kind of slipped my mind. For a subject that involves Deadpool, superhero comics, and a large potential for toilet humor, that’s quite a feat.
Then, as I gave it more thought, it became clear that this was something I had to do. I just couldn’t call myself a fan or an aspiring writer if I just let something like this fall to the wayside. I already set the precedent by doing it with “X-men Dark Phoenix.” Now, I’m doing it with Deadpool. Okay, that came out wrong…or did it? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.
As I mentioned earlier this week, with a huge grin on my face and a boner in my pants, Deadpool is getting his own cartoon in 2018. After crushing any and all expectations at the box office, raking in $783 million despite an R-rating and a lot of dick jokes, how could Fox resist? That kind of money will be a lot of chimichangas.
Deadpool will be joining FXX, a network that airs shows and cartoons that are distinctly not Disney. With shows like “Archer” and “The Americans,” this is a network that would’ve made Walt Disney faint, but he’d probably still watch. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t get some entertainment value out of “The Americans.”
It’s a network that isn’t afraid of raunchy humor and that’s a good thing too because Deadpool is nothing but raunchy. This is a man who tried to have sex with a female incarnation of death and flirts with Spider-Man. There’s just no way a guy like him could operate under Disney’s kid-friendly policies.
By all accounts, Deadpool has everything going for him. He has a successful movie, a fitting network, and Ryan Reynolds’ sex appeal. He couldn’t be in a better position without being in a hot tub at the Playboy Mansion. Even so, I’m not going to assume too much. Fox still has a mixed legacy when it comes to maximizing the X-men’s potential. I don’t want to keep reminding them of “Wolverine Origins,” but I will if I have to.
In that spirit, I’m going to do for the Deadpool cartoon what I did for the upcoming “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie. Namely, I’m going to make a short list of how to ensure this cartoon doesn’t suck.
Don’t get me wrong. I want this cartoon to be awesome. I want it to be every bit as awesome as the movie. However, I’ve learned through experience that establishing a floor is less frustrating than setting a high bar. By pointing out the pot-holes in a road, it’s easier to find your own path.
Deadpool, being the eccentric, walking poop joke that he is, can’t rely too heavily on guidance and standards. Between his style and his limited attention span, micromanaging might as well be his kryptonite. So with that in mind, here’s a short list of ways to not screw up the Deadpool cartoon.
Tip #1: Embrace Deadpool’s Crude Humor
This is actually a lesson Fox already learned the hard way. I know I said I didn’t want to keep reminding everyone of “Wolverine Origins,” but in this case it’s unavoidable. That movie had many problems, but the way it treated Deadpool, turning him into “Barakapool” as X-men fans call him, was at the top of the list.
While the movie was, at its core, a Wolverine movie, it completely robbed Deadpool of all his crazy quirks and crude humor. There were no dick jokes, gratuitous blood splatters, or inappropriate references to outdated pop culture memes. The movie tried way too hard to be PG-13 and that meant giving Deadpool the FCC treatment.
Naturally, it didn’t go over well. “Wolverine Origins” is widely regarded as the worst X-men movie of all time, so much so that Hugh Jackman almost quit the movie entirely. Conversely, “Deadpool” is widely praised as being the best X-men movie of all time and a big part of that success came from embracing Deadpool’s crude humor.
He’s quirky, erratic, crude, violent, and horny. He’s also fun, heroic, likable, and honorable when he needs to be. The movie captured all of these traits and didn’t give a damn if it meant an R-rating. It still worked beautifully and that’s what the cartoon needs to embody.
Tip #2: Craft Stories That Appeal To Adults (For The Most Part)
There was a time when comics, as a whole, were associated with kids. That time wasn’t too long ago either. When I was a kid, cartoons featuring comic characters were geared towards kids. The X-men, Spider-Man, Batman, and the Justice League were all branded as kids shows and that was their primary audience for the most part. Given the billions in merchandising these properties generate, that strategy clearly worked.
However, the kids who grew up loving those cartoons aren’t kids anymore. Their adults and the demographics have shifted considerably, creating large swaths of older consumers who seek more adult-themed material. With “My Little Pony” being the exception, the market is trending towards more adult stories.
At the moment, the comics featuring Deadpool and other major X-men characters are fairly mature. They aren’t exactly “Game of Thrones,” but they do address real-world issues that can make for some pretty iconic stories, some of which end up being big-budget blockbuster movies.
The cartoons, however, are not that mature. They’re the only part of the superhero marketing machine that hasn’t matured. There cartoons out there for Spider-Man and the Avengers, but they are so watered down and so censored in their plot that they’re unwatchable to any fan over the age of 7.
Deadpool can finally break that mold. Deadpool is already on a network that has adult cartoons like “Archer.” While Deadpool has shown up in other cartoons, he’s never been able to be his rude, crude self. This cartoon needs give him that chance. They need to let him joke about dicks, breasts, poop, and everything in between. That’s the only way to capture the true essence of Deadpool.
Tip #3: Keep The Cast Small And Stay Focused On Deadpool
This is an easy trap to fall into with any show, animated or otherwise. Every successful show needs a strong supporting cast. Sometimes, that cast can be pretty damn big. Just look at all the supporting characters “The Simpsons” have gained over the years.
Deadpool may be unique in his love of dick jokes and Mexican food, but he’s had a solid supporting cast throughout his history. Most notably, he’s been closely associated with other established X-men characters like Cable, as well as certain superhero teams like X-Force.
These are all elements that could fit into a cartoon more effectively than the movie. It was a running joke with the movie on how low the budget was. At $58 million, it cost $17 million less than the first X-men movie and that’s in 2000 dollars. It couldn’t have too large a cast because it just didn’t have the money.
As a result, the movie made every character count. With animation, however, there’s more flexibility. Fox could utilize even the most obscure X-men characters, like Doop. Given the sheer size of the X-men mythos, the temptation will definitely be there to throw in as many characters as possible into this cartoon.
Fox needs to resist that temptation as best it can. It needs to focus solely on Deadpool and only a handful of supporting characters. If the number of characters in the cast ever exceeds the number of fingers on both hands, then the cast is too bloated. This isn’t an X-men cartoon that focuses on a team. It’s a Deadpool cartoon that focuses on Deadpool. That should be a given, but it’s still worth belaboring.
Tip #4: Break The 4th Wall, But Don’t SHATTER It
It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits, more so than his iconic costume or love of tacos. He constantly breaks the fourth wall. For those of you who don’t know fancy Hollywood jargon, that means he talks to the audience. He knows he’s a comic book character. He understands he’s part of a show and he embraces it.
He did it in the movie on multiple occasions, but not in “Wolverine Origins.” The critical and box office reception of both should tell you everything you need to know about how important this is. It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits and any cartoon has to include that.
However, like any defining trait, it can be overdone. Like Spider-Man’s origin story, something can be done to death. It can even totally derail the story. The “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon did a lot of fourth wall breaking early on and it made the stories insufferable at times.
In the comics, Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking is only sprinkled in every now and then. It’s usually an aside, never seriously affecting the flow of the story. It’s usually just a good way to throw in some extra laughs. That’s the approach the cartoon should use. Let Deadpool be Deadpool. Let him break the fourth wall. Just don’t let him break it to the point where it undermines the story.
There you have it. Like my list for the Dark Phoenix movie, I’ve no expectations that anyone from Fox or Marvel will ever read this list, let alone take it seriously. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer and die-hard X-men fan, articulating my hopes and dreads.
Between this cartoon and “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” 2018 is going to be an exciting year for me. I hope it exceeds my expectations, but I’ll settle for it not sucking. These days, when there are way too many things that can go wrong behind the scenes, that’s probably the healthiest mindset to have. If I can draw inspiration from it all and craft some quality erotica/romance along the way, then that’ll just be extra hot sauce on the chimichangas.
In addition to being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a fairly diverse set of interests. I talk about many of them on this blog. I love superhero comics, superhero movies, futuristic technology, and activities that involve nudity. I like to explore these topics because the world is a diverse and sexy place. I want this blog to reflect that, as well as entertain/titillate.
So when news emerges that involves superhero comics and a potential for entertainment/titillation, expect me to mention it at some point. When that news involves someone like Deadpool, a character who has built his entire appeal on that and dick jokes, you can pretty much set your watch to it.
I’ve talked about Deadpool many times before. I’m not the only one either. Deadpool is the new golden boy for Fox, Marvel, and the entire superhero genre. He was once a niche character with an especially loyal set of fans and cos-players. Then, former sexiest man alive, Ryan Reynolds, made Deadpool the hottest thing in spandex not named Jennifer Lawrence.
The Deadpool movie wasn’t just a game-changer. It dropped a metric ton of napalm on the game, blew it up with C4, and roasted marshmallows over the entrails while strippers danced in the background. If that sounds crazy, then congratulations. You now have some insight into why Deadpool is so appealing.
The first Deadpool movie completely shocked the established superhero genre, grossing $783 million on a $58 million budget. At a time when many superhero movies need budgets of at least $250 million to be taken seriously, that’s not just impressive. That’s downright jarring.
The fact that Deadpool did this while being rated R, complete with exposed breasts and Ryan Reynold’s jerking off with a stuffed unicorn, makes it all the more astonishing. It proved that superhero movies could be mature, sexy, and appealing. It also proved they can be extremely profitable and nothing speaks louder in the entertainment industry than money. Why else would Disney have made five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies?
The impact is still being felt, but it’s already starting to show. Just this year, Fox proved that Deadpool’s success was not a fluke. The R-rated “Logan” movie made $606 million on a $97 million budget while generated critical acclaim. Once can be an anomaly. Twice is the beginning of a trend.
In an effort to continue that trend, Fox and Marvel announced this past week that they will be making a Deadpool animated series for the FXX network. That’s the same network that hosts such kid-unfriendly shows like “Archer” and “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” There couldn’t be a more appropriate home is what I’m saying.
Now, this news might not seem like a big deal to non-comic fans. Deadpool had a successful movie, making Fox and Marvel a boatload of money. With a sequel already in the works, why not capitalize on his popularity with a cartoon? It sounds like a normal money grab by big corporate media giants who are never satisfied with merely having a few pools of money to swim in.
There’s no doubt that’s part of the dynamic here, but there are far larger implications, some of which might have an impact on erotica/romance. Bear with me, here, because this is where I try to gaze into a crystal ball and not throw up. Since I haven’t won the lottery or predicted the Super Bowl yet, assume my ability for foresight is limited.
Earlier this year, I talked about the success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, as well as the challenges associated with creating quality erotica/romance. Some of these challenges aren’t insurmountable, but they are daunting. The success of “Game of Thrones” might be nudging public attitudes to some extent, but only to a point.
Since Hollywood is too damn impatient when it comes to exploiting a market, I speculated that animation might actually be the key to future erotica/romance. It effectively circumvents many of those daunting challenges I mentioned. Cartoon characters don’t get too testy when you ask them to take their clothes off.
With a Deadpool cartoon being on FXX, there’s a lot more potential for raunchy sexiness. We already see it in shows like “Archer,” which doesn’t shy away from the kind of crude humor that is usually reserved for “South Park.” Unlike “Archer,” though, Deadpool has more brand recognition. He generates far more attention and not just because he’s been known to cross dress every now and then.
Deadpool will be entering a market that’s ripe for growth. Adult-themed animation has been around for years, but has never been more than a niche market. That might be changing just in time for Deadpool.
In recent years, shows like “Archer” have inspired other shows like “Rick and Morty,” gaining more than just a cult following. These shows get away with plots and humor that would never make it past the network executives who are routinely terrified of getting a call from the FCC. By being animated, they can push the proverbial envelope in ways that go far beyond an exposed nipple.
Deadpool doesn’t stop at nipples, though. He’s a character who married a succubus and flirted with Spider-Man. He does things that made the kid-friendly executives at Disney faint. With a cartoon, they can even do things that Ryan Reynolds would never agree to and he’s the guy who agreed to do “R.I.P.D.”
The potential that a Deadpool cartoon has cannot be understated. He can do more than just create another hit cartoon for a network that already has a few under their belt. He can foster a new audience that’s hungry for more mature animation.
Between the success of movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and TV shows like “Rick and Morty,” Deadpool is coming along at the best possible time. By creating a larger audience, it’ll let the big wigs at major media studios that audiences do want sexier content. They want media that’s fun, sexy, and not afraid of showing a few nipples every now and then.
There will always be a place for kid-friendly cartoons, but animation need not be a medium that appeals to one segment of the population. There are many more people out there who want sexier material and they don’t need to whine to their parents for money to buy it.
A Deadpool cartoon definitely has plenty of appeal, especially to those who enjoyed the sex and violence of the movie. It has everything it needs to be success. However, it’s the implications of that success that may have far sexier implications.
It says a lot about the state of romance in popular culture when Deadpool – yes, Deadpool – is considered the top romance movie of the year. That’s not a joke or some gimmicky marketing ploy. That’s an actual news story from earlier this year. About a month ago, it was widely reported that Deadpool had been the top-selling Blu-Ray in the romance section on Amazon.com. Now why is this a big deal? Well for those of you who aren’t comic book fans, Deadpool isn’t known for romance. He’s known for things like this.
His story is less about romance and more about him being a wise-cracking, overly violent, 4th-wall breaking nutcase with a heart of gold. It’s every bit as insane as it sounds. It’s the exact reason why he’s a cult favorite among comic book fans. The movie that came out earlier this year did everything it could to capture that and did so on a budget less than half of what traditional superhero movies get. Despite so many things working against it, this movie is still one of the biggest successes of 2016. According to Box Office Mojo, it made $782 million on a $53 million budget. Even among non-superhero movies, that’s pretty impressive.
What makes this even more remarkable is how much of the story surrounding Deadpool is crafted around romance. Make no mistake though. Romance with Deadpool is very different from romance with Superman. There is no Lois Lane. There is no sweet and innocent young woman who Deadpool has to change in order to be with. Instead, we get Vanessa.
Who is Vanessa? Well, she’s a stripper/prostitute/girl-with-serious-issues. So naturally, she and Deadpool hit it off beautifully. A good chunk of the movie is dedicated to showing them in all sorts of lurid or seemingly lurid moments that forces one’s dirty imagination to run wild.
Now why is this a big deal? Why is Vanessa different from any other generic comic book interest? Well aside from the fact that she isn’t afraid to get naked in this movie, there’s something remarkable here that may or may not have been intentional.
Go back about 10 years and watch any slasher movie. Who usually dies first? With few exceptions, it’s almost always the overly slutty, overly pretty, overly sassy woman who is too comfortable getting naked and too comfortable being sexual. It’s a twisted form of puritanism, killing off those who are overly promiscuous while often letting the sweet and untainted virgin survive. With Deadpool, they do the opposite.
Vanessa is a sex-positive woman whose sexuality is never the reason for her predicaments in this movie. What happens to her in Deadpool would’ve happened if she had been a virgin nun. Her overt sexuality is never conveyed as a negative quality about her. That’s not to say she didn’t have some twisted character flaws. There are a number of scenes where she makes clear that she wouldn’t last long in any slasher movie. Despite this, she still comes off as lovable and endearing.
For me as a romance/erotica writer, this is pretty remarkable because I rarely see sex-positive female characters portrayed in such a way. Contrast this with Bella Swan in “Twilight” or Anastatisa Steel in “50 Shaes of Grey” and it’s no contest. Vanessa is a better sex-positive female character at her core.
Given the success of movies like Deadpool, I hope this means we’ll see more characters like Vanessa and not just in superhero movies. Pop culture, for a variety of conflicting reasons, remains somewhat weary about female characters who are overtly sexual in a positive way. There’s still this inclination to punish or undermine those who are more sexual than the arbitrary level that society deems appropriate. I like to think that the strides made by society will temper this inclination, but that remains to be seen.
For aspiring writers like me, this is kind of a relief because it means that there is a place for sex-positive female characters in pop culture. One day, I hope to contribute to that culture with my work.