I’ve always loved the sardonic, self-awareness of the comic book character of Deadpool, and when I saw the first trailer for the new film, I was thrilled to see that the Ryan Reynolds movie looked to be staying true to that vibe. Every time Deadpool broke the fourth wall to address the audience, it felt as though the antihero and I were hating on archaic Hollywood standards together, fighting off the lazy stereotyping, poorly utilized tropes meant to further a humdrum plot, or completely unnecessary objectification of token female characters that colors many Hollywood blockbusters. In other words, Deadpool seemed like everything most superhero movies are not.
Now, Deadpool isn’t perfect, but when I saw the actual movie, I discovered that it was totally subversive, taking a playful and wonderfully obnoxious descent into meta territory. It ripped holes into the superhero genre, taking down woefully tiresome Hollywood tropes which were long past their due date. Deadpool is a veritable buffet of sly nods, cheeky winks and gratuitous takedowns of overdone film and superhero tropes, such as:
1. The Squad Power Walk Into Battle (Accompanied By A Big Tune)
The Trope: Just how many superhero or action films have you seen where the hero squad join forces for one almighty, film-ending final battle by strutting ahead together with determined looks on their faces and a hypnotically synchronized rhythm to their step? Too many, my friends. This scene is also usually accompanied by a bombastic tune announcing the badassery of the moment through music (like all fights IRL!) and in order to understand how important a bold song is to validating a squad "power walk", then I urge you to watch one of these scenes on mute to see just how ludicrous everyone looks without a motivational score to back them up.
In Deadpool: The heroes sass their power walks to DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” only to be interrupted by Deadpool realizing that he’d left his gigantic bag of weapons in the taxi and trying to make an urgent phone call to retrieve it. Which is just like when you’re on your way to any important battle (or, you know, a big team presentation in work) and totally always panicking last minute by asking questions like “dude, did you remember to bring the big giant hammer?” or “Tony, are you sure your super-suit has been charged up fully?" You definitely don't just storm into the fight with total blind trust in your posse. That's just silly.
2. Female Characters Wearing Impractical Costumes For Warfare
The Trope: Because, apparently, even superwomen will choose fashion over function, many female superheroes or villains wear outfits that offer little support to areas which damn well need it. The skin-tight fabrics look barely breathable and desperately uncomfortable, so much so that you could hardly walk down the street in them, never mind get your fight on. And don't even get me started on fighting in high heels.
In Deadpool: Angel Dust wears a totally impractical outfit for brawling and experiences a wardrobe mishap which exposes one of her breasts. Luckily, Colossus is a total gent and not only lets her know, but also preserves her modesty by shielding her exposure from the camera.
3. The Hetero-Normative And Totally Macho Male Hero
The Trope: Every leading hero of every superhero movie ever has to be a super strict hetero dude who is totally ripped and macho and masculine. It’s like, the law of comic book adaptations.
In Deadpool: Before he becomes the eponymous anti-hero, Wade doesn’t mind kissing a man on the cheek, partaking in a spot of pegging for his girlfriend’s enjoyment or enthusiastically spitting the lyrics to “Shoop” by Salt N’Pepa, a song which is notorious for its empowering hyper-sexual lyrics towards dudes (praise be!). He might still be super ripped and masculine, but this is one character who isn't pandering to many other standard macho or hetero stereotypes.
4. The Throwback Theme Tune Rap
The Trope: The '80s and '90s were simpler times, era in which a rich man could hunt down criminals in a rubber bat costume whilst a Prince song blasts through the sound system, and a group of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could be inspired to dance their little Ninja shells into a frenzy at the behest of a frankly bizarre Vanilla Ice song (see above). Back in the day, every movie had to have a super hip theme tune and every hero had to be glorified to the tune of it in the obligatory music video that followed.
In Deadpool: Why, you have The Deadpool Rap, of course! An unsettlingly gratuitous celebration of the hero that is totally dumb as hell but also totally necessary. The song was originally created by the video game rappers TeamHeadKick in response to the 2014 Deadpool game and is unabashedly silly, a little cringe-worthy, and note-perfect for the movie.
5. The Damaged Sex Worker With A Painful Past
The Trope: So many Hollywood movies love to portray all female sex workers as being irrevocably damaged and in desperate need of being saved by a good man who can retrieve them from out of the destructive depths of vice. These characters are also usually alluded to as having experienced some form of childhood abuse, which is implied to have directly influenced their current choice of career.
In Deadpool: This is wonderfully subverted by “hot chick” Vanessa who, whilst introducing herself to Wade Wilson, proudly suggests that her body is her money maker and plays a dark, less than serious game of trying to one-up her new flirtation in the "miserable childhood stakes". Suffice to say, Vanessa subverts audience expectations that she'd have to tell a genuine tale of woe to “excuse” her lifestyle by telling a completely fabricated, over-the-top tale of childhood abuse instead. She completely owns her sexuality and her unapologetic lifestyle choices in the process.
6. The Over-Objectified Female Character
The Trope: Since many movies as a whole are made with a default audience of straight men in mind, female characters usually get reduced to having little dialogue and minimal agency over their experiences. If they’re hyper-sexualized like, say, Silk Spectre II in Watchmen or Megan Fox in anything, then their character tends to be revealed via a series of visual indicators to titillate the target audience such as a heaving bosom (she’s passionate!), a curvaceous ass (she’s athletic, I guess?) or a lithe set of legs bonded in a skin tight rubber costume (she’s going to try and do a really high kick at some point and her pants might split…).
In Deadpool: Even before the film got released, its marketing was geared towards subverting the manner with which female characters can be mercilessly objectified in promotional materials for movies, with Deadpool posing in a “come hither” posture in front of a roaring fire or celebrating his “great ass” on posters. In the film, camera angles follow the character with the same gluttony for objectification that movies tend to for female characters, giving audiences gratuitous close-ups of every saucy body part possible. And yes, there is also that totally naked fight scene.
7. The Obligatory Post-Credits Scene
The Trope: Every superhero movie seems to love to tease a follow up, future movie after the end credits. In fact, the genre has kind of become known for it. If you’re unlucky enough to have sat through the entire end-credits segment without being rewarded with a post-credits scene, then you’ve obviously been watching a rom-com or something.
In Deadpool: There is a no-frills tease for the next Deadpool film, with Wade casually sharing the info that Cable will probably be starring in the next film (whereas most other movies tend to opt for subtle, completely teasing visual references to upcoming character inclusions). Most importantly perhaps, Deadpool mocks the pomposity of these post-credit sequences by mimicking what many consider to be the original and best post-credits sequence of all time from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, complete with dressing gown and oblique reference to it's iconic theme song, “Oh Yeah” by Yello. Also, Ferris and Deadpool? Not that dissimilar. Both break the fourth wall and are obnoxious, smug, and charming in equal measure with a deep appreciation for breaking out a great tune at seemingly inappropriate moments.
Thanks, Deadpool, for proving that not all superhero movies have to be the exact. Same. Thing.