121. Deadpool: A Glimmer of Light Shines Amidst Its Crass Pornification

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My blog last Thursday on the movie Deadpool sparked some great discussion on my Facebook page. I was upfront about the fact that I hadn’t seen the movie. The point of my blog was not to comment on the overall story, which I had no ability to do. Rather, my commentary focused on the fact that a comic book movie depicted an act that demonstrates how things once limited to the sexual perversity of a dark underground are now writ large in mainstream entertainment.

Amidst a stream of comments from parents thanking me for the warning and others who had seen the movie affirming what I said, more than a few people challenged me not to comment on a movie I hadn’t seen. Fair enough. So, after a good deal of back and forth, I went to see it.

I’m glad I did. Not because I think it’s a great movie, but because it gave me an important look into the state of the culture I’m trying to reach with St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

What did St. Paul do before presenting the Gospel to the Athenians? He “looked carefully” at all their idols. The idolatry Paul encountered in Athens was probably not much different than the idolatry of today. Statues and monuments of a pornographic nature were prevalent in Greek culture at the time (imagine if they had had photography and the ability to make movies). This may explain why Paul was “deeply distressed” upon seeing their idols (see Acts 17:16).

[tweetthis]When our wounds, scars, blemishes & “ugliness” are on display, will we be abandoned by those who claim to love us?[/tweetthis]

 

Still, he did not overreact; he did not go from one imbalance to the other. Rather, having examined the situation “carefully” (Acts 17:23), he very creatively used their idolatry as a meeting place to lead the Athenians to Christ (see Acts 17:16-32). In fact, their idols lead him to the conclusion that they were a “very religious” people (Acts 17:23). As Paul knew well, behind every idol is the human desire for the true God gone awry. And so we can see that St. Paul offers an olive branch, an affirmation of that element of truth that he sees even in their deeply distressing distortions.

There is no doubt in my mind that the entire ethos of the Deadpool movie is derived from a culture immersed in a pornified view of the body and sexuality. Several times I hung my head with a pit in my stomach. The mockery of the sacred gift of sex was relentless. Still, I can affirm that there is some good wheat amidst this field of gangly weeds. It takes strong custody of the eyes and the grace of resisting the constant pull into distortion to find it, so I’m not offering any general recommendation that people see this film. However, if we are to evangelize the culture, it is an important – indeed necessary – skill to learn how to affirm the good present even amidst gross distortion, to tease it out, as St. Paul did with the Athenians.

Believe it or not, Deadpool is a self-professed love story. In fact, its main arc focuses on a very important question: Are we lovable behind our masks? When all our wounds, scars, blemishes, and “ugliness” are on display, will we be abandoned by the people who claim to love us? In other words, is love only skin deep?

After becoming terribly disfigured, Wade Wilson is on an obsessively violent quest to restore his previous looks so that his very attractive girlfriend will still love him. Sensing his obsession, a blind character asserts that looks aren’t everything. “Looks are everything,” retorts Wade. “I gotta be hot again,” he insists, “so I can get my hot girl back.” Who’s the real blind person here?

In the end, Wade learns that the love of his life still loves him even with his scars. And in one of the final lines of the movie he declares, “You don’t need to be a superhero to get the girl.” That’s a glimmer of real light amidst some very dark distortions.

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Movie Still: 20th Century Fox.