For the uninitiated, Deadpool is an unconventional character who breaks the fourth wall of comic books to talk to readers directly, sometimes even referring to other comic books! To ‘break the fourth wall’ means to break the imaginary transparent wall at the front of a stage, the lens of a camera, or the panel of a comic book frame. He is even aware of himself being a comic character, and that others are aware of him being aware of this! From a 2D comic wall through a 3D cinema wall, he has ‘truly’ broken much to enter our world! In the movie itself, he breaks even more walls. On a self-referential flashback with self-narration, he quipped, ‘A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like, 16 walls!’
Although all these is fictitious fun, there are some lessons we can learn from Deadpool. He represents higher self-awareness broken out of the shell of ‘The Matrix’ that imprisons with misperceptions. Yet knowing he is not real as in a substantial person, he is self-effacing, never taking himself too seriously. Paradoxically, it is due to this that he becomes more real to us, through his irreverent but often truthful digs at all kinds of stuff. He is a jester, who finds humour even within the most dire circumstances. Capable of thinking freely out of any arbitrary box with its illusory walls, he is able to pull off escapes and rescues with creative ‘skilful’ means unlike others. Written with self-healing power for ‘rebirthing’ his body, he is also extra resilient.
Being the unpredictable wild card in the Marvel universe’s deck of many more serious characters, Deadpool is super but no classic hero or villain. For instance, he is quick to shoot and cut when he deems he should – sometimes for arguably good enough reasons, and sometimes not so good reasons. But he is no absolutely neutral character too, as he does slant towards being heroic in saving his love interest in the movie. The truth is, totally morally ambiguous characters would be much less interesting. Just as every comic book and movie has some sense of direction, their protagonists likewise should have meaningful purposes. Otherwise, all the attention spent on them would literally (pun intended) be meaningless and unrewarding.
Perhaps Deadpool is fascinating because he represents gleeful free will, to do and say the outrageous as he pleases. He represents all kinds of possibilities, that we sometimes fantasise, while stuck behind our existentially self-imposed walls. Yet he too was trapped by a tragic origin story, that made him a victim in search of ‘justice’. As Colossus put it in his pep talk to urge him to be more heroic than vengeful, ‘Four or five moments – that’s all it takes to become a hero. Everyone thinks it’s a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you’re offered a choice to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend – spare an enemy…’ Yup, super or not, we too can occasionally be extra heroic Bodhisattvas!