If you haven’t seen the trailer for Deadpool yet, I assume that you just hate life, joy, and wonder, possibly in that order.
But there is one element of the character that is missing from the trailer, one critical part of why the character is so unique that is not apparent at all. I’m not talking about his love for chimichangas, which I think it is safe to assume would be in the movie and not the trailer. I’m talking about his most important super power: breaking the fourth wall.
There’s a long history of fourth wall breaking in literature, most often when an author becomes part of the story that he is telling: The Dark Tower is the most significant recent instance that comes to mind, but I first was introduced to it in high school reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman in junior year literature. I hated the latter, probably because I was a contrarian shit. Loved the former, despite most readers hating it, again probably because I am a contrarian shit.
Deadpool is kind of insane, as should be apparent from the trailer. But part of how his insanity manifests is that he knows that he is in a comic book. He knows that his entire reality is fake, and often has conversations with the audience. Note that this is not an instance of the author adding a wink to the audience, or even a character monologueing to an imaginary audience conveniently filled by the actual audience in our world. No, Deadpool literally knows he’s fictional, and can see through the thin lines of fictional universes.
For instance, he’s a Marvel character. Batman does not exist in his universe in any way shape or form, fictional or otherwise. And yet he bitches about how easy Batman has it and is conscious of the fact that no one else knows who that is.
If you’re not familiar with the comics first hand, it sounds like a cheap gimmick, right? It sounds like something done for laughs to wink at the audience. But it’s a lot more than that. If you were a fictional character who knew he was fictional, would you be the sane one, or would everyone else who doesn’t understand be the sane ones?
And it speaks directly to who the character is and how he acts. Remember in The Matrix when it becomes apparent that the resistance has no qualms about massacring people en masse inside the matrix itself? That’s because those people aren’t real. And if people aren’t real, then they exert no social pressure on you. You do not care what they think on a level that sociopaths can only dream of. In a certain unflattering sense, Deadpool is the YouTube commenter made flesh.
If you knew, knew for a fact, that no one around you was real, what limitations are there on anything that you do? Combine that with an inability to be killed and with a knowledge that people right now are watching everything you do for entertainment. And yet for all its fiction, he still feels pain and despite knowing those around him aren’t real there are a small handful of people for whom he still feels love. You can know for a fact that the world isn’t real, but sweet Baudrillard’s ghost, you can’t change how you feel.
What psychosis would erupt in you, what gleeful rage would consume you, if you knew that the world was fake but your feelings weren’t? That’s the very heart of Deadpool’s character, and for all that the trailer got right, it didn’t show us that.