If you haven’t heard, there is a little, unknown movie that came out this past weekend called Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin. It’s taking the movie world by storm; breaking every conceivable R-rated movie record, Valentine’s Day record, and even President’s Day record (I didn’t even know that was a thing!). It has also engendered an incredibly large amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth from concerned parents, concerned followers of Christ, and even Christian pastors.
Since most of us here at Reel World Theology went out and saw the movie this weekend and we do have a review of the movie from Josh coming tomorrow (and eventual podcast episode), we felt it would be necessary to address some of the hype and concern in light of what we saw displayed on-screen. Josh and Fizz put their collective heads together and assembled this chimichanga-fueled post to hopefully help you discern how to spend your time and money if you have been contemplating seeing this film– or have been actively trying to avoid it. Likewise, if you have already seen the film, then maybe this will help you get your cultural engagement goggles on.
1) Christian Freedom Allows You To See Something (or Not to See Something)
As Christians, we have freedom in the gospel to see a movie or not to see a movie. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything,” (ESV). If you feel this movie will not be helpful to you or to someone else, or you feel the images, language, and/or violence could dominate you, your mind, or someone else’s, please do not see this movie. If not, order an extra chimichanga for me and save me a seat.
There are an endless amount of philosophies on the proper way to raise children and how to gate them into culture and entertainment. Should I let them watch zero television until they are a certain age? One hour– two? If a movie is rated PG-13 but would be considered a “soft” PG-13, can my mature 8-10-year-old handle it? I mean, he LOVES _______________ (fill in the blank with a superhero or giant robot). Those are great conversations to have. That is something only a parent or guardian can know about a child. You know what shuts that conversation down very fast? A movie rating. In this case, Deadpool is rated R– and for good reason. This isn’t a family movie. This isn’t a kid movie. This is a movie made for adults and mature (or immature depending on your viewpoint) audiences. If you don’t think so, just check out the marketing. They tried to warn parents.
3) The ‘Adult Content’ Hype is Overblown…
Despite the previously mentioned ‘R’ rating, the hype by some outlets about the graphic nature of the movie is largely focused on the depiction of sex and nudity in the film. Besides Starbucks declaring an unknown “war on Christmas,” few things carry the weight of nuclear launch codes for Christian culture like varying levels of undress in a movie. While none of us would ever downplay the very real issues the culture has with nudity– and a thriving pornography industry– we also want to keep such things in perspective. What does this mean? How many films or TV shows have come out in the past year alone that contained explicit sexual content but there were never any petitions for the content to be changed or moral crusaders warning their Christian brothers and sisters? Why is it ok for our Christian friends to talk about their favorite TV shows Outlander, Black Sails, or House of Cards— or their favorite films of the year like The Big Short, It Follows, or Chi-Raq (Heck, even The Martian contains more of Matt Damon’s rear end than I’d choose to see)– without taking up a moral crusade against them?
Let us try to bring some perspective. As people who have actually seen the film, it does contain nudity. There is a short scene in a strip club reminiscent of the nudity we saw in The Big Short. There is also a “sex montage” towards the beginning of the film that doesn’t touch what you see in most popular shows on HBO, Showtime, or STARS these days. Does this excuse it? Definitely not. Does it make this the dirtiest film ever released in a theater? Definitely not. At best, we can say that Deadpool‘s biggest crime is being unapologetic about its sexual content.
As we mentioned, there is a noticeable amount of sexualized themes in the film that have grabbed the headlines of articles and the ire of many Christian patronized film discussion boards. However, there is a surprising lack of chatter and concern about redemptive violence, graphic language, and George Michaels music. What do we mean? Well…
After watching the film, some of us thought the crude nature of the jokes in the film did get sorta boring– or old. Even for those of us who didn’t feel that way, it that crudeness paled in comparison to the continual violence, moral ambiguity, and purposeful pushing of a redemptive violence narrative (and possibly the overuse of WHAM! music– though the Reel World team is split on this one as well!). Equal time should be given to those concerns as well. Furthermore, more informed and more well-rounded criticism of the movie, positive or negative, should give more attention to these things. It would behoove potential viewers to have a better understanding of the movie than a cursory glance at the parental advisory summary on IMDb or a click-bait article recycled from the last “controversial” movie featuring graphic nudity (that even links the article it is parroting at the bottom). The reason people think the phrases “film criticism” and “Bible-believing Christian” are a joke is that often our criticism is a joke more based on fear-mongering and hyperbole than serious thought and honest engagement. Be sure that we will cover all these things when we record our podcast episode on the film.
5) Christian Freedom Is Not an Excuse To Play Spiritual Caber Tossing
Christians have the remarkable ability to be some of the most judgmental people on the planet. Ironic, right? With that, we would remind everyone that those who choose not see the film are not inferior or morally stuck up, nor is someone who does see this movie morally bankrupt or spiritually superior. Our faith in Christ is worked out together and we are to speak the truth in love and commend the good news to one another– not to play spiritual caber tossing; seeing whose moral superiority can be flung further and more prominently for the crowds. If you are not careful, one of those tosses may end up hitting a close friend or unsuspecting Facebook bystander. One of the Reel World team may have even been told to “Repent!” by a fellow Christian.
While we all have plenty to repent for, we are not so sure that everyone going to see a film needs to do so. Are there reasons a great many people should probably let this film pass them by? Of course. But, ultimately, see it or don’t see it. Whatever we do, let’s not create moral kerfuffles where they are not needed.
You can find our actual review of the movie, both written and podcast, below: