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Deadpool Deadpool

What is meta, and how does Deadpool effectively deliver on it?

May 16, 2018

Ryan Reynolds starrer Deadpool has commercialised the word ‘Meta’ in a big way. Of course, prior to the release of the film, people knew what the word was, but the term was popularised by the antihero flick.

Come 2016 and Deadpool saw Reynolds’ character Deadpool crack jokes about Ryan Reynolds. Numerous, sarcastic ones. It made references to the X-Men movies and our antihero was suspiciously self-aware about the world he had been thrown in as a being with great powers.

It could very well be argued that Deadpool was such a hit in the first place because it was so meta and broke the fourth wall consistently and efficiently. So, what is ‘Meta’? Meta is defined by Oxford Dictionary as a “creative work referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.” The terms ‘Meta’ and the ‘Fourth Wall’ are often used interchangeably. The fourth wall by definition means an imagined wall that separates a performer or a performance from the audience.

Right from the opening credits itself, it was clear that the antihero flick was not afraid to make fun of itself. It made jokes of the kind that the general viewers would make while watching a movie. It was fearless in what it had set out to achieve.

For instance, instead of rolling out names, the film just ‘called out’ names. Ryan Reynolds was ‘God’s perfect idiot’ (accurate). And yes, just to be sure, the scene also flashed People’s magazine cover from the time when Reynolds had taken the crown of being the sexiest man alive. Then more meta followed as phrases like ‘A British villain’ cropped up instead of Ed Skrein’s name. Director Tim Miller had later said in an interview with the Honest Trailer team (A popular YouTube channel that releases brutally honest and hilarious reviews of movies) that he was inspired by them. Fun fact: Ryan Reynolds dressed up as Deadpool showed up in the honest trailer of Deadpool. Talk about breaking fourth walls.

Deadpool made fun of superhero tropes, meanwhile simultaneously following those very same tropes itself. A man transformed into an indestructible being trying his best to save the love of his life? Seems familiar? The movie was incredibly entertaining, thanks to a superb narrative which was replete with jokes, foul language and Tarantinoesque gore. Except that they were better because there were punchlines all over to break that tension.

Meta and gore had largely been unheard of in the superhero genre until Deadpool hit the big screen and made it the rage it now is (have you seen Logan and Thor Ragnarok?). No one had done the R-rated antihero/superhero flick before and with such wit and bravado. Comics is a different ballgame altogether. She-Hulk and Gwenpool make self-referential jokes as well, but we haven’t seen them do it on screen as yet.

In the film, Deadpool remembered his own appearance as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. He made light of the whole thing, obviously. He also addressed the question about how he finally got his own standalone film, and gave credit to “Polverine.” And if that’s not enough meta for you in an article about meta, Deadpool made fun of his own fourth-wall breaking humour in the classic Deadpool fashion we have come to love. “That’s 16 walls,” the Merc with the Mouth says at one point in the movie after delivering a classic one.

Deadpool thrived on two kinds of humour. One being the kind that Indian theatres censored cruelly, and two, the kind that was ironic, hilarious and sarcastic all at once. The second category coupled with inside jokes is what people refer to as ‘Meta.’ Deadpool was ‘metaful,’ here’s hoping that Deadpool 2 delivers all the laugh and action we want it to deliver.

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