The Deadpool movie has been out for over a week and it has received a ton of press. Much of the press has been about the amount of money it has made for being a rated R super hero film, but some of it has been about how parents are upset that it is so inappropriate for children. Every time I see a Facebook post, tweet, or article about upset parents, my hand smacks my forehead. Seriously? There is this great thing called the Internet that with a quick search will tell anyone that Deadpool is not and never has been appropriate for children. After a week of just shaking my head and thinking about where did the PR people go wrong, I think I have found the problem. Many people equate comic books and super heroes with being family friendly, and this is not the case with a majority of comics or their characters.
I was one of these uninformed viewers at one time. I grew up seeing Christopher Reeve as Superman and Michael Keaton as Batman. From my perspective, comic book movies were okay for upper elementary and early teen viewers. This all changed when I married a comic fan. My eyes immediately became open to the much darker side of comics. The themes and characters were much more adult than anything I could have imagined. Then as my daughter, who was 6 at the time, wanted to start reading comic books, I found finding appropriate comics for her to read next to impossible. Without my experience with two comic lovers, I wouldn’t have learned of the darker side.
Today, with films like Captain America and Iron Man, the general public sees a lighter side to popular characters that don’t always exist in the books. People have come to expect movies based on comics to automatically be okay for their children. Fans of the books would love to have their favorite characters portrayed as they are in the books, but studios at times aren’t willing to take the risk. Studios think they can appease everyone and make more money if they make the film PG-13. Prior to Deadpool, there were other comic book films like Blade or Watchman that were R-rated. I think these films’ promotion was visually dark and didn’t show much humor; so there wasn’t nearly as much complaining about it not being more suited for younger viewers. Parents saw shadows, darkness, and characters that looked menacing and thought twice about letting their child see it.
Deadpool is comedic and doesn’t come across too violent in much of the general advertising. Parents that didn’t know Deadpool’s history weren’t concerned about the film because it was funny and the character’s costume didn’t send warning bells going off in their heads. Though there was so much hype and press around the release of Deadpool explaining how the movie was not for kids, that even without scary trailers, I figured everyone would get the memo that it was going to be one of those films that your child may beg you to see but you should say no.
There are characters that can be toned down and lightened for more general audiences, but then there are others that would lose what fans love if they got the same treatment. Deadpool is one of these characters. No matter how much people complain, he isn’t getting a family-friendly makeover. Not to mention with the success of the movie, more comic book films may be coming with a R-rating. Parents are going to have to learn more about future super hero films because these films are not one size fits all kind of movies. They never really were. Unlike when I was a kid, the Internet can provide adults with all they want to know about a movie within seconds, so they can make an informed decision on whether a film is appropriate or not. Unfortunately the reality of life is that children will be disappointed many times by their parents telling them “no”.
As a parent, I understand having a child love something and it not be something he or she can do or have. I have a daughter who has loved Harley Quinn and Black Widow since she was 5. I get it being hard to tell them no when they are such a fan. My daughter is now 11 and more material has become available with her favorite characters, but there are still books she isn’t allowed to read or movies she can see. She is pretty upset I’m not letting her see Suicide Squad, but I’m sure she’ll get over it. Not every movie is made for younger viewers, that is life.
Going forward, the perception that super heroes and comic books equal family friendly needs to be altered. Companies are expanding to provide entertainment for fans of all ages, but that doesn’t mean every productions will be for all viewers. Young fans shouldn’t despair, as DC Comics and Marvel are working hard to produce entertainment to meet the demand from younger fans. Though in the end, not every book or film will be or should be available for all fans and that is okay.