Growing up, I was a huge fan of comic books and I’m still a nerd at heart. I would read everything from Batman and Spider-Man to the X-Men and a wide range of titles in between.
When I was a kid, it was pretty clear most of the mainstream superheroes were geared toward younger audiences like me. As I got older, though, that “kid stuff” wasn’t cutting it anymore. Batman and Robin, saving the day with campy one-liners, were nowhere near as “cool” as the world of blood and violence I was growing into. Superheroes with super-flaws were far more compelling than straight-laced Captain Americas.
Once we hit the 2000s, fanboys like me were busy hitting theatres for big-screen adaptations of their favourite superheroes. It didn’t matter that the action was “just” PG-13. Fans loved it, and I’m sure Hollywood didn’t mind raking in piles of money either. Not all of those movies were entirely harmless or innocent – I know because I watched plenty of them – but at least there seemed to be some limits. Now, I suppose, we’re seeing those limits pushed to places no one really needs them to go.
THE CULTURE OF DEATH-POOL
At the moment, a movie called Deadpool is making a killing at the box-office, surpassing $700 million in global ticket sales. This is a very different kind of superhero film, and it should be a wake-up call to every man who’s serious about following Christ.
The Motion Picture Association of America slapped an R-rating on this movie for its strong violence, bad language, sexual content, and graphic nudity. I’ve read reviews, and I’ll spare you the details, but I have a good idea about the material in there. Essentially, it’s garbage you don’t need popping into your head when you’re trying to focus at Mass.
This kind of un-Catholic cinema won’t be a one-off either. According to a story by the Hollywood Reporter, it appears FOX studios is looking at an R-rated adventure for its next Wolverine picture. Warner Bros. will also offer up an R-rated version of Batman vs. Superman on DVD. In an article from Entertainment Weekly, Ben Afleck, one of the big stars of the film, says this is a great idea:
“… I feel like I wouldn’t want to have a Batman v Superman that I couldn’t show to my younger kids. But on the same token, as an adult, I like to see movies that are R-rated. I think nowadays because we have so many means of distribution and ways that we can do different things, it’s the creative solution to a creative challenge.”
It’s clear Warner Bros. wants to cast as wide a net as possible with its theatrical release. For big-budget blockbusters, so much rides on that opening weekend. And now, by saving the questionable content for the DVD, it can also cash in on those fans who think they need extra violence to get their kicks. If it makes dollars then it makes sense, right? Fans want more blood, more guts, and more graphic content, and Hollywood is only too pleased to feed the demand
I understand that adult-oriented superhero movies are nothing new. In 2006, Frank Miller’s ultra-violent 300 debuted in theatres. Then, in 2009, Alan Moore’s mature-themed world of the The Watchmen had its turn in the spotlight. Those titles weren’t well known to the general public, however, while they were on sale in comic book stores. On the other hand, heroes like Batman, Superman, and even Wolverine… these are the kinds of characters you find on pajamas and lunchboxes made for seven-year-olds.
Some guys will say they’re mature enough to handle extra blood and hyper-sexualized content. Others might argue that extended scenes of violence aren’t always bad, and can have merit, like the scourging scene in The Passion of the Christ. The difference here is we’re not talking about a dramatic portrayal of the anguish our Saviour endured for us – we’re talking about comic books.
Studios weren’t exactly keen on going extreme with superhero movies until Deadpool beat expectations in such a colossal way. I think, with its success, you’re going to see studio executives taking bigger steps to turn out more of these morally bankrupt films aimed at teenagers – as if they’re not doing that enough already in other genres.
So, where do you draw your line? Is an R-rated Superman worth it? Does Batman need to drop f-bombs to get your money’s worth? And let’s not even go there with Wonder Woman.
I know, I’m not the first Catholic writer to bemoan the moral rot in tinseltown; it’s definitely the low-hanging fruit. I just couldn’t believe it when I started seeing multiple headlines about superhero movies getting R-ratings. It’s clear that Deadpool’s success was the common link in the discussion.
As a Catholic man, who is already inundated with spiritual battles, I shouldn’t actively put myself in harm’s way, right? Yes – I can’t wait to see Batman vs. Superman in theatres, but is my life going to be forever ruined if I skip the director’s cut? No. I’m sure there’s going to be enough bumps and bruises in there already. Should I actually go see this movie, though? Please, share your thoughts.
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