(Warning: this article contains a few spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen the movie!)
Deadpool, a.k.a. Wade Wilson, is that lovably ego-driven superhero who is not really a hero, except when he’s out for revenge. Yet Deadpool is also the consummate romantic. He’ll do just about anything for love. In Deadpool 2, the character’s hopes and dreams for love and a happy family are decimated early on when his lady-love is killed by bad guys. What is a lovingly egoistic, passionate, super-non-hero to do? Well, he tries to kill himself which is very difficult for human-starfish who can regenerate any part of his body.
But even Deadpool can find some meaning in a world that often seems so meaningless. His friend Colossus rescues his body parts from his attempted suicide, allowing his limbs to regenerate. Colossus then tries to help Deadpool find meaning throughout the film by inducting him into the X-men (which fails utterly), and, at the end, showing up to help him fight the Juggernaut. Friendship is the first bit of meaning that Deadpool finds. Most of us intuitively know that there is something deeply meaningful about friendship. It is a love that goes beyond a mere need to exchange help. It is a deep valuation of another person, holding them dear; it also rests on a foundation of common interests and experiences as C.S. Lewis pointed out in his masterful book, the Four Loves. He writes, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too! I thought I was the only one!” Deadpool finds several meaningful friendships throughout the film.
Lewis writes, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too! I thought I was the only one!”
The second bit of hunger for meaning comes out in Deadpool’s near death experiences. Each time he almost dies, he goes to a room with a mirror in it. Through the mirror is his departed lady, but he can’t reach her. All he wants to do is depart and be with her. This is an interesting affirmation of an afterlife, something that allows all meaning and love to continue after death. Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Deadpool discovers from his near death experience that he has more to live for; he must help the young, tortured-soul, Firefist, to find his way in life.
This is an interesting affirmation of an afterlife, something that allows all meaning and love to continue after death.
After this revelation, Deadpool does everything he can to save Firefist from his future descent into evil. (The futuristic character with cool robotic arm, Cable, assures him of this.) Apparently, what will happen is that after killing one person in revenge, Firefist will go on to get a taste for it and become a mass murderer. Firefist, however, isn’t persuaded too easily to abandon his future life of death and mayhem. Deadpool comes to realize he must sacrifice his life for Firefist in order to get him to wake up. But thanks to the miracle of time-travel, Cable can go back in time and save Deadpool. By doing so, Cable is also sacrificing his own ability to go “back to the future” and be with his family. All of this points to a third pursuit of meaning in the film; it is better to live sacrificially for others than to live solely for ourselves.
All of this points to a third pursuit of meaning in the film; it is better to live sacrificially for others than to live solely for ourselves.
All of this highlights what the philosopher Charles Taylor calls the “thin places” in our society’s belief structure. Even though people are mostly secular in outlook today, we are still haunted by a sense of transcendence. Simultaneously, we are no longer given a strong intellectual system that supports transcendence. We are told that we are just evolutionary robots, made only of matter, and responsible to nobody except ourselves. And yet, even that statement is haunted by transcendence because why say we are responsible to ourselves? Where does that responsibility come from? The modern romanticist deftly replies that it comes from ourselves, our minds. And yet if it doesn’t come from something greater than our small, temporary minds, then meaning is not ultimately real, just as the scientific materialist tells us. Taylor describes the modern outlook as the “immanent frame,” which is a focus on the material world of the here and now. The “immanent frame,” the material world alone, cannot adequately explain the greater meaning that we still long for.
This highlights what the philosopher Charles Taylor calls the “thin places” in our society’s imagination.
Deadpool knows that love, friendship, life after death, and giving himself to help others somehow gives his life meaning. He knows it. But he doesn’t really have any justification for it. The old Christian idea is that the Maker made us valuable in his image, gave us freedom to fall and live apart from him, and sought us out in self-sacrificial love. These make powerful sense of Deadpool’s longings. The bodily resurrection of Jesus, something with profound evidence to support it, would support the intuition that life continues after death. Not only does life continue, but the resurrection is more real and physical than our existence here prior to death. Though these teachings all give explanation to Deadpool’s longings, I’m sure he would just smile, laugh, and calmly explain that he is Jesus. He might even crack a joke about the of some Christians as they are portrayed by our wonderful and completely unbiased media. But if Deadpool could see the love and greatness of Jesus for just one moment, he would see that all life fits together in beauty and meaning; it fits together even better than his own body parts growing back together after an explosion. That is, he would see this if he allowed himself to see it. The same is true of you and me.