It’s pretty awesome to break the fourth wall these days, isn’t it? I mean, other than the sense of humour and the storytelling aspects, the reason Wade Wilson gets so much airtime and a movie (finally) is his ability to break the fourth wall. But, in a bit of an educational piece three days in the making, I’m going to explain how this is nothing new. Bear with me here, as this is a result of good news, a return visit and far too much tea.
I first saw this convention in a film made in 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you haven’t seen it, go and get a copy, as this film blueprints how Deadpool works, and was made thirty years before Ryan Reynolds seduced us all, despite his face looking like “lasagne”. Ferris goofs off, and gets up to a series of misadventures in a truly 1980’s fashion, following the capitalist’s dream in the process. He gets to drive a nice car, gets luxury clothes, he even goes to that fancy restaurant that we all dream of taking the significant other to. What happens in the film isn’t the important aspect, though. It’s the fact that Matthew Broderick speaks directly to the audience with superb one-liners and a sardonic look at the events whilst they happen to him. If you think that this is a bit of a tenuous link; the feature includes a post-credits scene to boot!
Ferris Bueller is far from the only cult flick where there is regular fourth-wall breaking to drive the plot though. In Fight Club, a brilliant adaptation of Chuck Palaihnuk’s novel, the main character (played by Ed Norton) regularly breaks the fourth-wall to explain his motives and machinations, fed up with the ordinary, white collar world he inhabits. It’s very telling that once Tyler Durden appears in the film, Norton’s rate of fourth-wall breaking decreases, but one could argue that instead of projecting his anti-capitalist, anti-everything feelings on us, he creates Durden to channel his feelings elsewhere.
American Psycho, another book adaptation is also another source of this convention-flouting idea, where we get an idea of what it’s like to be Patrick Bateman when we see the prices of things, and when people get slightly better versions of his business card in the meetings. It helps us get a look inside of his twisted psyche, and also helps us understand his motives. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to return some videotapes….
Only kidding. Sorry, that was a bit of a playful nod to the film, for all the movie buffs reading this.
What I’m getting at here is that everything that you love about Deadpool (bar the swearing and R-rating) has been shown in a previous film (if you count a cartoon short made for cinema as a film). Cue “duck amuck”.
This one-reel short, made in 1953, was in this author’s opinion, one of the most influential pieces of media in film history. As the short clip shows you, it shows several features that Deadpool relies on heavily to work and work well. Sardonic meta-jokes, breaking of the fourth wall, etc. What makes this short work, though, is that this is one of the first short films in history that realises that it’s a film. Oh sure, Deadpool and Daffy duck know that they’re characters all right, but rarely do we see films that are aware of their status, which makes the final reveal of the animator’s identity that much sweeter.