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Please, please, please celebrities: stop making us feel dumb for liking your work

Yeah, we get it: you're as cynical about this stuff as we are, but maybe that's... too cynical?

Deadpool & Wolverine
Image credit: Marvel Studios

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Here’s a controversial opinion: Hey, celebrities, stop shit-talking your own work.

It’s a thought that’s occurred to me twice in the past week, both times in relation to a superhero movie. I noted, for example, that Ryan Reynolds added a special easter egg to the latest Deadpool and Wolverine promo; a QR code hidden between Wolverine’s legs at the 3-second mark of this video leads to an unlisted video of Ryan Reynolds providing a tongue-in-cheek warning about the movie itself.

Deadpool and Wolverine
Image credit: Marvel Studios

“We’re very excited to be joining you July 26. Many of you are very excited, but we should set the table correctly: this film is as paper thin as a sequel to Battlefield Earth,” Reynolds deadpans in the video, titled ‘Disclaimers.’ “We’re mostly going to beat each other senseless, make enemies with Disney, tell a few dick jokes, make a few jokes at my expense, make a lot of jokes at Hugh’s expense, and completely sidestep Marvel’s mandated after-credits sequence, which if you haven’t figured it out yet, is always just a commercial for another movie which will invariably end with a commercial for another movie. So sit back, relax, let us lower your IQ and raise your heart rate while we travel to a vapiddreamland, a place where grown men and grown women walk around in tights, and act like it’s not a giant cultural cry for help. This is cinema.”

On the one hand, we all get it: it’s the kind of self-reflexive, meta-textual humor that Deadpool — and, increasingly, Reynolds — is known for, poking fun at potential criticism of the movie ahead of anyone else to make it look as if they’re in on the joke and declaw potential (legitimate) complaints about the film. This is very much what everyone expects from the promotion of a Deadpool movie, and in that case, who cares, right…?

On the other hand: stop shit-talking your own work. If you’re telling me that your new movie is terrible even as a joke, that’s not something that’s going to make me want to pay money for it, no matter how much you can pretend that you’re going rogue and speaking truth to power without Marvel’s permission. (Surely no-one believes that any more than they believe that Reynolds actually dislikes Deadpool and Wolverine as much as that disclaimer suggests, right? Right?)

Madame Web
Image credit: Sony

I’m reminded of the press tour for Madame Web, where star Dakota Johnson’s seeming disdain for the movie became the draw, rather than the movie itself. Admittedly, Madame Web is not a good movie, or even a “so bad it’s good” movie — honestly, the most surprising thing about the movie really might be how humorlessly bad it actually is — but the promotional tour really didn’t help create any goodwill for the project ahead of time; instead, it just primed the audience to get their digs in nice and early, before it got played out to make fun of it. Imagine if Johnson hadn’t shit-talked that movie so much; would it have just seemed like a bad movie, rather than something so bad it should be celebrated?

And, again; I get that Deadpool and Wolverine and Madame Web are very different movies, with different tones and, bluntly, I suspect different levels of quality; I also understand that “snark” is baked into Deadpool’s DNA in such a way that Reynolds is almost unable not to make fun of his own movie, because it’s so much of what fans expect of the property by this point. Sincerity is saved for very specific purposes in a Deadpool project, and promotion isn’t one of them.

It’s just that… Well, at some point, it’s possible to cross over from self-consciously laughing at your work to accidentally laughing at the people who actually like your work, and I can’t help but feel that the desperation to try and maintain that Deadpool is still edgy and relevant now that it's firmly esconced at Marvel Studios means that Reynolds and Marvel alike are getting closer and closer to stepping over that line any minute now.

There’s two months left before Deadpool and Wolverine makes it into theaters, after all; two more months where the promotional efforts will get heavier, and everyone involved will have to simultaneously portray themselves as comedic voices that can’t be controlled and corporate spokespeople for the latest sponsorship deal. How far can Deadpool go to feel counter-cultural when it’s very much the most anticipated release from the most mainstream movie studio of all these days? For that matter, how far would be too far in this context, anyway?

Keep up to date on Popverse's Marvel coverage, with these highlights: Marvel Studios' next movie stars are these Disney+ heroes, how Marvel Studios' reviving Marvel Television brand to let you know the MCU isn't always connected, Why Marvel's comics boss is calling for a company & industry reset, how Marvel Comics' boss said it was lost in 2023 (and how its finding itself again), Inside Marvel Comics' plans to fix its pricing issues, Overgrown children of the atom: Marvel's X-Men can't evolve past their '90s commercial peak, and the biggest outstanding questions of the Marvel Studios' movies & TV shows.

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