Feral Words & Dangerous Ideas
Yes, Deadpool is a super hero movie out of Marvel’s ever expanding and lucrative stable. That said, he is more of an anti-hero, a complex character best appreciated by adults. In general, I wouldn’t expose children to more gratuitous violence than they’re going to find in the current events reels (ha, that’s an ancient reference; movies used to be made of film, which was packaged in reels, and before said movies were played, a bonus reel of moving-picture news might be shown instead of ads for games based on other movies). The sex in Deadpool is minimal, enthusiastic, and consensual between adults. A better “adult theme” than murder and mayhem. But it’s really the language that would require adult intervention for viewing by the young. His invective is voluminous, creative, hilarious, and probably enchanting to eleven year olds.
I am not responsible for any little humans. A situation for which I am profoundly grateful. But were I, we would talk about the words, the language, as I do with other humans. But young ones are just learning. “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Not a bad place to begin, both true and yet horribly false. Kids calling names on the playground are just making sounds into the void. If the object of the name-calling understands that, all can be well. That kid gets to decide the power those words have. Words do have power. Some words are benign, civilized, welcomed anywhere. Some are not. But there are no bad words. Some words are just feral, safe enough in their native habitat but not to be brought into the drawing room. Deadpool uses many feral words. I might explain it to a young person, using the F word for simplicity’s sake, that while you can say it amongst your friends, if you said it to Grandma, it might upset her. It might make her less inclined to give you a cookie. It might even get you slapped or your mouth washed out with soap. So, while it’s just a sound, it has meaning. Meaning has power. Let loose in the drawing room, it could lose you something nice. First lesson. Carefully consider your audience and wield those feral words with caution. In fact, the F word seems to be losing its power because it gets thrown around in all contexts. It used to be called the F-bomb for a reason. It was a linguistic nuclear option. Now, for many, it’s just filler, junk language. I am an advocate of precision and accuracy. It’s one of the many reasons I love my mother tongue. English, with its accretion of constituent words and rules, is both bedeviling and beguiling. With the ability to convey meaning with razor-sharp clarity and also ideas charged with emotion, our words are powerful.
This hypothetical conversation with a person just beginning to experiment with language is really an opening for something more important. While words spoken to us are ours to empower or not, rippling out into the world they can have great consequence. That’s the untruth of “sticks and stones…” We do not have to let hurtful words inside ourselves. But they can, in fact, damage our reputation, which in turn can wreak havoc on our personal and professional lives. So, too, can the words we speak. Which is where I would be heading with my long-winded and unwelcome oration. The internet is egalitarian in its assimilation, elephantine in its recollection. Words fired off carelessly or in a fit of pique will remain as accessible as those painstakingly crafted with purpose and forethought, to the detriment or benefit of both ourselves and our subjects. Language has always been one way ~the arts, as well~ of making our own thoughts those of another, a vector of contagion as it were. The current American political scene, upon which I will not waste my breath nor your attention, makes this jaw-droppingly, nauseatingly clear. Words have power. In fact, I think I’d prefer my conjectured tweenager hear the depth and breadth of Deadpool’s colorful vocabulary, his sentiments generally justified, than absorb the real-world hate, misogyny, xenophobia, unbridled egomania, and spittle-flecked vitriol on the campaign trail. A wretched state of affairs indeed. No wonder Marvel’s escapist universe of more-than-humans, heroes, and even anti-heroes is doing so well. Good writing helps, too, of course.