R-rated films have existed in a rather unsavory place within the commercial film market. By nature, R-rated films limit the potential audience by requiring children younger than 17 have a parent present at the showing. Films with R-rated content are generally not considered to be lucrative for production companies, therefore many studios stick to established film genres, resulting in an endless parade of generic schlock.
However, movies such as the recently successful “Deadpool” reflect the rapidly increasing commerciality — and therefore mainstream acceptance — of more obscene content in today’s market. Not only did “Deadpool” gross well over double its opening weekend estimates, but it also shattered all previous records for opening weekend earnings in the R-rated category. All of this was accomplished while breaking the standard mold of the R-rated film, which usually falls into one of two categories: the overly serious drama that is blatant Oscar fodder, or the tropey comedy that inevitably results in two underwhelming sequels. “Deadpool” didn’t allow itself to fall into either of these, instead appealing to the superhero film market, a genre which is not used to seeing R-rated blockbusters.
The success of “Deadpool” in the face of low expectations proves that R-ratings are not an automatic detriment to the success of even the strangest of film categories. While it may have leaned a bit on the classic appeal of crude humor in order to draw in its audience, the potential for blockbuster-style franchise-esque commercial success seems to have opened the doors for new endeavors within Hollywood. The concept behind “Deadpool,” that the titular character has the ability to breach the fourth wall, allows for a greater degree of self-awareness of film genres itself.
It seems that we have finally reached an age in which the R-rating does not dissuade audiences from attending a film, but rather further entices them. Crude humor, sexual scenarios and drug use are all part of the cultural zeitgeist of our modern society, and mainstream Hollywood’s acceptance of adult themes allows the comedy to take center stage, even in movies that aren’t as formulaic as “Ted” or “The Hangover.” In these cases, the R-rating has become a sort of badge of honor for “Deadpool,” a film that represents the myriad possibilities that Hollywood has been hesitant to explore.
It has become increasingly obvious that the R-rating no longer connotes long term financial mediocrity, and should even be incorporated with Hollywood’s penchant for franchise-based profits. Niche genres are viable markets for the exploration of more stereotypically taboo themes. Films such as “Deadpool” are stark signs that audiences are ready for experimentation outside of the cinematic norm, and the possible profitability of these enterprises means that finally the film industry may be ready for it as well.
This article initially appeared here in Washington Square News.