If you don’t know what meta-fiction is, then let me give you a brief explanation. Meta-fiction is a form of literature that strives to keep you aware that it’s fiction. In the Deadpool films, the character Deadpool (real name Wade Wilson) is played by Ryan Reynolds. What makes this interesting is that Deadpool knows that Ryan Reynolds portrays him, and that’s only one facet of Deadpool’s awareness. Having a character play with the bounds of reality like this allows for some great moments of music and film. Take, for example, the opening credits of Deadpool 2.
The credits follow the death of Deadpool’s love interest, and they are full of incredibly irreverent imagery. However, the song choice (Ashes) is deeply emotional, reflecting the gravity of what just happened. That juxtaposition helps provide a barrier to what the viewer has just seen. If the director had chosen a mocking song to match the credits imagery, it would have left the audience feeling cheap. However, by utilizing the emotional affect of Ashes, the director succeeds at inspiring certain emotions while reminding the audience that they are still just watching a movie. The musical rollercoaster doesn’t end there though.
There’s the subtle/not so subtle digs at dubstep in it’s waning popularity and apparent overuse in DC films followed by using Skrillex’s Bangarang to choreograph a fight scene (which happens again later in the film). There’s also the directors usage of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck as a “pump up” tune because of it’s similar “pump up” usage in Iron Man 2. The key difference here is that in Iron man 2, the audience’s expectations are rewarded while Deadpool 2’s audience’s expectation are completely destroyed as the majority of Deadpool’s allies die during the scene.
Then we have the obvious reference to A-ha’s Take On Me video while Take On Me plays in the background. (As a side note, if you haven’t seen that music video, then please do yourself a favor and watch it. It’s great.) Deadpool tries to break out of his reality to be with his deceased girlfriend, and the Take On Me video is literally a comic book character breaking out of and into reality. This is a super clever, multi-layered scene in terms of music and cultural reference. And, it shows Deadpool’s distinct awareness of other realities.
Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time scores the most hilarious sequence. Deadpool cleans up a bunch of past mistakes across multiple realities. He saves some lives, but he also takes some lives. For example, he kills off a version of himself (also played by Ryan Reynolds) from a Wolverine movie. He then kills a version of Ryan Reynolds that played Green Lantern. Again, Deadpool is aware that he is just a character, and the comedy of that truth is amplified by the song choice. It’s a wholly complicated and hilarious set of snippets, and I could not have made a better song selection.
To sum it up, Deadpool 2 is full of meta references. A character that is aware of his cultural reality and surroundings dominates it, and this forces many aspects of the film to conform to a meta-reality. The music, in particular, is a huge part of this. It ties the film to cultural anchors that would otherwise be out of reach. In addition, it serves as an exclamation point of a great meta-fictional film.