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Brief Published: 25 Feb 2016

Hollywood Embraces R Ratings

20th Century Fox's Deadpool

The popularity of 20th Century Fox’s superhero movie Deadpool – it’s earned $330m at the box office since release on February 10 – has taken Hollywood by surprise. The reason? It’s R-rated, meaning it’s restricted for filmgoers under 17 – the audience most superhero movies entirely depend on for their success.

Deadpool has a distinctive tone – irreverent and risque – that doesn’t hold back on violence and bad language. The producers were canny enough to realise that watering it down would seriously diminish its appeal in a crowded market. It also marks an evolution of the genre as a whole: Deadpool is cheekily meta, explicitly calling out superhero conventions and turning them upside down.

This irreverence has fed into the film’s marketing campaign, which we explored in our most recent Pop Culture Round-Up. Again, this has enabled the film to stand out among the usual Marvel fare and fuelled its box-office takings. Hollywood has taken note – the forthcoming Wolverine film looks set to be R-rated, while Warner and DC’s Batman V Superman will be released with an Ultimate Edition rated R for violence.

This could mark the beginning of a sea change in the way superhero franchises develop. As movie blog Collider comments: “Marvel’s family-friendly atmosphere may mean business as usual, but between Warner Bros.’ very serious tone and Fox’s position to capitalise on the Deadpool craze directly, the scramble could be on to either change course significantly, or quickly put a different kind of comic book adaptation into fast development.”

See our Get Real Macro Trend for more on Gen Y and Z reactions to greater realism and grittiness in media and marketing.