America, we have a problem. Ryan Reynolds is the one Canadian import we do not need. We’ll gladly take Canada’s oil, steel, and hockey players. We’ll enthusiastically jerk off every time Malcolm Gladwell writes a book, a New Yorker article, or records a podcast. We’ll continue to enjoy Leonard Cohen lyrics, Neil Young’s longevity, and can even stomach the narcissistic trainwreck that is Justin Bieber. But Ryan Reynolds? He exemplifies everything that is wrong with popular culture and more broadly speaking, Hollywood’s vapid excess of stupidity. Oh, Canada, please take him back.
Reynolds is neither fish nor fowl, not serious enough to be an accomplished actor, nor funny enough to be branded a comedian. Rather, he is snark personified, a Lewis Carroll creation come to hideous life. Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits) is considered a nonsense poem and this an apt description of Reynolds’ career. His rise to fame literally makes no sense. He possesses only one noteworthy asset: his washboard abs, the male equivalent of having big fake tits. Women seem to swoon over his rectus abdominis muscles. Probably some boys, too. In this, his presence on screen flips Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze as articulated in her groundbreaking essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, on its head. But that doesn’t make the fetishization of Reynolds’ body any less sexist or problematic. Put another way, Reynolds didn’t become a Hollywood leading man based on talent. In another era, Reynolds would’ve been a Roger Corman regular or a middling B movie actor in the Ronald Reagan mode. Competent and blandly attractive, but not leading man material. And certainly not tent pole leading man material, if tent pole movies had existed back when Reagan was putting Bonzo to bed.
We’ve survived lame actors before. Jerry Lewis, Adam Sandler, and Chris O’Donnell, to name a few. What sets Reynolds apart from the Murderers’ Row of Mediocrity is the culturally dangerous conceit of his one signature title role. No, I’m not referring to Hal Jordan in the ‘Green Lantern.’ I speak of Wade Wilson, the superhero/villain in the Deadpool franchise who is virtually impossible to kill.
The near indestructibility of the smartass Wilson sends the wrong message at the wrong time. Essentially, Reynolds as Wilson creates a fiction that violent actions don’t have consequences for the perpetrators. It’s all fun and belly laughs and spitting up your popcorn. Yes, Deadpool is only a movie, and a comic book movie at that. And no, movies don’t cause violence. But it is worth noting that in Anthony Swofford’s riveting war memoir, Jarhead, Swofford relates how marines pumped themselves up for battle by watching scenes from ‘Apocalypse Now’, ostensibly an anti-war movie. Movies hold sway over the collective cultural psyche. If Ryan Reynolds was actually killed in one of his insipid snarkfest films, maybe nerdy fanboys would feel some small measure of grief and the pain of loss, if only temporarily. Other generations of men have experienced moments of cinematic bereavement. When the Nazis shot Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen and, when they similarly machined gunned Frank Sinatra to death in Von Ryan’s Express, it brought tears to my young eyes. And my father’s, too. Ryan Reynolds needs to step up and be the next man to go down. That’s why he must die.
Also, he sucks as an actor.