Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Dear Mormons, just get over yourselves with this “Deadpool” protest

The “Once Upon A Deadpool” film poster. Image courtesy of Fox

I have a confession to make: I walked out of the first Deadpool movie partway through in 2016, making it the only Marvel-universe movie I haven’t seen (often more times than I care to admit to you).

For me, it was too violent, and the violence was of a sort I generally avoid, where the taking of human lives is regarded as funny. I don’t find that funny.

So even though the movie had many superb points (Morena Baccarin, for starters, and the most hilariously meta opening credits I have ever had the pleasure to watch), I exited the doors about halfway through.

That was my choice. I figured that as a middle-aged woman—I’m 49 years old today, actually—I was not the target audience for Deadpool. And I was right: according to Movio Media, nearly two-thirds of the audience was male, and it also skewed at least a decade younger than I was at the time.

But now a whole slew of Mormons are protesting Deadpool, not because of the movies themselves but because of a poster advertising Once Upon a Deadpool, which hit theaters yesterday for the holiday season.

“Change the Deadpool poster to not mock the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day [sic] Saints,” says the headline.

The petition goes on to call the poster, which appears to depict Deadpool in the role of Jesus Christ at the second coming, “religious discrimination” against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It is unknown if the picture was used to intentionally mock the Church of Jesus Christ, but it is clear it was copied from the original picture,” claims the protest’s originator.

As of this morning, the petition had received nearly 38,000 signatures.

This is just silly. For starters, the whole premise of Deadpool is about mocking: the main character mocks the villains, sure, but also other superheroes, pop culture in general, the D. C. universe, the Marvel universe, and most of all himself.

So the idea that Mormons are somehow being singled out for particular derision only goes to show how insular and self-absorbed we are. Our people’s persecution complex, it seems, has not lessened even though we are now more than a century past our time of actual persecution.

Moreover, the protest reveals ignorance of the origins of this painting. Although it has been reproduced in the foyer of just about every Mormon chapel I’ve ever been in, the artist, Harry Anderson, was not a Mormon himself but a Seventh-day Adventist. The LDS Church began commissioning works from Anderson, an illustrator for many popular magazines, in the 1960s. This began a fruitful partnership that was the subject of recent Church History Museum exhibit in 2017.

“The Second Coming” by Harry Anderson. Image courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

So it’s a painting by a non-Mormon that is associated in Mormon minds—but not necessarily the minds of the rest of the world—with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I find it unlikely that someone in Hollywood chose this painting because they said, “Hey! Let’s go throw shade on some Mormons today!”

I imagine they chose it because it is an overtly religious painting the presents an apocalyptic theme in a decidedly, um,  mid-20th century way.

But rather than using this moment as an opportunity for self-reflection about why Mormons remain so affectionate about an image that essentially says that only white folks are going to heaven, we instead go on the attack.

What’s particularly ironic about conservative Mormons protesting the film poster is that this film was literally tailor-made for people like them. This is a pared-down, F-bomb-free, less splattery version of Deadpool 2, which was released this summer.

The studio has remixed the movie to remove anything offensive (and, according to this disappointed review, anything that was ever fun about it) and make it more appealing to families who like to see movies together over the holidays. It’s gone from having a Scarlet R on its chest to a more Marvel-typical PG-13 rating.

In short, this is exactly what conservative Mormons always say they are begging for from Hollywood. Hollywood has delivered, and they’re still effing pissed.

I, on the other hand, may venture out to see Once Upon a Deadpool if it’s less graphically violent than the first one. And I have to thank the protesters for bringing the movie to my attention. I hadn’t even heard it was in theaters until I read about their inane effort to make it all about Mormons.

 


Other posts related to Mormonism and film:

“Despicable Me” creator on Mormons, Minions, and “the best calling in the LDS Church”

The rebirth — finally — of Mormon cinema


 

 

 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

110 Comments

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  • You can google “paintings Jesus clouds angel” and come up with a ton of them from the last 500 years or so. To claim any kind of copyright infringement or mocking of any particular faith is just silly.

  • Wow. I have to buy one of those posters for my son who is a Deadpool fan, but never much of a fan of the “One True Church,” much to the disappointment of my ex, his mother. I might even put one up in my pad. I love it.

  • Mormons are by no means the only ones who betray a certain self-centeredness by a bit of paranoia.

    My first encounter with the poster was with this article. Believe me, not a one of my first thoughts on viewing it involved Mormons. Relax, shrug it off with a bit of self-deprecating humor, and your image would likely gain.

  • Anyone who wants a movie that holds anything remotely sacred should not be going to Deadpool. He is, by nature, one of the most foul-mouthed, obnoxious, sarcastic, classless, crudest characters in the entire Marvel Universe. That’s not to say I don’t like him, he just has a very specific sense of humor that you have to be ready for. Why the studio even bothered making a version of this movie without all that is beyond me.

    Although, I have to say, I really wish I could have seen Ryan Reynolds’ face when he found out the Mormons were protesting him. He probably found it hilarious.

  • Once again, thin-skinned believers of a particular stripe are going to march ass-backward into making a marginal movie a big hit. Take my advice, Mormons. Let it go.

    Grin and bear it and soon “Once Upon a Deadpool” will be relegated to the digital Limbo that awaits most films these days. Don’t get your knickers in a twist and it’ll soon go away, I promise.

  • Well, then, they should also have protested the entire Twilight series for its rip offs of Mormon ideas and imagery. Edward standing in a grove of trees when a light beams down and makes him sparkle. If that isn’t a rip off of another piece of art that hangs in nearly every LDS chapel, I don’t know what else could be.

  • You’re right.

    Atheists and the LGBT Lobby beat the LDS’ self-centeredness and paranoia by a country mile.

  • No, I think that it is your brand of Roman Catholic that has everyone beat when it comes to paranoia and self-centeredness!

  • Odd, is it not, that I have never declared a denominational preference and am familiar with Catholic, Orthodox, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, and other major mainline Christian bodies’ history, theology, and liturgies?

    Yes, Ben in Oakland and others have made it clear over a long period of time that the Catholic Church is considered a particular enemy by the LGBT lobby.

  • Mark, why the unprovoked attack? Ben is right in this instance. I’m not gay before you lob that bomb at me. Flaming hetero in all its glory. I just happen to agree with Ben on a number of issues.

    Nobody has mentioned how inaccurate the depiction is, as well. A white Jesus? Surrounded by councourses of white angels? Just no. #Historical Inaccuracies #White and Delightsome

  • The LDS church, through their Utah DABC arm, attacked Deadpool first. (See Brewvies v. Petilos) They really should have seen this coming.

  • Several of my northern California high school students thought it was a hoot to see the Deadpool poster. They got the implied “sacrilege” and it made them love the poster even more. I bet they sell out before Christmas.

  • I can still remember older Mormons being really upset with Glen A. Larson for “ripping off” LDS “values” for his show.

  • You have that backwards, as usual. The purveyors of the “White Jeezus” version of holy hypocrite “Christianity” target the LGBTQ community as their ultimate “boogeyman” so as to hide from the obvious defects of their own hypocrisy. The reality is that LGBTQ are often naturally spiritual people with no need of organized religion to progress in mind and soul.

  • As a Latter-day Saint I was pretty upset to see this petition circulating on Facebook. I responded to at least 3 friends who had posted the petition saying that our church wasn’t being targeted specifically. (There are many other second coming pictures that look similar) I told them that they were doing the film a service by giving it free publicity.

  • “The Second Coming” painting is so profoundly beautiful and supernally sacred to people who love the Lord and await His coming,
    that to mock it with something as carnal and filthy as the “Deadpool” events is worse than sacrilege or blasphemy…it is a mandate
    to burn in hell.

  • Awesome!

    You or your “loving” Savior would burn somebody in hell over a poster. Both of you say hello to your new best buddy, Kim Jong-Un. Except that he wasn’t as harsh to Otto Warmbier you two would be. He only sentenced Otto to 15 years in prison and then sent him home in a coma to die a few days later. Right now I’m humming the primary song, “I Feel My Savior’s Love”. But with a feeling of irony… I’ve read a number of your posts. You are quite the advocate for religious/Christian violence against others. The phrase “nut job” inexorably floats to the surface.

  • Jana I think mormons were mad because, as the only group that baptizes people by immersion vicariously for dead relatives, they own the original “DEAD POOL”. It’s a simple intellectual property dispute, don’t you see.

  • “So the idea that Mormons are somehow being singled out for particular derision only goes to show how insular and self-absorbed we are. Our people’s persecution complex, it seems, has not lessened even though we are now more than a century past our time of actual persecution.”

    Isular and self-absorbed is tied to a lack of self awareness. When you lack self awareness you sometimes support and promote your contradictions.

    “And they’re still effing pissed” I would say that’s a great religious term…but I’m not a Unitarian.

  • Sorry Danny, you are clueless about moral responsibility. You choose heaven or hell by your own thoughts and actions.
    Christ rewards you for your loving actions, but HE cannot save you if you choose to follow Satan. “Deadpool” people earn the reward (violence, eventually hell?) they deserve. You ARE a LIAR, and the “nut job” that you accuse me of being.

  • The worst part of this is that the movie apparently is a somewhat remade version of Deadpool 2, with a clumsy framing device and all the naughty bits removed so that it can be sold as a Christmas movie for the entire family. What was rated R before is now rated PG 13.

    So all of that this Holy handwringing and snowflakery has accomplished is to give a bad idea a greater currency— apparently, a much greater currency.

  • Reallly?!!?!?!? Where did you find that one in youra, Bible?

    As I said elsewhere, there are a pile of paintings that all look like the Deadpool poster.

  • That’s your best response?

    References to magical invisible beings and magical invisible places? So Jesus just sadly shakes his head clucking about consequences while his children are sent off to an eternal spiritual Auschwitz? Jesus sounds really Mormony to me right now. And thanks for confirming he would exact his harshest punishment over a silly poster. #divine martinet #butthurt god

    Here’s a thought: try doing something good just because it’s the right thing to do instead of hoping for a backstage pass to heaven.

  • The other irony is the Deadpool marketing team’s decision to use religious iconography to promote this particular cut of the film. Who are they releasing this movie for? Certainly one target demographic is religious people whose sensibilities would be violated by the original cut. Why then take the risk of alienating that target audience by replacing Jesus with Deadpool in a religious work of art? This is far more ironic than the protest in my mind. Those boycotting the movie at most miss out on seeing a movie they might otherwise see. The movie folks miss out on $12 per ticket.

  • I’m guessing that you aren’t a Latter-day Saint because they don’t really have Hell in their theology. The closest would be to be cast into outer darkness and you have to commit the unpardonable sin to achieve that. Otherwise, there will be some level of reward for everyone, even if in the Telestial realm.

  • If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the Celestial Kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.

    Apostle Mark E. Peterson, “Race Problems – As They Affect the Church,” August 27, 1954.

    See? Everyone gets to go to Heaven. As long as they know their place.

  • “Sacrilege” and “blasphemy” are the religious way of saying “I’m offended.”

    So what? Suck it up snowflake. Not everything is about you.

  • O, Jana, you need to get over yourself. I saw Once Upon a Deadpool and found it worse than Deadpool 2 because its Wonder Years/Princess Bride bloat and its VidAngeled dialogue were just unwatchable. The first Deadpool was refreshingly irreverent, even for my devoutly Mormon wife. This one was boring, sort of like your article. Does the world really need a PC lifeguard to fault Mormons for their devotion to a painting by a 7th Day Adventist? You would have had me at Meh, if would have stopped at Meh.

  • I believe the proper respose to angry reactions over nothing is “whatever.” Getting offended because somebody else is offended is so offensive I just want to cry. I wonder what’s on TV.

  • I showed the marquee to my 13-year-old daughter who immediately said, “Send that to me. I want that as my wallpaper.” Oh yeah, and she’s a Mormon.

  • Disrespecting the Lord Jesus Christ, even as part of a routine media promotion gig, apparently ain’t funny to some people and some religions.

    Marvel definitely has the constitutional right to mock and go over the line, but religious folks have an equally constitutional right to do protests and boycotts, if they feel that Marvel has gone over the line. The two sets of rights are equal.

    PS…. I’m putting most of this on Jana Riess. There’s nothing wrong with religious folks sending Marvel a little message.

  • Both Deadpool 2 and PG-13 Deadpool 2 sucked. They didn’t have the originality of the first film. With or without profanity, DP2 and DP2 Lite were afflicted with a lame plot and dialogue that made me wonder what I might catch on Netflix.

  • Fake news. No one is offended. If the LDS church is attacked I’m typically one of the first to post in defense but mockery of Mormons is so common and so vicious as to make this Deadpool matter look almost like a wink to LDS fans. This Church deals with a Broadway musical designed to mock our faith that deliberately shares the name of our Holy Book. This faith has to put up with the Salt Lake Tribune, which is essentially Anti Mormon propaganda dressed up to look like a mainstream media outlet. This faith endures constant slander from folks like Fred Karger, who would be rightly labeled a hatemonger if he applied his tactics to any other faith. This attempt to get Mormons riled up over a poster to draw attention to the film is far more offensive than the poster itself.

  • It’s cute you believe this is real news, Ben. We have thicker skin than this. They want people like you to think you are “resisting.” That’s how they sell you shit. They want you to think this movie has the official Mormon stamp of disapproval. If it makes you think you are accomplishing something by pretending watching a movie pisses off Church going Latter Day Saints, so be it, but you are kidding only yourself.

  • @Danny Sure, White Jesus. You guys are all for Black and Asian Norse Gods, why can’t Jesus be White?

  • Of course you do! You sure showed us mean old Mormons by buying Marvel merch! What a victory for progress! Be sure to purchase the Special Edition, that will make us extra mad! WINNING!

  • Most Mormons would want that poster. It’s not offensive. Maybe Jack Kirby will say he’s offended if they pay him, but that’s his job.

  • Huh? That escalated quickly. Well, Jesus can be white. I’ve got nothing against it. It’s just that…he wasn’t, is all. I’m not up on my Norse mythology. Who are the black and asian Norse gods? That’s hilarious.

  • People like me? That’s cute that you can read the minds and motivations of people like me. Very godlike.

  • If by that you mean that white Christians who dislike other races and religions know to avoid it entirely, OK. I mean, most of the MCU is safe for those people, but the comics do tend to be more progressive than that.

  • No, I don’t mean that. If I meant that I would have said exactly that. Hate, like love, does not require reciprocation. They hate us.

  • Uh-huh. You seem like someone who knows about Marvel Comics from media or people talking about it, not so much from actually reading it.

  • Growing up Mormon and reading a lot of Mormon history, I know exactly who the Danites were. For you to use reference to them in your handle comes across as a bit wacko at best.

  • Um, Deadpool?

    Nah, I’m not really into those. Or Transformers. All of a kind, in my book. I prefer Game of Thrones, Bosch, Goliath, True Detective (season 1 only), Poldark for the wife. Anyway…

  • Well, you have good taste. That’s why you were fortunate enough to miss the last few Marvel flicks.

  • Oh, you are one of those dudes who think the Danites are still a “thing.” Lol, right. I’m the conspiracy theorist.

  • Wrong again. I own a sizable collection of comics, and I know enough about them to know about how folks like Dan Slott have ruined the industry with virtue signaling. Stop taking shots in the dark.

  • This isn’t really a Mormon article. A lot of Journalists join the Church so they have room to bitch about it. It’s just White Guilt specially packaged for the LDS.

  • I didn’t use to. I mean when I purchased my first comics I didn’t see them as political at all. Do you really need me to explain the situation regarding comic book sales to you? Are you really unaware of the massive consumer revolt that has Marvel comics sales in the toilet? You must be really stupid and oblivious if you can lecture me for not knowing anything about comics when you don’t even know about the sales crisis hitting comic shops like the bubonic death. I mean, I’d buy more comics, but the gatekeepers actively try to prevent the books I want from getting to market. Go to YouTube and watch pretty much any legit source on comics news. I recommend Diversity and Comics.

  • If we are beaten, why are you sending your gays on Kamikaze PR missions? So many gays killing themselves over your victory. Somewhat Pyrrhic, don’t you think?

  • They know this. We managed to gain converts when they paid the South Park boys to do a Broadway hit job on us so now when they attack us they claim we are offended without even asking if we are. I’d not be surprised if the same “offended Mormons” are the same who bite the hand that feeds over the issue with gays.

  • LDS member here. We don’t care and your wife should be able to confirm this. They want to make this film look appealing to Edgy Bois by trying to say the stuffy old Mormons don’t want you to see it.

  • The gays may have won the right to marry, but it certainly was no victory for gay Mormons. When Gay Marriage was legalized, the LDS responded by declaring all homosexuals Apostates and banning them and their children from participating in the faith in any meaningful way.

  • In general, the exceptions being the dying left fringe such as the Episcopal Church, Christian churches consider acting on a same sex attraction gravely sinful.

    It was gravely sinful before Obergefell v. Hodges, and it was sinful after Obergefell v. Hodges.

    Court decisions do not create new theologies.

  • If you want to claim the gays and Atheists “beat” the Mormons, then you should be able to say that the issue is resolved and buried. Except it’s not.

    Gays don’t want Latter Day Saints dictating who they can marry. The Mormons don’t want those outside the Church trying to influence Latter Day Saint beliefs. Let’s ignore for a moment that despite what the media tells you it was Black people, not Mormons, that carried prop 8. The Church only really cares about the conduct of the Brethren. To quote an old Roman proverb, there is no salvation outside the Church. It’s not that we want to influence what other people can do. We vote based on our values, just like everyone else.

    Gays wanted homosexual marriage legalized and once they got it billed it as a victory over the LDS. This does not take into account the actual goal of the LDS, which is the spiritual well being of the members. The Church simply adapted to the change in the environment and instituted a harsher set of rules regarding gays. Because Mormon unions can only really happen in Temples, gay Mormon unions still do not occur on an official basis. Consequentially the only people who really lost anything here are gay Mormons. There are now a Lemmings Legion of dead gay Mormons, which the gay media bitches about ad nauseum.

  • SOME gays don’t want anyone dictating who they can marry, which means they are at loggerheads with churches which teach.

    The three biggest targets of LGBT ire appear to be the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Catholic Church.

    Basically opponents of their teachings either play by the rules or don’t play.

    If you reject the teachings, that should not present any problems.

  • Wearing the shame of the Danites with pride makes you a bit nutty. It’s probable that John D. Lee was a leader of the Danites and that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was a Danite operation, whether with or without the blessing of Brigham Young.

  • Religious persecution used to mean hunting down and killing believers. I guess now it means believers feeling mocked by a comic book movie poster.

  • How are you gonna call me a conspiracy theorist and then accuse me of being a Danite? Dude, it was the old west. Everyone had gunmen on standby. If I wanted to be a pacifist I’d join another faith.

  • “the whole premise of Deadpool is about mocking: the main character mocks the villains, sure, but also other superheroes, pop culture in general, the D. C. universe, the Marvel universe, and most of all himself.”
    So that makes it okay for Deadpool to mock religion too? Is anything off limits? I am not a member LDS, but I side with them on this issue. If Deadpool does not have any morals, he should respect those who do.

  • Mark/bob/Robert/Jose/Draco/dr/Matt/Utah does not exist except as a gang of adhominems. I am their especial nemesis.

    Thanks for the support, thou Flaming hetero! 😘😘😘😉😉😉

  • Religion has morals? History is replete with religious people lacking morals.

    Is anything off limits? I don’t,now. As a gay man, Being called a child molesting, civilization destroying, morality ignoring, god hating, sick perverted psychopathic killer, absent the slightest shred of evidence, sure doesn’t sound like the voice of morality speaking to me.

  • We figured out what makes a Red man Red (God’s ire). If we can figure out what makes a gay man gay we will be one step closer to Eden.

  • God is reality and reality is God. That’s why we need religions to describe him. He is beyond comprehension.

  • The film wasn’t tailor-made for members f the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although, I do think it’s wonderful that families with kids will be able to watch an enjoyable movie as a family. I know people who love blood, gore, nudity, language, and everything else Deadpool 1 and 2 has to offer, but they don’t watch them with their families because they know it’s not great for their kids. They are so excited to be able to watch this with their kids.

    Members of the church are persecuted daily. It’s not really a “persecution complex” as you say, and many other religions are persecuted and hated for their beliefs. It’s not a misnomer to say that people love to attack other cultures and their values. As a Christian, I think it’s perfectly normal to be unhappy about someone mocking my Lord and Savior. As an art lover of many mediums, I believe it’s reasonable to not want to mess with a wonderful artist’s work. (Isn’t that what so many people complain about when someone wants to take out F-words in a movie because it ruins the “art”?) I’m sure that an atheist would be mildly upset about someone telling them they’re dumb because they have a certain political preference or enjoy a certain movie.

    Lastly, seeing your credentials of various books you’ve written, I don’t agree with the premise of Millennials changing the LDS Church. IT’s a church run by God. If Millennials were changing the way the church works, then everything would be COMPLETELY different, and sad.

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