Saturday, September 14, 2019

Joker Is A Dangerous Film — & It’s Bringing Out The Worst In The Internet

Joker had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday. In the days since, the takes have been coming in hot. On Twitter, the reaction seems to fall into two camps: It’s either a near-perfect masterpiece, or it’s a dangerous manifesto for radical and lonely white men who may look to Arthur Fleck’s deranged descent into the Joker of comic-book lore as heroic instead of villainous.

The reality is that the film — and most of its thoughtful critiques — falls somewhere in between. Joker is an impressive cinematic achievement, featuring an extraordinary (albeit a tad exhibitionist) performance by Joaquin Phoenix as Fleck, and it’s a poisonous story for a fraught time. Did we really need a brutal movie about a white terrorist figure who uses gun violence to enact revenge on the society that rejects him? And did we need it now?

I think the answer to that question is no. Ultimately, Joker is a story that empathizes with a violent sociopath. Fleck is a clown-by-hire and aspiring comedian living with his mother. The most ironic and tragic cruelty of his life is that he’s got a condition that causes him to laugh maniacally at inappropriate times. He is bullied and beat up — by a group of kids on the street, his coworkers, some rich suits on the subway — and the film uses these encounters to explain his murderous origins. “Joker is the antihero the alienated and angry have been waiting for, and that’s precisely the problem,” wrote Sarah Hagi in a column about the film for the Globe and Mail. “I do yawn at the idea of another story in which white men are offered a sort of understanding for their violence.”

That’s exactly why I couldn’t enjoy the film, even though I concede that it’s really well done. The message that “well, of course he became a mass murderer, society gave him no choice!” is dangerous on its own. But if you consider the larger social context of turning “a supervillain into a kind of folk hero” in a world where Dylann Roof, Elliot Rodger, and Faisal Hussain exist, it’s even more distressing.

1 comment:

TSE said...

There is a reason I don't own or watch TV - and I don't go to movies.

Maybe that's why I am such a threat.

Independent thinking isn't allowed.