"All I have are negative thoughts."
September 1, 2019 6:13 PM   Subscribe

 
Previously on MeFi
posted by AlSweigart at 6:15 PM on September 1, 2019


From the visionary director of The Hangover Parts I, II and III!
posted by octothorpe at 6:31 PM on September 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


... and the GG Allin documentary Hated, which seems relevant here.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:33 PM on September 1, 2019 [18 favorites]


Wait really
posted by schadenfrau at 6:33 PM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wait really

I know exactly what you mean!
posted by thelonius at 6:42 PM on September 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


Joker Wants to Be a Movie About the Emptiness of Our Culture. Instead, It’s a Prime Example of It
Joker — which was written by Phillips and Scott Silver — doesn’t have a plot; it’s more like a bunch of reaction GIFs strung together. When Arthur gets fired from his clown job, he struts by the time-clock, deadpans, “Oh no, I forgot to punch out” and then, wait for it, socks it so hard it dangles from the wall. Make a note of the moment, because you’ll be seeing it a lot in your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

The movie’s cracks — and it’s practically all cracks — are stuffed with phony philosophy. Joker is dark only in a stupidly adolescent way, but it wants us to think it’s imparting subtle political or cultural wisdom. Just before one of his more violent tirades, Arthur muses, “Everybody just screams at each other. Nobody’s civil anymore.” Who doesn’t feel that way in our terrible modern times? But Arthur’s observation is one of those truisms that’s so true it just slides off the wall, a message that both the left and the right can get behind and use for their own aims. It means nothing.
posted by octothorpe at 6:42 PM on September 1, 2019 [40 favorites]


It takes a special kind of awful to monetize the incels, I guess.

~~

Also, the next time there's a fork in the timeline could we take the other one?
posted by Frowner at 7:03 PM on September 1, 2019 [53 favorites]


So not for me, then
posted by thivaia at 7:06 PM on September 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


I keep thinking about an excellent video essay from Random Acts of Flyness. I rarely post such long comments on MetaFilter, but I can't find this anywhere online to link to:

"It's a character flaw that they are blind to in themselves and the characters they create" (- Saul Williams)

Breaking Bad as a cultural phenomenon peaked in 2013. I've been thinking. Does _____ _____ get elected president without the existence of Walter White?

Let's backtrack a little bit.

America's first box office hit came in 1915 with Birth of a Nation. The Civil War and Reconstruction epic was a Ku Klux Klan recruiting tool, and the first motion picture to screen at the White House. Movies and television are propaganda. It's no coincidence the Cold War gave rise to the action hero or that Hollywood set the table for an affable, non-threatening black president.

Can I read you a quote from Fight Club?

"Men I see in Fight Club are the strongest and smartest men that ever lived. An entire generation pumping gas and waiting tables, slaves with white collars. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't, and we're slowly learning that fact, and we're very, very pissed off." (- Fight Club)

Now think about that quote in the context of what happened in Charlottesville. The alt-right's term "snowflake," which roughly translated means a white man who's been emasculated, was coined in the book Fight Club.

Now, could Fight Club have inspired the alt-right? Let me explain what we mean by "inspire."

The White Devil, also known as the anti-hero, is an archetypal character trope. White Devils are white men and women thrust into situations in which they are surrounded by other white characters who do not possess their preternatural level of genius or skill. The wrinkle is that the White Devil is his or her own antagonist. Often, some embodiment of their Jungian shadow consistently pervades their life and relationships. The power that this shadow generates is the key source of the White Devils' exceptional technical genius. The White Devils' narrative function is to win in the battle against his or her shadow self, and make sure the dark energy that their shadow self generates is used for good.

"It's a character flaw that they are blind to themselves in the characters they create. The heroes and protagonists of their literature and films reek of the same oversight. An uncharacteristic value that they solve, but instantly deepen and broaden their perspective. This was the flaw they worshiped." (- Saul Williams)

Question.

Have you thought about what makes these characters compelling? Why them? Why their stories? Why them? Is it because white people are the best at everything? Not only the best cops, but also the best drug dealers?

I ask because Breaking Bad is a show about a guy who has the American dream. But when his mortality is threatened, he has to turn to a life of crime. In order to survive, he has to tap into a rage that's always been there, just below the surface.

In doing so, he embraces his Jungian shadow, and goes from impotent to virile. Clearly, the surname "White" is symbolic of this archetypal pathology, but to what degree is Breaking Bad intentionally about white men's pathological fragility? To what degree is this show intentionally inspiring white men to re-establish their social and cultural dominance? Given the aforementioned, did Walter White intentionally inspire the popular resurgence of the alt-right?

That said, the alt-right is not new or phenomenal in any way. So given that stasis, why do these characters persist?

They persist because the White Devil archetype in contemporary film and television functions as yet another display of white male dominance and social power, by framing the Jungian shadow as a source of white male cultural and social centrality.

Its function is to peacock. To put on display a shadow-fueled virility and acumen. The desired effect is for the melanated masses to hesitate before challenging white supremacy. Their hope is that, in any moment of resistance, no matter how big or small, they, us, we will remember that the white person or institution they are resisting has a devil inside them, an amoral devil that will not concede defeat under any circumstances.


— Random Acts of Flyness, Season 1, Episode 5
posted by yaymukund at 7:06 PM on September 1, 2019 [74 favorites]


The trailers I’ve seen make this movie look like the filmic equivalent of one of those “You laugh because I’m different, but I laugh because you’re all the same” T-shirts.
posted by sleeping bear at 7:12 PM on September 1, 2019 [60 favorites]


From the visionary director of The Hangover Parts I, II and III!

I know what you mean, but on the other hand the best TV I saw in the last 5 years was written and directed by the writer of Hangsover pt II and III, so you never know...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:15 PM on September 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


Quibble all you want with Todd Philips’ choice of pictures, but he’s a solidly talented genre director, and a Joker movie is always going to be a genre piece.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:36 PM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Guys, guys! I've got an idea for a film!

DARK Joker!

He's like The Joker yeah? But dark!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:48 PM on September 1, 2019 [20 favorites]


I definitely remember when Fight Club came out how it seemed to galvanize all the fragile, paranoid and obviously deeply wronged (narrator: *rolls eyes*) John Galt-archetype white guys all around me.

A couple of them went right off the rails, dived head first into early Infowars and David Icke garbage piles and never really came back.
posted by loquacious at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2019 [21 favorites]


I mean, if I were in the room, I don't think I would have green-lit "Falling Down but with the most problematic comic-book license there is" but I guess that's why they don't pay me the big buxxx
posted by penduluum at 8:07 PM on September 1, 2019 [16 favorites]


I'm assuming things will get much worse there soon enough, but right now these are the comments below that IndieWire article:
TODD’S EX
SEPTEMBER 1, 2019 10:16 AM
Please let this be the real Todd Philips

SAMMYNEWS
AUGUST 31, 2019 8:50 PM
I just love the title of this article!

TODD PHILLIPS
AUGUST 31, 2019 2:13 PM
And I don’t even know what The King of Comedy is, stop talking about that movie – please talk about my movie. Thanks.

TODD PHILLIPS
AUGUST 31, 2019 2:11 PM
I just wanted to make a movie that looked cool, all right? I’m actually pretty wealthy and don’t need to work if I don’t want to, so you’re welcome. I don’t have time to reflect on ideas or think back on things, okay? I’m just trying to make a cool ass movie, Jesus
posted by soundguy99 at 8:10 PM on September 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


I think the deeper question here is whether there is a way to make a movie about Travis Bickle that won't won't feel validating to the Travis Bickles of the world.

Just as an exercise, type the phrase "my favorite character is X" into Google (quotes included) where X is a comic book character of your choosing. Go ahead, try your luck. I find the results to be pretty unambiguous:

"The Joker": 59,000
"Batman": 14,000
"Superman": 5,000
"Spider-man": 2,600
"Wolverine": 1,600
"Green Lantern": 9
"Aquaman": 7

The Joker is iconic in a way that is very hard for other comic book characters to achieve, because he taps into something older and more sinister. People respond to him precisely because he's monstrous, and because he plays into that same tired cinematic conflation of insanity and monstrosity as other cinematic monsters like Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh. The common thread in such monsters is a kind of violence without empathy or restraint, an inability to see the wellbeing of the masses in anything other than transactional terms. One could argue that art generally, and cinematic art in particular, gives people a window into how monsters come to be, gives us tools (or at least vocabulary) to work backwards from the tragedies of the real world and achieve some vague sense that the question "How did it come to this?" could have a kind of answer.

But the Achilles heel of cinema is that it is predetermined, a freight train without any switches on the tracks. We are promised going into the film that there will be blood, that the way it plays out is in some sense inevitable. So what message do viewers take from grim films in which angry, disaffected men take vengeance on the society for hurting them, or even ignoring them? What message is sent when, inevitably, the camera crowds around the carnage of the film's climax, flanked by the police and news reporters that the carnage guarantees? "You'll show 'em all," the film whispers. "You'll matter."

Most viewers will see the monsters as monstrous and wring their hands about how they broke bad. That is no doubt the authorial intent. But to a slim few, that inevitable end is a promise, and a siren's song.
posted by belarius at 8:11 PM on September 1, 2019 [22 favorites]


can we skip to the timeline where we get a riddler movie instead
posted by Bwentman at 8:21 PM on September 1, 2019 [42 favorites]


I recall reading a tweet proposing the Joker as a woman bent on vengeance after being told to to smile once too often and I wonder what might have been. Obviously it would have horrified the men who will be galvanized by this one, but I wonder whether that movie could have as strong a social impact
posted by peppermind at 8:25 PM on September 1, 2019 [107 favorites]


Obviously that Joker would be played by Aubrey Plaza.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:29 PM on September 1, 2019 [95 favorites]


Here's how I want the movie to end:

We watch Arthur Fleck's breakdown and descent, eventually culminating in some massive act of violence like machine-gunning an entire comedy club. As the sirens converge, he slips out a back door and walks through the neon-lit streets of Gotham. Without warning, a figure emerges from an alley. Mostly concealed in shadow, we can see only that this person is tall, and slim, and wearing a long purple coat. A white-gloved hand raises a long-barreled revolver and fires a single shot. Arthur Fleck falls, and as his lifeblood drains into the gutter, all he can hear is his killer's maniacal, mocking laughter.

(Note: The laughter is performed by an uncredited Mark Hamill.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:31 PM on September 1, 2019 [32 favorites]


A thing that's been bugging me about the trailer is that he's got an advertising sign, which is usually pretty light because you have to carry it and wave it around all day, and then a kid hits him with it and it's got enough mass to pretty much knock him off his feet - and the kid swings it at him squarely, the least effectual way...with the most amount of drag. It feels like junky; not real action but stand-in, as-scripted action. That scene making faces at the kid on bus is weird in the same way.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:33 PM on September 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


I recall reading a tweet proposing the Joker as a woman bent on vengeance after being told to to smile once too often and I wonder what might have been.

That tweet was by Geraldine DeRuiter, who then had to suffer a bunch of terrible, constant harassment by fucking manbabies, probably many of whom feel galvanized by this one, yes.
posted by primalux at 8:41 PM on September 1, 2019 [47 favorites]


You gotta love the Forbes review:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/markhughes/2019/08/31/review-joker-is-one-of-the-best-films-of-2019/

Since like half of it is just talking about how this thing just HAS to make a profit. That's entertainment, baby!

Also they keep saying, "It's not a remake of ,The King of Comedy!"

So it def. is.

And there's absolutely no way that Phoenix is gunna win an Oscar. No way. Absolutely no way.


I'll go watch it! On the cheap movie night.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:44 PM on September 1, 2019


Also I think this tweet still nails it:

1989: what if the Joker was a mobster

2008: what if the Joker was a nihilist

2016: what if the Joker was a punk

2019: what if the Joker was that guy in your office who comments “Beautiful😍” on all your Instagram posts
posted by alex_skazat at 8:48 PM on September 1, 2019 [96 favorites]


Just as an exercise, type the phrase "my favorite character is X" into Google

> No results found for "my favorite character is þ".

I'm a bit disappointed it didn't rate even one! (You may argue I did it wrong, but it did lead me to this interesting-looking chapter so I say it was worth it.)
posted by traveler_ at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


God it’d be so great to see a stylish new Joaquin Phoenix vehicle, especially one that inverted a tired blockbuster genre

(Somewhere, a desiccated monkey’s paw curls in another finger)
posted by churl at 9:19 PM on September 1, 2019 [10 favorites]


From the Vanity Fair review:
But from a step back, outside in the baking Venetian heat, it also may be irresponsible propaganda for the very men it pathologizes
It seems to me that's a literary phenomenon much much older than contemporary white fragility or even comic books though, and it's not specific to genre that directors have to walk a difficult line with charismatic villains. Take Shakespeare's Richard III's self-justification:
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days
Which could be a Taxi Driver or D-FENS monologue, or worse, the manifesto of any armed hateful man. The Duke of Gloucester was played as very deliberate pro-Tudor propaganda, like the other histories; he's a killer, a monster, cruel and cold blooded. But despite all of that intent the Duke of Gloucester is interesting, and the character's often played for kicks and with a smile (thanks Ian McKellen). I guess 'bold but incel-friendly' is a lot older than cinema, and I shudder to think of a red-pilled Othello or Merchant of Venice...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:28 PM on September 1, 2019 [19 favorites]


Most viewers will see the monsters as monstrous and wring their hands about how they broke bad. That is no doubt the authorial intent. But to a slim few, that inevitable end is a promise, and a siren's song.

Youtube blocks al-Qaeda recruitment videos, and Hollywood invests millions in Joker origin films.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:50 PM on September 1, 2019 [9 favorites]


There has to be a corollary to Poe's Law that says that an antihero can't be made so repulsive that he (and it's almost always a he) can't be latched onto as some sort of ideal. Alan Moore was dismayed that people thought that Rorschach was a hero, because he wrote him to be as repugnant as possible--incredibly misogynist, homophobic, never bathed, ate canned food right out of the can, etc.--and he still had fans. Walter White had deep-seated rage issues from episode 1, if not earlier (it's strongly hinted that the loss of his share of Grey Matter had to do with his doing the equivalent of ragequitting over Gretchen, and selling his share for $5000), and although he is still kind of a genius in his problem-solving in specific circumstances, particularly in cooking, violence against others, and getting out of problems that he's created for himself, he's not a very good criminal in terms of money-laundering or setting up adequate alternative plans, but his fans act like he's Lex Luthor. Even Tyler Durden isn't much of a much; his description of the post-collapse lifestyle, acting as if grinding corn by hand is some sort of deeply fulfilling activity, is like the dippiest hippie's pastoral fantasy run amuck. This Joker could regularly snack on handfuls of his own shit, and some dudes would argue that it's really homemade fudge.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:42 PM on September 1, 2019 [39 favorites]


Todd Phillips’ wannabe edgy comic book origin story falls flat on every conceivable level. [Little White Lies]
"...a film which shoots for the moon in its attempt to deliver a lapel-shaking statement on the malign tenor of Our Times, yet ends up settling for feeble posturing, asinine pop psychology and political analysis charged with all the cynicism of a mollycoddled teen dropout in fake Oakleys and a home customised Linkin Park tee."
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 10:45 PM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think the deeper question here is whether there is a way to make a movie about Travis Bickle that won't won't feel validating to the Travis Bickles of the world.

Sure there is! Lynne Ramsay made one a couple of years ago, with an amazing score by Jonny Greenwood, and a fantastic lead performance by .... shit, what's that guy's name?... well anyway he was great.

It's called You Were Never Really Here and is a pitch perfect minimalist deconstruction of the anti-hero genre. And of course hardly anyone watched it.

Fuck.
posted by mannequito at 10:56 PM on September 1, 2019 [29 favorites]


All I could see when I watched the second trailer was three black women. One hurts his feelings on the bus, one is a social worker who is admitting her institution is failing him (but he insists she's personally failing him), and one seems to be a love interest who clearly won't survive the "origin story" arc.

I was skeeved out by the first trailer, but I nope nope noped away from the second. Who came up with this slop?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:29 PM on September 1, 2019 [30 favorites]


Interestingly, You Were Never Really Here starred one Joaquin Phoenix, has 89% at Rotten Tomatoes, and received a 7 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. Joker stars one Joaquin Phoenix, has 89% at Rotten Tomatoes, and received an 8 minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. That's one minute longer!

But more seriously, it's getting really good reviews as a whole and it seems like we might want to take a look at the movie before deciding its terrible. Or we could just continue posting all the bad reviews to the thread even though that's not very representative. That's good too.

I mean, it could be hot garbage... I haven't seen it either... but it doesn't sound like it.
posted by Justinian at 11:32 PM on September 1, 2019 [20 favorites]


I used to think Fight Club was a tragically misunderstood film (made from a slightly harder to misunderstand novel, but the edgelords still give that a go). But then someone basically opened my eyes to the fact that if a satire fails to help a society actually see the absurdity of its ways then it has failed.

And still more folks insist that "toxic masculinity makes us blind to satire" was one of the messages, so 'round we go again!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:35 PM on September 1, 2019 [23 favorites]


I used to think Fight Club was a tragically misunderstood film

Fight Club was a fun, twisty movie that was very much style over substance but I guess they threw in enough of the (maybe serious?) hack philosophy from the book that some dudes managed to take it seriously.

Honestly other than "some dudes might take it too seriously" its not one of the first things that comes to mind for me as a comparison for this, though - because there are other movies that are pretty obvious antecedents, put though an Edgy Comics filter.
posted by atoxyl at 12:19 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Emotionally stunted men are the bread and butter of the popular film industry around the world. Men who exist on the margins of society and don't need your stinking social order. It's been that way since the beginning, with it being true of "heroes" in the more directly Manichean flicks people love, and for the "anti-heroes", the gangsters, "noir" losers, western gunslingers, and almost every other major genre.

The only real difference between the movies is in whether the tough guy's use of wits, fists and firearms, for when things really need a-fixin', end with him rejoining the social order, usually on account of some sweet no nonsense lady love or with him rejecting the order and continuing on his quest for super special individual righteousness. There aren't all that many Ikiru's made to combat that, as people love their spectacle spectacular with a body count to go suit the occasion. Movies like this are just an amplification of the idea that makes readily clear what is normally accepted as implicit since we've long since become inured to the formula.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:23 AM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


My name is not Harleen Quinzel and this movie is not gonna gaslight me into feeling sympathy for the Joker.

Seriously, how can you make this movie when one of the central conceits of the Joker is that he manipulates people and uses them as tools by telling them this kind of sob story about himself? It's a self own sorta like if Fox News had tried to hire Stephen Colbert to do a right-wing talk show.
posted by straight at 12:29 AM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


would be really cool if we spent all the time we're gonna spend talking about this movie as a pipeline to toxic masculinity talking about people like ben shapiro, jordan peterson, and joe rogan instead. those are the people mass murderers and nazis are quoting in their manifestos, not tyler fucking durden. this is the liberal and left wing equivalent of "violent video games make people kill people."
posted by JimBennett at 12:35 AM on September 2, 2019 [15 favorites]


Eh rubes gonna rube. Judge Dredd the comic series is pretty baldly a pisstake on Dirty Harry movies but I didn’t notice anyone at MetaFilter getting het up about fascist propaganda in the most recent Dredd movie.
posted by um at 12:45 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


not expecting much from a serious, dark, edgy todd phillips movie. i mean, the guy directed the hangovers. how subtle can the movie be? and yes, it does seem like you were never really here only with superhero branding. i'm inclined to agree with David Ehrlich:
“Joker” is the human-sized and adult-oriented comic book movie that Marvel critics have been clamoring for — there’s no action, no spandex, no obvious visual effects, and the whole thing is so gritty and serious that DCEU fanboys will feel as if they’ve died and seen the Snyder Cut — but it’s also the worst-case scenario for the rest of the film world, as it points towards a grim future in which the inmates have taken over the asylum, and even the most repulsive of mid-budget character studies can be massive hits (and Oscar contenders) so long as they’re at least tangentially related to some popular intellectual property. The next “Lost in Translation” will be about Black Widow and Howard Stark spending a weekend together at a Sokovia hotel; the next “Carol” will be an achingly beautiful period drama about young Valkyrie falling in love with a blonde woman she meets in an Asgardian department store.
posted by sapagan at 1:07 AM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


Its function is to peacock. To put on display a shadow-fueled virility and acumen

That's a fascinating perspective that resonates with the About Face comic that's been posted here. In 2017 I rambled some related thoughts into a megathread comment which fortuitously elicited this elaborate response by Frowner. This latest Joker flick seems to be entirely in that vein.

It strikes me though that the indulgence in virile, nihilistic violence isn't limited to movies about (& by & for?) angry white males. From this side of the Atlantic it seems like a mainstream current in US culture. I'm thinking of the hyper-aggressive design of cars (I think that started with the Hummer?) to product names like UNDER ARMOUR (seriously??), and the PARENTAL ADVISORY murder ballads I grew up with (Mobb Deep, N.W.A., Ice T, LL Cool J, etc.). Oh and the guns.

Anyway, that's all a bit further afield. I guess what I'm trying to say is that perhaps it doesn't matter so much whether the Joker is or is not Evil, when Good Guy movies also culminate in orgies of violence & overwhelming force.
posted by dmh at 1:16 AM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Honestly the most objectionable thing about these movies is the way they set up a false dichotomy between either siding with superhero billionaires (and metaphorically for the entire pyramid-shaped status quo) or with socially regressive anarchists.
posted by Pyry at 1:33 AM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


"the next “Carol” will be an achingly beautiful period drama about young Valkyrie falling in love with a blonde woman she meets in an Asgardian department store"
I would actually watch that film.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 2:57 AM on September 2, 2019 [30 favorites]


Yeah, I mean ... am I part of the problem if that sounds amazing to me?
posted by kyrademon at 3:11 AM on September 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


"the next “Carol” will be an achingly beautiful period drama about young Valkyrie falling in love with a blonde woman she meets in an Asgardian department store"
I would actually watch that film.



I'm sure it'll be a much bigger hit than Carol. Disney will be sure to add more gags and amusing business surrounding the lesser characters, maybe they can make it a prequel and bring back Hogun, Volstagg, and Fandral for the funny stuff, and Disney surely won't go with that depressing ending where Therese concedes, they'll make it much lighter and triumphant. Oh and Carol was much too slow, test audiences won't go for that, they've got to add some fighting scenes just to keep the audience interested, especially overseas where the dialogue might be too much, that's fine though since they'll have to cut some of the sex stuff anyway to make sure the movie can play in every market. Some countries aren't keen on lesbianism, so it'd probably be best just to suggest an attraction rather than show anyone acting on it, or at least make any direct references easy to edit out.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:13 AM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


I think the deeper question here is whether there is a way to make a movie about Travis Bickle that won't won't feel validating to the Travis Bickles of the world.

Francois Truffaut as interviewed by Gene Siskel:
"I find that violence is very ambiguous in movies. For example, some films claim to be antiwar, but I don't think I've really seen an antiwar film. Every film about war ends up being pro-war."
posted by octothorpe at 5:48 AM on September 2, 2019 [25 favorites]


That Truffaut quote was what I thought of, also. The trailer actually looks pretty good and I can see why the reviewers are pointing to Scorsese films as an influence.

This seems like one of those films that despite being well-made will make the world a slightly worse place -- on the one hand giving thousands of people an enjoyable movie-watching and possibly cathartic experience; on the other hand giving some unhappy young men yet another portrayal to connect with. It's not causative of violence, but it becomes part of the overall culture surrounding it.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 AM on September 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


The only characterizations of Joker that matter are the ones that portray him as a man driven insane by his desire to fuck Batman.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:29 AM on September 2, 2019 [27 favorites]


I do have to say that the cinematography and design of the film looks great and that shot of Phoenix on the outdoor staircase is automatically iconic. I just feel like they need to find a new Batman villain; there are like 150 of them from 80 years of comics, pick a different one for a change.
posted by octothorpe at 6:39 AM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


For anyone interested, the TIFF screenings for The Joker are already sold out.

Yesterday I was on that Reddit thread describing the "Straight Pride" parade, there was a comment about the people dressed like clowns, apparently referencing the 'Frenworld' fans who use baby talk and clown reference to talk about the White Power movement in code (I still can hardly believe that is a real thing, but hey: 2019). I mentioned the 'Joker' movie and how I hoped the makers of the film had a plan in place to avoid having the Alt-Right co-op the Joker story. Now I'm starting to worry if, God help us, the company behind the film might be dumb enough to try and co-opt the Alt-Right fans to promote the film.

Twenty-friggin'-nineteen, people.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 6:40 AM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


I think it's important to see a movie like Joker as the obverse side of the comic book movie coin. The point of superhero movies is mostly male power fantasy. Everyone believes that they're Tony Stark but the wrong circumstances held them back. The fantasy is fun but because it's impossible it leaves you unfulfilled. That dissatisfaction breeds resentment at the forces holding you back. Joker expresses the anger and resentment of those who can't be the superhero were supposed to identify with for the first fantasy to work. I'm glad that the dark side of these films is being given a chance, perhaps it will help us to consider why the majority of the film industry is producing impossible power fantasies that are supposed to lose their appeal with the adult development of a full grasp of reality and a mature understanding of what would make for a real "good guy" (this includes the fast and furious movies, and also John wick, movies I really like). If Joker is a sickness that same pathology is present in the MCU in general.
posted by dis_integration at 7:05 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]



All I could see when I watched the second trailer was three black women

likewise. well to be fair I could also see it was a piece of garbage that was the most embarrassing thing I've ever seen. but the fixation on the two older black women who were Mean to him (= 1. living her life / 2. trying to do her job) vs. the Sweet younger black woman (= cared most about Old Clown Man's feelings) was THE POINT of the trailer to such an extent that any review not explaining how that features in the full film is highly suspect.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:08 AM on September 2, 2019 [17 favorites]


I am conflicted. I will see this because the trailer makes it look pretty awesome and I would watch Joaquin Phoenix fold laundry, and Zazie Beetz could make blinking seem interesting and meaningful, so I'm sold on the cast. And I love dark, noir whatever.

But I get the concerns. As stated above: 2019, man.

(I also refuse to call Nazi douchebags "alt right", I'm all for preferred nomenclature, just not for white supremacist shitbags)
posted by biscotti at 8:00 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


But more seriously, it's getting really good reviews as a whole and it seems like we might want to take a look at the movie before deciding its terrible.

Naw, I'm going to do the same thing I usually do- decide whether a movie is terrible based on my own opinions instead of the collective opinions of others. That trailer looks like a terrible movie to me, and it could have a 2,815% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 17-day standing O at it's premiere and I'd still feel that trailer looked like a trailer for a terrible movie.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:05 AM on September 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


Nobody's saying it isn't a well-made film. They're saying it's a harmful film.

There are some premises that are going to result in a garbage story no matter how well you execute your craft.* Telling the origin story of the avatar of white male abusiveness from his own point of view is, no matter how well-made, going to be harmful garbage, because it will, necessarily, obscure the experience and points of view of the people he hurts and elevate the perspective of the abuser. Again. Everything is always about him.

Like, the choice of premise, the choice of protagonist, and the choice of point of view are not accidents. They're choices that reflect who the storyteller thinks is most important and what stories are most important to tell.

I'm not unambivalent about this, because it is constraining as hell, right? But that doesn't make it any less true. The Mel Brooks rule for depicting Nazis would never allow you to make certain movies, but maybe that's a good thing. So Mel Brooks made his choice about Nazis, because he didn't want to help the Nazis of the world. Todd Phillips made his own choice, for reasons of his own. But we sure as shit get to criticize him for it.

*e.g., that YA novel from a few years ago that was set in an anti-immigrant fascist American future and chose a white girl who "discovers" all the bad shit as protagonist. Like if you think the privileged white girl has the most interesting story in that situation, that says A LOT. And it is going to be garbage.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:48 AM on September 2, 2019 [26 favorites]


I just feel like they need to find a new Batman villain; there are like 150 of them from 80 years of comics, pick a different one for a change.

King Tut!
posted by thelonius at 9:00 AM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]



Francois Truffaut as interviewed by Gene Siskel:

"I find that violence is very ambiguous in movies. For example, some films claim to be antiwar, but I don't think I've really seen an antiwar film. Every film about war ends up being pro-war."


The movie Stunt Man (which the world seems to have mostly forgotten, but not Youtube) is very much about this ... paradox. Which reminds me of something Sinead O'Connor said way back when -- something along the lines of, if you want to tell an anti-war story, there can't be any war in it, it has to be completely concerned with child abuse, because that's where all your wars start.

But who wants to see a movie about children being treated horribly?

Instead, we've got to take it all on in the context of the Super Hero genre, because those are the only movies you can count on people actually paying to see anymore. God, I hate the Super Hero genre, particularly when it lapses into seriousness. The whole thing went wrong when Buckaroo Banzai didn't hit big and spawn twenty-seven sequels.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


and then this pops up on the Youtube sidebar:

Dear incels. The Joker is a WARNING not a rolemodel
posted by philip-random at 9:33 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


I used to think Fight Club was a tragically misunderstood film (made from a slightly harder to misunderstand novel, but the edgelords still give that a go). But then someone basically opened my eyes to the fact that if a satire fails to help a society actually see the absurdity of its ways then it has failed.

Film Crit Hulk does a lot of tough-but-fair writing about David Fincher. I always find his Fight Club essay to be helpful in thinking about "unsuccessful" satire because my instinct (as a bad person) is just to huff and say that stupid people didn't get it because they're stupid. (In general, Film Crit Hulk is useful at reminding me that creators make a lot of different choices to finish a story, and if the end product tells a different message than the creator intended, then they probably made some wrong choices along the way.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:39 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


and if the end product tells a different message than the creator intended, then they probably made some wrong choices along the way

which is something Stanley Kubrick certainly owned up to with Clockwork Orange -- the old ultra-violence proving simply too alluring to some young, unformed minds. I recall playacting aspects of it with friends when we still twelve or thirteen having only ever seen the posters and a brief clip during the Academy Awards.
posted by philip-random at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


the whole thing is so gritty and serious that DCEU fanboys will feel as if they’ve died and seen the Snyder Cut

OK but that might be my favorite line from a movie review so far this year.
posted by straight at 9:59 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Telling the origin story of the avatar of white male abusiveness from his own point of view is, no matter how well-made, going to be harmful garbage, because it will, necessarily, obscure the experience and points of view of the people he hurts and elevate the perspective of the abuser. Again.

For real the only true grim and gritty realistic take on the Joker would be about a girl whose mom is killed horribly by the Joker and sinks into depression rather than becoming a superhero.
posted by straight at 10:05 AM on September 2, 2019 [13 favorites]


There are some premises that are going to result in a garbage story no matter how well you execute your craft.

I think that any "realistic" depiction of comic book superheroes/villains will inevitably turn into pro-fascist stories. Comic book superheroes/villains are fine as fantasy characters or as abstractions (of the Adam West/Tim Burton kind), but once you cross the Watchmen threshold it's inevitable that you end up with characters who "in their blood" know right from wrong, who are jury, judge and executioner, or, probably in this case, who are personification of evil.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:05 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Did I watch Fight Club in a parallel universe? I thought it was dark satire on men's insecurities.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:07 AM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


Bwentman: "I think the deeper question here is whether there is a way to make a movie about Travis Bickle that won't won't feel validating to the Travis Bickles of the world."
AlSweigart: "Sure there is. Make him not white. Incels worship Elliot Rodger, but don't care about what's-his-name Virginia Tech guy even though his manifesto was just as batshit insane and inane."
Being not-White isn't enough. Elliot Rodger was Chinese Malaysian / British and an immigrant to the United States. Barack Obama is as White as he was. I suspect Rodger's self-identification as an Incel and his virulent public misogyny are a big part of why he's more popular with Incels than the also-Asian also-an-immigrant** Virginia Tech guy.

** Rodger moved to the U.S. when he was 5 years old, Virginia Tech guy moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:10 AM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


If you want to experience a preview of the fanboy reaction to any criticism of this film , read the comments for Glenn Kenny's review on RogerEbert.com. Kenny gives it a middling two star review but the commenters react as if he was the worst person in the world.
posted by octothorpe at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2019


I think it's too simplistic to say that the film itself is harmful but I do feel that no healthy society would give so much oxygen to such a repulsive type of story over the years. In other words, it's a symptom, not the disease.
posted by praemunire at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


I always find his Fight Club essay to be helpful in thinking about "unsuccessful" satire because my instinct (as a bad person) is just to huff and say that stupid people didn't get it because they're stupid.

I can't say I find the distinction particularly helpful as even the most basic movies get interpreted in wildly divergent ways. It is, of course, unwarranted to hold that someone with a diverging opinion, no matter how simplistic, is "stupid", going from that to saying a movie gaining different opinions must then have failed is another thing entirely. People can miss the point or just choose to see something as they want to and there can be other ways to read the movie that can make better use of the evidence of what is in the movie, or even just remain open to multiple readings by design. Thinking that movies need to be interpreted the same way by everyone to be a success would be measuring success by banality.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:52 AM on September 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


I'd buy that for a dollar!
posted by FJT at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't get the attitude some have that if I find the premise of a movie to be distasteful, I somehow owe it to the movie to give it a chance.*

I've only got so many hours to be alive, y'know?

*The one movie I regret not giving a chance when it came out is Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story
posted by captain afab at 11:13 AM on September 2, 2019 [16 favorites]


The one movie I regret not giving a chance

You should rent Captain Ron
posted by thelonius at 11:25 AM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


Oh, and since we're talking about superhero movies, it is also really worth noting that many of them and other "blockbuster" types films purposefully seek to be somewhat incoherent about their politics just so more people can choose to find what they want in the movies, which is why they are so popular across demographic and cultural lines.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:43 AM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


read the comments for Glenn Kenny's review on RogerEbert.com

on second thought, let us not go there, 'tis a silly place.

(quite a lot of comment threads on rogerebert.com involve attacks on the reviewer, saying they're stupid and a nobody and doesn't know anything about film, etc., that is: has different views on the movie than myself, the commenter, guardian and master of truth, and therefore must be subjected to verbal abuse.)
posted by sapagan at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Thinking that movies need to be interpreted the same way by everyone to be a success would be measuring success by banality.

Yep. There is no satire so obvious that a sizable group of people won't take it seriously. Anyone on the internet should be quite familiar with that. Had Jonathan Swift been writing in the new millennium there would undoubtedly be completely earnest tweets decrying the monstrous anti-Irish bias of his proposed cannibalism.
posted by Justinian at 12:10 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


just because you don't get the joke doesn't mean it isn't funny
posted by philip-random at 1:58 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yes, but some sizable groups of people have considerably more access to power and considerably greater senses of entitlement than others, and we are currently experiencing nearly daily mass shootings / terror attacks perpetrated by young white men who express the Joker's particular sense of absurd, nihilist, trolling humor.

Please don't insult everyone by making the argument that a movie glorifying* the rise of the patron saint of troll terrorists, released during a wave of troll terrorism, is just the usual satire. It isn't.

*And it will glorify the Joker, because the more menacing he is, the more terrifying, the more they want to be like him. They like being terrifying, because they want to be powerful. The only way not to glorify the origin story of the Joker would be to make him ridiculous (a la Mel Brooks).
posted by schadenfrau at 2:04 PM on September 2, 2019 [22 favorites]


Had Jonathan Swift been writing in the new millennium there would undoubtedly be completely earnest tweets decrying the monstrous anti-Irish bias of his proposed cannibalism.

That did happen. Social media didn't create dense people.
posted by absalom at 2:38 PM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


I can't say I find the distinction particularly helpful as even the most basic movies get interpreted in wildly divergent ways. It is, of course, unwarranted to hold that someone with a diverging opinion, no matter how simplistic, is "stupid", going from that to saying a movie gaining different opinions must then have failed is another thing entirely. People can miss the point or just choose to see something as they want to and there can be other ways to read the movie that can make better use of the evidence of what is in the movie, or even just remain open to multiple readings by design. Thinking that movies need to be interpreted the same way by everyone to be a success would be measuring success by banality.

If I make a message movie that a lot of people persistently, ardently misunderstand, then I should at least consider that the message got garbled along the way. That, or acknowledge that I was never very committed to the message. The coolness factor that led young men to worship Fight Club's Tyler Durden also made a very entertaining, popular film, so maybe Fincher knew what he was doing all along.
posted by grandiloquiet at 3:31 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


octothorpe: "When Arthur gets fired from his clown job, he struts by the time-clock, deadpans, “Oh no, I forgot to punch out” and then, wait for it, socks it so hard it dangles from the wall"

That was really funny when I saw it in .... Breaking Away (1979)
posted by chavenet at 3:37 PM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


But then someone basically opened my eyes to the fact that if a satire fails to help a society actually see the absurdity of its ways then it has failed

oh, the fact. nothing like a fact.
sometimes satire "fails" to be effective propaganda because it has succeeded at being a work of art. just every once in a while.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:20 PM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


King Tut!

Costs might make it infeasible, though. You'd have to go on location in Arizona, Egypt, and Babylonia, and construct a condo made of stone-a.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:29 PM on September 2, 2019 [12 favorites]


"I find that violence is very ambiguous in movies. For example, some films claim to be antiwar, but I don't think I've really seen an antiwar film. Every film about war ends up being pro-war."
There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country, shooting fully automatic, forgetting they were trained to aim. But actually, Vietnam war films are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch the films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible, and they will tell their friends at church and their family this, but Corporal Johnson at Camp Pendleton and Sergeant Johnson at Travis Air Force Base and Seaman Johnson at Coronado Naval Station and Spec 4 Johnson at Fort Bragg and Lance Corporal Swofford at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man ...
— Anthony Swofford, Jarhead
posted by kirkaracha at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


I grew up watching the Adam West Batman TV series so movies like this are 180 degrees away from interesting to me.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:34 PM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


SMALL BRAIN: Joker's unfocused satire and lack of direct condemnation of its protagonist plays to the worst of its audience.

NORMAL BRAIN: We can't let bad-faith reads by the media illiterate dictate the boundaries of art.

BIG BRAIN: Complexity and ambiguity in art are critical, but the cultural context surrounding both the character and the film's release make malicious misreadings not only likely, but inevitable. Are the filmmakers responsible for flirting with this outcome?

GALAXY BRAIN: How much cooler would a body horror film about Clayface have been?

(Source)
posted by AlSweigart at 8:36 PM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


I love comics and am heavily into Batman when it's him and his extended family of adopted orphans. So I've read a lot of Joker.

I watched all the the Adam West stuff, all the animated adventures stuff. I've watched every Batman movie, even saw Joel's Bat Nipples on screen opening weekend.

Nothing about this Joker movie hooks me. Not Phoenix's casting. Not the designs or costuming. Not the trailers. Nothing. Every marketing piece just turns me off further.

I would rather sit through a re-release of My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic, smack dab between the screeching little girls smelling like skittles and Hasbro plastic and the creepy Bronies smelling like lube and also Hasbro plastic - then spend one second watching Batbros rub one out as Casey Affleck's sex assault enabler turns himself into every incel's hero to have wet dreams all over Twitter with for the next five years.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:37 PM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


GALAXY BRAIN: How much cooler would a body horror film about Clayface have been?


GALAXY CLUSTER BRAIN: All we want is Thelma and Louise, but with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy
posted by praemunire at 9:07 PM on September 2, 2019 [15 favorites]


TBH I have little interest in this genre but give me Black Panther 2: Coming To America and I'll watch the hell out of it
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:09 PM on September 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


The trouble is not that there are stupid people who don’t get it. The trouble is that they do get it, in a profound way, and we’re ignoring what they understand.

They get that when you center a white man’s discomfort and rage, no matter how many layers of irony or criticism you throw atop it, you’ve still centered it. They’re still the main character, the one driving the story, the ones who we treat as important and interesting.

That’s not a superficial analysis of the film by dudes who don’t get it. That’s them seeing clearly that another film has been made that puts them in the middle and bends everything around it. It’s the core structure of the film.

You want to address this? Don’t make films about terrible men. Make films about the other characters, the ones who currently support the terrible men, whose function in these films is to forward their narrative.

Center these characters instead. Make them the prime movers. Make their experiences the stories’ drivers. Treat them as interesting. Treat the terrible men as supporting antagonists.

Then you’ll have done something. Until then, the awful men who watch these movies and get the wrong idea aren’t actually getting the wrong idea. We’d just like to pretend that there is another message that is more important that the film’s essential, fundamental worldview: that shitty men are fascinating.
posted by maxsparber at 10:46 PM on September 2, 2019 [47 favorites]


The coolness factor that led young men to worship Fight Club's Tyler Durden also made a very entertaining, popular film, so maybe Fincher knew what he was doing all along.

I'm not sure I buy that Fight Club is really a message movie one way or another. It's a thrill ride movie in which the half-baked philosophy is one of the thrills, but Fincher's presentation of the story remains fairly ambivalent about it. One could read it as a cautionary tale about getting carried away with certain kinds of ideas but it ends on a darkly comic note, unlike Taxi Driver's bitter irony.
posted by atoxyl at 12:57 AM on September 3, 2019


The video essay I transcribed above also intersperses clips from interviews, which I omitted for brevity but I think they're actually quite relevant:

Bryan Cranston (Walter White in Breaking Bad): "There's a lot of people who can relate to this character."

Terence Winter (Writer, The Sopranos): "You know, I understood how Tony thought, so it was very easy for me to slip into that guy."

Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison in Homeland): "Carrie is brilliant, and part of her brilliance has to do with her being bipolar."

Mathew Weiner (Writer & Producer, Sopranos): "I don't see Don as an anti-hero. Uh, Don doesn't kill people. He is situationally moral."

Vince Gilligan (Creator & Writer, Breaking Bad): "Just boom, into my head, it suddenly struck me that what would be interesting to me as a viewer and as a writer would be: What if this was, like, essentially me?"

Matt Dillon (Jack in The House That Jack Built): "The atrocities we commit in our fiction are those inner desires which we cannot commit in our controlled civilization."

posted by yaymukund at 12:59 AM on September 3, 2019 [5 favorites]


The Joker movie comes across in the trailer as very much wanting to be a message movie, and combining that with Scorsese rehash and Gritty Batman sounds perfectly dismal so I've been a little surprised by the number of positive reviews. Can Joaquin Phoenix acting as hard as he can really save this premise?
posted by atoxyl at 1:07 AM on September 3, 2019


You want to address this? Don’t make films about terrible men. Make films about the other characters, the ones who currently support the terrible men, whose function in these films is to forward their narrative.

Max, you should know as well as anyone that those other movies do already exist, but people don't go see them. I'm fine with the idea that they should make less movies about terrible men, but if no one goes see these other movies, then it won't matter much. The problem isn't just "them", it's "us". If people only choose to patronize or even just talk about properties they already are familiar with and insist on movies that follow roughly the same formulas over and over again then that's what will keep getting made and keep drawing the biggest audiences.

Social media and sites like Metafilter are tools used to maintain the status quo by acting as advertising for these kinds of movies. Mention a superhero or long standing franchise or property and people are all over it. Make a post about a trailer for something like, say, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the new/upcoming release by Céline Sciamma who directed the excellent Water Lilies and Tomboy and you get crickets. Crap like Aquaman gets notice while movies like The Fits get ignored because they don't fit expectation and don't have the built in history and supposed "coolness" factor people like to talk about. There's no one saying "take my money" for movies like that because people aren't willing to invest in what they don't already know.

It's fine to get mad at Hollywood, I'll join you, but audiences shouldn't be held blameless here either since they're choosing to watch movies that reinforce the simplified narratives that make "terrible men" movies so popular.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:48 AM on September 3, 2019 [6 favorites]


Fight Club is totally about the rise of the Nazis.

You have "Tyler Durden" (Hitler/Odin), "Marla Singer" (probably a reference to Cosima Wagner, possibly via this nonsense), "fight clubs" (politics in interwar Germany was largely carried out through street fighting; no political party could be taken seriously if it didn't have a paramilitary wing), the His Name Was Robert Paulson chant (the Horst-Wessel-Lied), the mocking "baptism" of a priest, all the castration stuff (more significant in the book), the qualified anti-capitalism (they attack various businesses and complain about commercialism, but their project is still bankrolled by the main character's former employer and Tyler's human-fat soap operation), "erase the debt record", etc. etc. See here for more detail.

Oh, and this Joker film looks terrible.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:33 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am totally, completely, disinterested in a Joker movie where he's a loving caring weebo white guy who turns evil because some bad people of color hurt him. Of all the stories they could tell, they chose to tell the most toxic, harmful, and right wing one they could find. The whole incel/PUA/RP/MGTOW/etc crowd is going to eat this up and it's going to validate their decisions and drive a few to act violently rather than just posting online.

Fuck that shit. And fuck Joaquin Phoenix for being willing to play that role and inspire the next generation of incel mass shooters.

The last damn thing the world needs is a film that tells white guys nursing a persecution complex that one day they'll be pushed too far (by those evil people of color and women), snap, and become an iconic ubercool villain who gets to do all the violence they currently limit themselves to fantasizing about.
posted by sotonohito at 4:10 AM on September 3, 2019 [15 favorites]


Max, you should know as well as anyone that those other movies do already exist, but people don't go see them.

Feels like Marvel has actually done pretty well with several films that centered heroic, non-terrible women and people of color, and the standout DC films centered a heroic woman and a heroic Pacific Islander.
posted by maxsparber at 5:40 AM on September 3, 2019 [14 favorites]


I'll also add that artistically the movie sounds like a horrible idea.

First, because origin stories are inherently boring and not worth telling. They're the laziest sort of movie to make, no one needs them, no one really wants them, but by god here we go with yet another damn origin story.

The storytelling sin of an origin story is compounded with the Joker. The whole point of the Joker is that no one knows what, if anything, he wants, is, or comes from. He's not a mystery so much as he is a black box into which the writers can project people's worries about the faceless, pointless, violence that is part of modern life. He's hard to write well because there's always a temptation to try and justify him, to try and give him a motive, and if you do then you're failed. And writing well with a character who has no motive, or at least none that can ever be explained to the audience, is really damn hard.

It's one of the reasons why Heath Ledger's Joker was better than Jack Nicholson's Joker (in addition to Heath Ledger being a better actor). For Nicholson's Joker there was a goddamn origin story that gave him a nice, pat, motive. Sure, he was also bugfuck crazy and more than a bit nihilistic, but ultimately we could understand his Joker. Nicholson's Joker had fairly straightforward and simple motives. Ledger's Joker was a total enigma who lied every single time he "explained" his motives, his scars, or really anything else.

Phoenix's Joker is likewise not only completely understood, but they spend the whole damn movie explaining him in excruciating detail.

I never really got the praise heaped on Moore's Killing Joke not only because of the implied rape and removing agency from Barbara Gordon to turn her into a motive for her father but because, like so many bad Jokers it tries to explain the Joker. And that always makes the character weaker.

Even ignoring the social harm of Phoenix's Joker, it's an inevitable failure because it's all the bad things you can do with the Joker in a single movie. It's an origin story, which is already awful, and its a JOKER origin story meaning that it totally undermines the character demolishes his threat and changes him from a mirror reflecting society's ills and evils and into just another villain.
posted by sotonohito at 6:07 AM on September 3, 2019 [8 favorites]


Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison in Homeland): "Carrie is brilliant, and part of her brilliance has to do with her being bipolar."

One of these things is not like the other things. Instability from untreated mental illness =/= being an amoral psychopath.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:30 AM on September 3, 2019 [5 favorites]


Feels like Marvel has actually done pretty well with several films that centered heroic, non-terrible women and people of color, and the standout DC films centered a heroic woman and a heroic Pacific Islander.

While those are certainly relative improvements, they still feed into the same dynamic that makes Joker a icon for many, even as a villain. The superhero genre, by its simplification of narrative reality tends to strive to much weight on the villains as the heroes in that Star Wars Darth Vader needs to be "cool" to make the battles interesting sense. That dynamic in itself will then place the crux of debate between fascist ideology and its opposition, which is almost always of convoluted ideology save for the opposing. All the "X was right" memes give evidence of how that works, with those seductive villains sometimes even being literal Nazis.

The problem is multi-layered. On the top layer there's the issue of representation only being seen as relevant when it comes from familiar properties owned by a handful of major studios. That means a company like Disney determines who gets represented and how, which is of course in ways that suit Disney's interests first and foremost. The works are controlled by some very few mostly white men at the top of the corporate hierarchy, who get to determine what is or isn't acceptable for the property. The creative artists' say is limited to what is thought acceptable in that manner, something far different than would be the case in films the artists had control of or initiated themselves.

That these properties rely so heavily on pre-existing consumer awareness points to the next layer of the problem. The demand for familiar works means that the movies are reliant on nostalgia or knowledge obtained from works tied to the past. That is inherently problematic for the past being less inclusive and works from the times often being based in troubling ideological contexts. That they can be "updated" still doesn't solve the issue as what can be made is still limited to what, basically, white kids knew. It's like saying I'm happy to play with any kid in the neighborhood as long as we only play games I'm comfortable with. Movies that have been made by people or based around characters outside that experience have long existed, but are mostly ignored, making representation a matter of what meets mostly straight, white, male acceptance, or at least some strong level of that. Artists who work outside that safe zone don't really count.

That points to way the works themselves are so fraught with incoherent ideology. The surface level can be read as good vs bad, since we are informed who the hero is supposed to be, so if left to just noting the main hero is black or a woman or maybe gay then we can accept there is representation and enjoy seeing what had been hard to find in big budget movies, but if looked at in any more detail that relationship can become more troubling for how the movies set up the central dilemma, who they make the villain, and what the crux of the "answer" to the problem may be.

When the villain is a white guy, maybe Nazi, if he's interesting enough to be exciting he can draw the same sort of fandom as Joker for the same kinds of reasons. His ideology can override the hero/villain construct, where the hero is just taken for granted as right because the hero's ideology often isn't given the same depth of concern. To keep the ideology understandable for all audiences, it's often reduced to simplistic ideals like "the importance of friends", as if Nazis can't have friends too. The plot's are often centered around some problem that can be excessively grandiose, and enjoyable for that, or that cuts in more than one way, so it can be read to mean different things to suit the viewers' existent ideological belief, or it is narrowly defined to avoid offending, usually some combination of the above matched with the heroes and villains own quasi-incoherence in perspective.

There are few, if any, of the superhero films which have a coherent political argument, most are hopelessly entangled by their problematic pasts and the desire not to challenge anyone too much. (I could go into examples, but this is too long a post already and most are fairly apparent if you don't watch assuming it fits what you believe and have been remarked on by others before.) That's all separate from any argument over enjoyment, I'm not concerned with telling anyone what they should or shouldn't like, just interested in how movies are read and what can be supported in those readings.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:09 AM on September 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


debate between fascist ideology and its opposition, which is almost always of convoluted ideology save for the opposing. All the "X was right" memes give evidence of how that works, with those seductive villains sometimes even being literal Nazis.

This is a somewhat odd assertion, given that the first/most famous example is "Magneto was right." A character who's been around that long has obviously had a lot of different stories/interpretations piled onto him, but in the movie versions at least, whatever Magneto is, he's not a fascist. He's a Jew who grew up in Auschwitz and appears to have spent his twenties as a Nazi hunter. He thinks his other actually persecuted minority is only a few bad elections from being wiped out, and it must be noted that in the movies (I mean just the actual X-Men-named ones, I can't keep track of them all, there may be more, I think there might have been one in Logan?), there are at least three attempts (X2, First Class [which is what starts his actual supervillain career], Days of Future Past) by the U.S. or the U.S. and Soviet governments together to kill all the known mutants. These days, it's hard not to see the kernel of truth in his point of view on that subject, at least, even if the results tend to be disastrous.
posted by praemunire at 8:49 AM on September 3, 2019 [8 favorites]


(I should add that the X-Men franchise at least had the sense to cast equally charismatic and/or attractive actors for him and his opposite number--is a pop culture fan just going to dismiss Jean-Luc Picard's moral position, I think not.)
posted by praemunire at 8:51 AM on September 3, 2019


Can Joaquin Phoenix acting as hard as he can really save this premise?

the right performance can raise a movie, but it can't make one. That's my general conclusion after going to way too many movies back in the day that had the right cast.

sounds perfectly dismal so I've been a little surprised by the number of positive reviews.

I haven't seen The Joker so two things are possible. A. Of those who have seen it so far, most of them are idiots. B. It's actually a good (possibly great) movie that, regardless of its premise and its trailer, seems to do that thing that all good (possibly great) movies do. It engages the audience in such a way that they forget their preconceptions and go with it, get carried somewhere they weren't expecting, and so on. It sends them. There's magic at work.

Oddly, what comes to mind for me in this regard is the first time I saw Public Enemy (previously)

Toronto-June-1989. They were at the height of their notoriety then with Professor Griff about to quit in the wake of certain contentious comments that had recently been printed in the Washington Times. There were calls to cancel the show, concerns about racial violence etc. And indeed, the atmosphere was tense. About a thousand people jammed into a not very big room. Entering it was my first experience of going through a metal detector. The crowd was roughly 75 percent male and probably 50-50 black/non-black.

Anyway, back to the atmosphere in the room. Did I mention it was tense? I got shoved a few times, unprovoked. I just got in some guy's way. No big deal; nothing that didn't happen a lot in bars, except these guys didn't seem to be drunk, and they didn't share my skin tone. So there was that.

Anyway, long story short. When Public Enemy hit the stage, it was like a fucking thunderstorm. I think they opened with Party For Your Right To Fight. It was powerful, it was dramatic, it was astonishing. I found myself laughing at sheer unexpected beauty of it. All negative tension was gone. The next 90 minutes or so were pure kickass power, passion (other things that start with "p") and, to this day, it was one of four or five BEST SHOWS I've ever seen.

My point in all this. I doubt many of us in that room had entered without some kind of negative preconception of how things would go, fed by doomy media reports, rumors, our own biases. But the sheer artistry at hand quickly blew all those filters to shreds, carried us to some place we weren't expecting. We got sent. There was magic at work. That's what great art does, sometimes more furiously than others. That's what I'm guessing The Joker has going on. Unless all those people giving it a thumb's up really are idiots.
posted by philip-random at 9:02 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


If I had to guess, it's that most early viewers are the sort of people predisposed to like this sort of film, whereas even comics fans like me who are more likely to be critical are not attending critics' screenings, because they have better things to do with their time, such as watching paint dry.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


These days, it's hard not to see the kernel of truth in his point of view on that subject, at least, even if the results tend to be disastrous.

Sure, that's kinda the point though, Magneto has been read as sorta hero, sorta villain and his beliefs can be used to suit whatever attitude one wants to hold regarding anything of "sorta like" circumstance. That he's sometimes humanities biggest threat and a persecuted minority explicitly linked to the Holocaust also allows him to be used as both/either movie belief in super powerful Jews secretly able to control the world or along with the other X-Men a more general likeness to one's own sense of persecution, which as we know can be felt by even the most undeserving as exemplified by the Christian right's constant claims of such.

I mean when you really boil it down to the basics, what is it that draws people to movie spectacle but the desire to see a sizable portion of the world destroyed and anonymous people die as long as "the right people" survive and manage to save the day. Is it very surprising that some would want to take that pleasure beyond the screen?
posted by gusottertrout at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am totally happy to let Hollywood have its way with the Joker. You can tell the depth of a character when you look at the caliber of actors that want to play it. More than twice as many artists and writers have had a stab at the Joker in the world of comics, so clearly there is a lot to work with.

I've loved every TV and film incarnation of the Joker from Romero to Nicholson to Hamill to Ledger to Leto and so forth. While some were better than others, all were entertaining, and some were disturbing, in a good way. I am looking forward to Phoenix's portrayal of the Joker and will ignore any and all critics until I have seen it for myself. My guess is that Joaquin Phoenix, who isn't caked on with prosthetic make up to simulate the over-exaggerated smile or the scars a la Nicholson and Ledger, is focusing more on the descent into insanity (it is an origin story after all), and the simultaneous ascent into psychotic mania that defines the character. I hope he succeeds.
posted by prepmonkey at 9:18 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of these things is not like the other things. Instability from untreated mental illness =/= being an amoral psychopath.

Thanks for this. I don't know about Homeland, BP, or Jung* to comment further but I agree.

* I mention Jung because this quote was in the part of the essay about overcoming one's Jungian shadow self to use one's dark energy for good.
posted by yaymukund at 9:50 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]




both/either movie belief in super powerful Jews secretly able to control the world

Gotta tell you, I don't recall ever seeing this particular reading, and while I don't frequent alt-right circles of the present day on account of being a human being, certainly back in the days of rec.arts.comics.x-men that shit, if at all common, would've been represented.

Anyway, my point is that these movies/that meme don't represent "charismatic fascist vs. morally-muddled opposition," which is how you set it up as an inevitable lead-in to recruitment for fascism. Magneto is not a particular hero of the alt-right. I would assume anyone wearing a "Magneto was right" t-shirt would be far more likely to be a leftist than a fascist, though they might also just be being goofy. (The other version of that line I see usually refers to Killmonger, another individual unlikely to be whole-heartedly adopted by white supremacists.) I think it's a fair point to say that superhero movies often try to be all things to all people, so you can glean whatever moral you like from them, which leaves them particularly open to what one might call an ideologically-dominated reading, but if you object to any villain having any sympathetic qualities, well, I don't think that's a particularly useful moral or aesthetic approach. It's not inherent to the genre, though...these movies don't have to be Joker.

what is it that draws people to movie spectacle but the desire to see a sizable portion of the world destroyed and anonymous people die as long as "the right people" survive and manage to save the day.

Eh, some of us want to see hot people fall in love under stress. No deaths required.

(Note: there was a dude in a Steven Universe costume at the Boston "straight pride" parade.)

(P.S. This conversation is really ignoring Fast Color, too.)
posted by praemunire at 10:02 AM on September 3, 2019


(P.P.S. "Sorta like?" We have actual genocide going on right now, and I'm not even talking about the U.S.)
posted by praemunire at 10:04 AM on September 3, 2019


I'm taking up too much space, so I'm gonna drop back, but I just wanted to clarify that "sorta like" means I've heard analogies used for some real reaches for connection and that Magneto isn't a hero to some of the assholes I've read, instead used more as proof of what the movies are alleged to "believe" that rely on the same kinds of stretched analogies to the real world, not unlike I suppose the Kubrick faked moon landing stuff. But then again it is Bryan Singer who was in charge of that franchise for a while, so who knows what that asshole thinks.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:31 AM on September 3, 2019


gusottertrout If you haven't read Susan Sontag's essay Fascinating Fascism yet I highly recommend it.

One thing you can't escape after reading it is that the Fascist aesthetic is central of a lot of entertainment. Lord of the Rings is practically a textbook example, almost everything involving superheros is a reflection of the Fascist aesthetic.

This is not to say that either Tolkien or the various superhero writers are Fascists or advocate for Fascism. Merely that the aesthetic and plot of their work tends to follow the same lines that Fascism really refined and perfected in its entertainment. The basic themes predate Fascism as a political movement, you can see them in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

And it isn't really bad that we're enjoying those entertainments. But it also means its inevitable that those on the far right will pick up on the Fascist aesthetic and take the heroes in directions neither we, nor their creators, want because the heroes have that appeal to the far right baked right in to their core beings.

It's why even deliberate efforts to subvert it fail. Moore thought he could make Rorschach so obviously awful that no one would think he was the voice of reason or the good guy, but he couldn't because it's impossible.

When we get into villains, who need to be more interesting than the heroes in just about any entertainment, it becomes perversely even more impossible to keep the right wing types from embracing the villain as their ideal. I mean hell, even a writer as skillful as Nabokov couldn't keep people from thinking that his pedophile rapist murderer narrator of Lolita wasn't a romantic and tragic figure rather than the villain he was clearly written as.

Again, none of this is to say people should stop writing compelling and fascinating villains, nor that people who do are encouraging the fascist fuckers in any deliberate way. But the alt-right will, inevitably, latch onto the heroes and villains who fit the Fascist aesthetic, and it's a really damn good aesthetic.
posted by sotonohito at 1:09 PM on September 3, 2019 [8 favorites]


Are there really that many incels? Isn't it just a very tiny subset of people who shriek loudly and get rewarded with attention because they are middle-class white men?
posted by chaz at 1:40 PM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


There are very few people who self-identify as an "incel" but there are many more non-self-aware awful white dudes who share their characteristics. Kind of like GamerGaters and Sad Puppies and the like.
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


GALAXY CLUSTER BRAIN: All we want is Thelma and Louise, but with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy

Funny you should say that.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:09 AM on September 4, 2019




My point in all this. I doubt many of us in that room had entered without some kind of negative preconception of how things would go

The media and cultural gatekeepers reported that a black hip hop group would have a negative effect. It's not surprising that they were wrong.

The media and cultural gatekeepers are reporting that a Joker movie that appeals to frustrated, potentially-and-sometimes-not-just-potentially violent white men is a positive movie. It's not surprising that they will be wrong.

I might end up eating my words, but I feel comfortable making this prediction where I stand right now.
posted by AlSweigart at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2019


If this breathless redditor-with-a-thesaurus piece atop the Letterboxd reviews is any indication, the movie is definitely going to be adored by the kind of guy who, you know... would.
posted by churl at 12:25 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


You're saying that you don't use the word "efficacious" in your daily discourse?
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 AM on September 5, 2019


That review makes me want to go back in time, delete my previous comments, and just go with "this movie is gonna suck." I feel icky for having read it.
posted by Justinian at 10:14 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


this breathless redditor-with-a-thesaurus piece

years ago, I found myself editing a sort of movie biz blog (back when the term we used was still web log). One particularly frustrating contributor was a guy that wrote like that, who I eventually discovered was fifteen years old. I imagine he grew out of it.
posted by philip-random at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]




The character looks like the counterparts from The Master or Her part two. Joaquin Phoenix is just really skilled at portraying toxic masculinity. That said, until the movie actually comes out and we see it, we’re just reading tea leaves and critical reviews, all secondhand information. This thread might just as well trade Joker’s Trick tweets until then.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:24 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Do people usually claim in trailer posts that people's reactions to the trailer aren't worthwhile? This is a trailer post, it should be filled with reactions to the trailer. Nobody needs to wait until the movie drops to react to the trailer.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:06 AM on September 8, 2019 [4 favorites]


We're literally supposed to make decisions about films based on trailers but increasingly I feel like I am being told it is fine to come to positive conclusions about films from the trailer (it looks awesome! I'll go see it) and not negative ones (How can you say it looks sexist? You haven't seen it!)

That seems to benefit the studios and nobody else.
posted by maxsparber at 7:58 AM on September 8, 2019 [8 favorites]


Trailers and marketing material, by dint of being released already, are perfectly worthy of critique and discussion. But passing judgment on the specifics of a movie, instead of the pre-release ad campaign that frames it, before watching the film itself, seems premature.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:24 AM on September 8, 2019


Naw, it seems normal. People reacting to the trailer, and forming opinions about whether the movie looks good or not based on the trailer, is what happens in every single trailer post.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:06 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


But passing judgment on the specifics of a movie, instead of the pre-release ad campaign that frames it, before watching the film itself, seems premature.

I don't think so. I don't want to see the film because the trailer gives me strong indications it's going to center a character that I have no desire to see centered. I should not have to see the film to confirm this.
posted by maxsparber at 11:39 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that stance is bananas. “You can’t pass judgment on something until you’ve experienced it (even if you have several data points that suggest you’d hate it)” is only one tiny step less ludicrous the the old “you can’t criticize a movie/book/whatever unless you’ve personally made a better movie/book/whatever”.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2019 [7 favorites]


‘Joker’ Wins Venice Film Festival Golden Lion, Roman Polanski Gets Grand Jury Prize

I see Polanski has adapted another Robert Harris book, in this case a historical novel about the Dreyfus affair.
posted by thelonius at 11:52 AM on September 8, 2019


Haven’t there been cases where trailers and entire marketing campaigns ended up being very misleading about the actual movie, sometimes entirely misrepresenting the actual genre of the film itself?

Wanting or not wanting to see a movie based on the trailer is fine, but making judgments about its social value beforehand- again that’s either based on one’s impressions based on trailers/marketing, or what other people wrote about it.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:33 AM on September 9, 2019


I mean, it's clear that YOU don't want to come up with opinions about the movie beforehand. Nobody's going to force you to.

But making judgments about a movie before/without seeing a movie is totally fine for other people to do.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:21 AM on September 9, 2019


Because, like, The Joker is a well-established character in the USA. People understand that he's a sociopath or a psychopath or something close to one of those, and this is a story which focuses on him and his (judging from the trailer) pathetic reasons for becoming so angry and so psychotic. I find it really hard to fathom that there's even a sliver of a chance that this new Joker movie will actually be anything positive.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:26 AM on September 9, 2019


Haven’t there been cases where trailers and entire marketing campaigns ended up being very misleading about the actual movie, sometimes entirely misrepresenting the actual genre of the film itself?

Oh, come on - this is a rare occurrence, it's not like that happens three times a week, and edge cases make bad law. It's entirely rational to assume that the trailer and marketing of a film is more-or-less in line with the filmmakers' intentions.

but making judgments about its social value beforehand- again that’s either based on one’s impressions based on trailers/marketing, or what other people wrote about it.

And since that's a fairly rational assumption, it's then rational to make judgements about its social value based on your own first-hand viewing of the trailers and reading accounts from people who've written about it - some of whom have seen the entire movie, by this point.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:00 AM on September 9, 2019


I've seen trailers that I liked for movies that turned out to be total dogs (Prometheus) but seldom saw one that I hated and subsequently liked the movie itself. I think that it's pretty rare for a movie to be better than its trailer.
posted by octothorpe at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2019


People understand that he's a sociopath or a psychopath or something close to one of those, and this is a story which focuses on him and his (judging from the trailer) pathetic reasons for becoming so angry and so psychotic. I find it really hard to fathom that there's even a sliver of a chance that this new Joker movie will actually be anything positive.

No Film Festival bats 1000 with its winners, but a quick look at the Golden Lion shows a lot of genuinely excellent films. Which is the kind of thing that would suggest (to me anyway) that there is indeed a sliver of a chance that The Joker might be worth a couple of hours of my life. Which I would rate as a positive.
posted by philip-random at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2019


The thing is, a film like Joker might well be exquisitely acted and directed and still be awful from a political and social standpoint. Birth of a Nation was also highly regarded as a film in its day. Good movie != socially good movie.

If we have an excellent movie that enshrines murderous incel thinking it's still not going to be a movie I want to watch.
posted by sotonohito at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2019 [7 favorites]


Which is the kind of thing that would suggest (to me anyway) that there is indeed a sliver of a chance that The Joker might be worth a couple of hours of my life. Which I would rate as a positive.

Oh sure. If you want to see the movie, and you end up enjoying it, that's some sort of positive. I was speaking just for myself.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2019


'Joker' Is a Terrifyingly Realistic Window Into White Terrorism

We still seem determined to gloss over the fact that these villains aren’t born; they’re bred. And sometimes, they win. To stop that from happening, we need to know what we’re up against.
posted by philip-random at 11:37 AM on September 16, 2019


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