Now that the dust has settled and Joker has been in theaters for a couple of weeks, I decided to actually go to watch it this afternoon to see what the hubbub was without the usual crowds of weekend-evening theaters. The film had a great premise, and all the media attention it got, in particular from the rogues gallery of the mainstream, piqued my interest.
The movie begins with a depressed, highly medicated Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who, in spite of not being funny, is a part-time clown. Unsurprisingly due to that lack of humor, he is low-paid and lives with his mother, who depends on him for her survival. After being abused and neglected in various ways by pretty much everybody in his personal life ranging from his mother, to his employer and coworkers, to the social workers who manage his case, he begins to crack at the seams and, predictably, lash out. In this sense, the film is built on a classic revenge plot, with the added panache of him being kuh-ray-zee. While overall it is a decent movie, I don’t think that this will be something that lasts the test of time. It was fun and entertaining, and it has some very solid moments, but it will not be remembered in five to ten years.
More interesting than the film itself, however, is the way the powers that be, including both the government and the media, reacted to it. As we approached and passed the release of Joker, there was a miasma of anti-white, anti-male sentiment that used this film as a launchpad for the kind of concern trolling and hand-wringing typical of the left wing. Arthur Fleck explicitly states that he is not motivated by politics, yet just as his henchmen onlookers ascribe politics to his behaviors in the film, his detractors in real life do the same with both the portrayal of the character and the filmmakers.
The New York Times stated that the most interesting thing about Joker is what it “accidentally says about whiteness.” In spite of Joker displaying no racial animus on Arthur Fleck’s part, the Times states that this film depicts the consequences of “leaving white supremacy unchecked.” This raises questions like: what white supremacy? Arthur Fleck was a race-mixing loner dweeb, not a white supremacist. Not to mention, it’s more than a little bit questionable if the New York Times is even qualified to discuss white supremacy as a real issue considering its ongoing love affair with Sarah Jeong, the “journalist” noteworthy primarily for her anti-white screeds on Twitter. The rest of the article segues into rambling about how privileged Arthur Fleck is for his whiteness, when his actual situation on-screen is just the opposite.
Vox ponders openly if art that has “toxic” fans should even exist at all, casting this as one of the toughest questions about art. It isn’t. This posture draws attention to the source’s not-so-subtle authoritarian tendencies. It betrays the implicit message that certain people simply should never be heard out, that their “art” is invalid because of who they are, and that an undesirable can taint “art” by approving of and admiring it. In their attempt to dismiss those “toxic” fans of Joker who may shoot up a movie theater, Vox inadvertently demonstrates the points raised by those “toxic” members of society that they are unfairly dismissed and disparaged.
CNN somehow manages to make its anti-white male message even more virulent than the New York Times. It explicitly brings up white maleness six times to attack them. Interlaced within this attack on white men who have been abandoned are, of course, attacks on Donald Trump, the blog site’s arch enemy. When CNN attempts to tie Trumpism to Joker, the decent (albeit very strange) man turned villain through abuse and neglect, and consistently heaps antagony on both Trump and his support base, they invite the kind of overstated retaliation it is denouncing.
But as though the media hysteria was not enough, there was also government hysteria. Apparently, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin on “incel” violence over this movie. It is unusual for the government to effectively post op-eds about their favorite supervillain movies, but it’s even stranger for the military to do so as well. Yet in spite of how strange it is, it also makes sense: Arthur Fleck may appear pathetic and useless, but almost anybody can be extremely dangerous when they decide to simply stop giving a fuck. And there are a lot of young men in America who have a reason to stop giving a fuck. Millions, literally.
So really, what is the takeaway from all of this? It shouldn’t be that the Joker is an evil psycho, which he is, no matter how much this film tries to make him seem sympathetic. That much is obvious. In fact, this psychopathic evil is his core character. The message of the movie is that one can be driven to extreme acts of evil, but again, that is a shallow (yet correct) interpretation of a relatively shallow film; it isn’t the thing that sticks out. Another thing that is no surprise is that the mainstream left wing media finds downtrodden white men disgusting, contemptible, valueless, powerless, and (paradoxically) privileged. The only truly newsworthy detail here is that that not only does the FBI, DHS, and Pentagon agree with them, but that they’re all (media, government, military) shaking in their boots that a white man, any white man, might decide that enough is enough and act accordingly. They’re actively fretting about what the last straw will be: “will it be Joker?”