Two police officers stood tensely near a movie theatre tucked away near a food court at the Palms in Las Vegas, where I risked being the victim of an “incel mass shooting” by watching what was described as the most dangerous film of the year. I sat down in my reclining chair for this moment. Joker.
Set in late 70’s / early 80’s New York, the scenes are grimey. Trash bags frame many of the early scenes. One gets a look at life pre-broken windows policing. The music is dark and draws out your emotions.
Joker is Arthur Fleck’s origin story, and Fleck’s relationship with his mother foreshadowed a film more Norman Bates than Patrick Bateman.
Fleck’s relationship with his mother was a central theme of the film that most critics have missed. The trope tossed out is that of loser men living at home in mom’s basement. How many of those men were manipulated as young boys into fawning over a dramatic and needy and sufficating mom?
Did Fleck live at home because he was a loser, or because his mom was? That’s a question one dare not ask in today’s society, and the meme was hidden from view until a psychologically devastating scene in Arkham later in the film.
While watching Joker I expected some critics to see a racial angle although the film wasn’t racial. Richard Brody of the New Yorker gave us the predictable hot take, noting Fleck’s encounter with many black characters. Brody sees race where others who don’t live with Brody’s all-white neighbors see class. Of course Fleck, the abused son of a mentally ill single mother, would live around other poor people in New York. Check the demographics as to who the working poor are.
Brody also sees race in the subway scene, although his understanding of violent crime is inverted. For all the annoyances Wall Street bros are guilty of, they aren’t playing the knockout game. The subway scene was counter-factual absurdity.
What Brody and others in his class don’t see, perhaps because it’s hard to see your own privilege, was Joker’s post-racial critique of capitalism.
Fleck, the poor white man, was told by the black social worker woman, “They don’t give a shit about people like you,” before recognizing that they don’t give a shit about people like her, either.
Stefan Molyneux didn’t enjoy Joker, which he called “agony, murder and horror with no redemption. The nihilism of a world without God or good.”
Molyneux and I have different aesthetic preferences. He prefers the shiny and optimistic. (My wife sent me a text with his Tweet, as Molyneux put into words her own sentiments after watching Joker.)
What Molyneux rejected in Joker is what made the film compelling. Joker wasn’t a film about beauty or hope or redemption. Joker was a film about the beginnings of a broken man.
“God is dead, long live the Joker?”
Arthur finds meaning and his character arc is complete as he transforms fully into Joker.
Joker is driven by its score, and as Fleck walks down the stairs, the music changes. He is full and complete in and of himself.
One may not approve of what he’s become, and one’s approval is irrelevant. Joker isn’t Sunday Service or a motivational speech.
Joker is despair. Charles Bukowski grabs a gun.
P.S. If you enjoyed this review of Joker, watch my own film, Hoaxed.
Matt Case says
Damn. Nailed it on the head.
Class warfare doesn’t make sense to folk because it’s complex. Racism is simple and so it sells as a good solution. But it’s not exactly the whole story. I guess I see it the same way you do because I grew up a poor white kid in a mixed-race neighborhood. Racism in neighborhoods like that is a 2 way street – got your butt kicked for being white and playing ball in the wrong court or dating the wrong girl. Buts it’s different there, it’s complex, it’s tribal, it’s survival. Not this crap they peddle to the masses.
Joaquin Phoenix is SEXY as FREAK!, a Vegan, talented … beyond and always does GOOD PROJECTS! A must see!
FYI ever watch Earthlings ? JP narrates this amazing documentary. Recommend. U can watch it online if u have the guts
Some Guy says
Better than Tim Pool or like u said Stefan but ur still only hitting on the surface as far as the societal commentary – I agree not about race or really that political but the unintended consequences or perhaps intended of the SJW or however u want to define it agenda – young white males becoming disillusioned
Arthur Gilmore says
Agree, higher quality than Pool’s analysis- maybe I will see the Joker
In the killing fields of all of God’s eyes in the main.
“Brody sees race where others who don’t live with Brody’s all-white neighbors see class.”
I’ve never been able to articulate this, thanks for putting it into words. Nobody my age talks about class anymore.
I loved it. I think in time it will have almost the kind of cultural footprint fightclub did. But that is conditional on it not getting too much critical acclaim.
We’ve already seen outlets like the guardian flip flopping on whether they like the movie or not because of the director of hangover fame and the Joker’s comments about how he moved away from comedy to get past woke culture.
One thing people don’t get about the movie is that i think it will stir the heart of people from both the left and the right.
Tim pool tried to make an antifa analogy to the jokers fans in the movie but i see it more of a occupy wallstreet moment.
And i can see in its roots the feeling of a person or persons being failed. being failed by society, by their community leaders, by business oligarchs, by the state
it really tapped in deep into that feeling, and Todd was right when he called it a heist movie. [He remarked as a pitch to joaquin “We’re gonna take $55 million from Warner Bros. and do whatever the hell we want.”]
It reminded me a little of the movie ‘Parasite’ which is a korean one about a poor family that con a rich one. There’s a moment in that where the father of the rich family they’re trying to exploit remarks about how the poor have a “smell” to them. The smell being the result poor and substandard housing they have.
but that sort of anger the viewer and poor family’s father has at seeing the disgust of the rich is what this movie invokes too.
if you’re poor or have ever been poor you feel for those people.
Hollywood sometimes does good movies still. but they seep out
All Joker is, is a redux of Taxi Driver for the comic book, pajama boy generation. But where Taxi Driver was singular like “Falling Down” of the 80’s early 90’s, Joker incorporates the social network aspect of this infantile modern era. Each reflects the age we’re living in.
But the Joker movie takes place in 1981….there were no social networks. None even hinted at in the movie.
Denise Stout says
I had no disire to see this film although as an actor and acting teacher, there is merit in his performance for young actors to go into a character. Phoenix is a master study of acting.
You made me rethink my idea of this film…..it looks so dark and I try to stay in the light.
Teaching acting to Chicago inner city kids, they tell me about thier lives and we act them out in monoluges and short acting scenes that I write from thier experiences. I am learning more than they ever will.
Are you on strike?
Proud Wine Aunt says
This “article” is distilled toxic masculinity. I’m asking Google to remove this misogynistic crap from the Internet. Hate speech is not free speech!
Fun Sassy Wine Aunt says
Bukowski was an anti-Semite who admired Hitler and was investigated by the FBI in the 1940s for being a Nazi sympathizer.
Is this truly the person you incels want to be associated with? If the shoe fits…
Mike Cernovich says
Bukowski was Jewish, and here’s what he said in his books
“I avoided any direct reference to Jews and Blacks, who had never given me any trouble. All my trouble had come from white gentiles.”