The initial reports on Todd Phillips’ “Joker” film proved universally positive, glowing even. Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s archnemesis? A supervillain movie sans the usual CGI mayhem? A comic book film with legitimate Oscar buzz?
Bring it on. The superhero genre needs an enema, to paraphrase one of Jack Nicholson’s barbs from 1989’s “Batman.”
The early “Joker” reviews were mostly fawning, with critics confirming the film’s Oscar potential.
Then a shift took place across the media landscape. What if this “Joker” inspired real-world violence? Reporters and critics alike singled out the main character’s loner status, how society bludgeoned him until he felt the urge to even the score on his bloody terms and even his skin color.
Spoiler Alert: The Joker is white beneath the greasepaint.
In short, he’s an “incel” ready to fight fire with fire. For the uninitiated, incel refers to men who are involuntarily celibate and, as a result, prone to anger. It seemed odd that a bold spin on an iconic character would inspire a backlash weeks before people actually saw the film – “Joker” releases nationwide October 4.
Said backlash is here, no doubt.
Time’s far-left critic shared this hot take on the film: “It’s not as if we don’t know how this pathology works: In America, there’s a mass shooting or attempted act of violence by a guy like Arthur practically every other week.”
Valiant Comics editor Heather Antos supported a tweet slamming “Joker” as, you guessed it, “problematic.” Among the reasons cited? “I don’t want to be around any of the lonely white boys who can relate to it.”
The uber-woke Refinery29 site served up this condemnation of the film: “Did we really need a brutal movie about a white terrorist figure who uses gun violence to enact revenge on the society that rejects him? And did we need it now?”
This tweet from a PhD student may have captured the overall mood: “In a time of increasing violence perpetrated by disaffected white men, is it really the best thing to keep making movies that portray disaffected white men doing violence as sympathetic?”
The modern progressive likes nothing better than singling out white males for attack, often despite sharing that very skin color. And “Joker,” apparently, indulges that craving.
A reporter baffled Phoenix recently by asking his thoughts on the film for provoking real-world violence. The actor left the room for a spell, unable or unsure how to respond.
Director Todd Phillips of “Hangover” fame steered aside similar queries as gently as he could. Warner Bros. the studio behind “Joker,” offered up a speedy statement on the matter:
Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.
Those attempting to pin real-world violence on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet are strangely silent as Hollywood’s gun glorification continues unabated. No one raised an eyebrow as Keanu Reeves killed hundreds of people, including some for comic effect, in three blood-soaked “John Wick” films.
Critics loved “Ready or Not,” a recent film celebrating a new bride killing her enemy in-laws in the coolest ways possible.
Where’s the outrage?
There’s no political hay to be made from it. Reeves comes from a variety of ethnic heritages, including Chinese and Hawaiian on his father’s side. That makes it tougher to blame “white men” for his cinematic killing spree. “Ready or Not” features an empowered female heroine, so that’s something to be applauded.
Those films play up their grindhouse roots, a possible defense for the lack of clutched pearls. Other grittier and more fact-based violent films have likewise been spared left-wing critics’ “concern.”
Heck, the media is enthralled with “Hustlers,” based on the true story of strippers who drug and steal from their clients. No one died from their hustle, but the film cheers their attack on Wall Street dude bros as if two wrongs finally made a right.
Again, not a speck of hand-wringing from the same outlets hanging “Joker” out to dry.
The anti-“Joker” movement got a legitimate boost this week, one sure to make the current critics double or triple in volume.
Here’s part of a message sent by the U.S. Military to its members:
Posts on social media have made reference to involuntary celibate (“incel”) extremists replicating the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at screenings of the Joker movie at nationwide theaters. This presents a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members, though there are no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October.
This could be connected to a few online yokels beating their cyber-chests, but in our delicate age being prepared is never a bad decision.
Some families impacted by the 2012 Colorado theater shooting that left 12 people dead also condemned the film as potentially inciting violence, though they haven’t screened the film yet. They demanded Warner Bros. contribute to a variety of gun control-related causes.
A bigger question remains unanswered.
If an on-screen “Joker” can prompt actual violence, couldn’t other violent movies serve up the same? The answer is consistently, reflexively “no” according to the media.
That subject once vexed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, purveyor of some of the most violent movies in modern history. The Oscar-winning producer suggested a “violent movie summit” several years go, where the industry’s biggest names would gather and explore what impact, if any, movie violence has on the culture.
That summit never happened, and at the moment it’s the least of Weinstein’s woes.
Still, reporters dismiss any connection between films glorifying guns and off-screen carnage.
The leap to brand “Joker” problematic comes with a super-sized asterisk. Its cultural critics have other targets in sight, especially the scourge of “white males.” That’s a hallmark of the modern Left, something that didn’t escape Phillips’ observations. The “Joker” director noted the direction of the recent attacks during a revealing chat with TheWrap.com.
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while.” The director added, “What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me.”
If we need to have a debate about the impact of a killer clown movie, shouldn’t we at least explore the possibility that other Hollywood products could inspire something equally cruel?
A more honest debate would have fewer strings attached.