This isn’t a review, it’s an opinion on the movie. For the review of the movie, head over here.
There is no inherent problem with Joker. In fact, the movie’s pretty great. It’s quite possibly the first competent film made by DC since Wonder Woman.
The problem is the type of people who may choose to see themselves in this film. The problem is how the movie has, inherent of the character’s original subject material, chosen to depict him as something other than evil.
Now, a villain that walks the line between evil and ambiguity is often a very interesting and, sometimes, inspiring take. There is much from the likes of Magneto and Black Adam that can be looked at and considered as villains who are subjects of ambiguity. There are even those like Doctor Octopus and even Two-Face who are subjects of tragedy.
Then there is the Joker.
It’s important to understand, that almost every iteration of the character, much like other characters adapted from any kind of literature, is independent unto themselves. Meaning, this Joker paints not a path to the Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson versions. It is definitely not a prequel to the version in the comics, regardless of how inspired it may be. It is an independent take on an iconic character of fiction.
Feel free to blame Alan Moore for his insistence on turning the Joker into a sexual abuser–or, possibly, a rapist. Blame DC for not having taken the effort to erase the overrated tragedy immortalised as “The Killing Joke.” But it’s unfortunate that as long as we’re dealing with this character, those are very real issues we’d have to look out for.
(Literally, the only good thing about The Killing Joke is how writers far more talented and less sadistic than Alan Moore repaired things with the creation of Oracle.)
I mean, it’s bad enough we’ve got people who think that Harley and Joker are “relationship goals.” I honestly don’t know which is worse, wanting to be like Harley and Joker, or using terms like “relationship goals.”
Remember the 2008 version of the “Thanos was right” meme?
Much like the imbeciles who made the Thanos meme, having clearly missed the point of the damn movie, an army of plebs circulated these Joker ones about 11 years ago (sadly, they haven’t stopped).
It’s these people that movies like Joker need to be wary of. The “geeks” and “nerds” who claim to be fans of moralistic superhero content but are triggered when a black girl replaces the outdated white guy trope. The self-proclaimed rejects of society who feel like the world owes them something. It’s dangerous, because Joker paints a narrative that validates standing up and striking back.
The difference is, the people who relate to the desire, rarely ever suffer the kind of injustice Arthur Fleck does in the movie.
He is literally beaten up, abused, humiliated, and suffers at the hands of parental figures. His actions are, ultimately, justified. Somewhat. The movie makes even Alfred and Thomas Wayne seem kinda aloof and dick-ish, because it’s what works for the narrative.
This is not something that your average comic fan should be allowed to relate to. Your average comic book geek who spews vitriol against Kathleen Kennedy on message boards while wondering why he can’t get a date, isn’t actually living Arthur Fleck’s life.
I reiterate: Joker’s a good movie. I enjoyed it, and will probably even watch it one more time just to appreciate it without having to assess it. I’m not super-thrilled with how mental illnesses are portrayed, but there’s some effort to make it clear that it isn’t an illness that makes him a villain.
But I think it needs to be one of a kind. Make movies about villains if you must—there are many that deserve their own feature. But either ensure that they are painted clearly as the monsters they are, or ensure that any ambiguity isn’t justifiable for the incels in the cinema.
We live in an age where people think a primarily dark and broody Superman is a good idea. Short of clearly not understanding the point of the character, creatives need to be aware of the “I wanna be dark and edgy because no one spoke to me in school” mentality that plenty of us geeks possess.
Batman is dark because his heroism comes from a place of love and loss, not because he’s a 14 year old edgelord who thinks that the gym’ll lend him a better personality. And Superman is a beacon because his heroism lies in his ability to do so, not just ‘cause he suffers from anything.
But that doesn’t mean Superman doesn’t suffer from a darkness. He is an immortal who will come to outlive all that he loves. But his power lies in his ability to not go sit in a corner and brood.
Unfortunately, some in today’s audience either refuse to, or just aren’t capable of inferring stories with themes stacked within a narrative.
And Joker, might be just what they want. It’s a pity.