On Friday at high noon, I saw a matinee of the feverishly hyped film Joker at a megaplex in rural Georgia on the first day of its official release. As we handed our tickets to the small, doughy, middle-aged female theater worker, she demanded to inspect my girlfriend’s purse.
She found no weapons, and I have no idea whether or not this disappointed her.
I don’t go to the movies much—Joker marks only the third time I’ve been in a movie theater since the turn of the millennium—but this was definitely the first time I’ve been treated by ticket-checkers as a potential mass shooter.
As I said, I’m not really the guy to ask about such matters, but I’m under the impression that most Hollywood action movies feature, on average, about a thousand people being slain by bullets and maybe another hundred by incendiary devices, right? What makes this movie such a potential powder keg?
I’m not the Amazing Kreskin, but as far as I can discern, all the terror hype is based on movie critics’ prematurely ejaculatory declamations that Joker would be a love letter to lonely and socially dispossessed young white males who feel, without a hint of evidence, that society is defaming them merely for being white and is mocking them for the fact that they can’t get laid because every cute girl in town ran off with the black football team.
Much of the pre-release hysteria focused on the fact that Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Arthur Fleck/Joker in the film, is white. But most of it zeroed in on the film that Arthur is also an “incel”—which is a portmanteau of “involuntary celibate” and is pronounced “IN-sell.”
Last year in Toronto, a 25-year-old male from Toronto plowed through unsuspecting citizens on a mile-long stretch of sidewalk, killing ten. Minutes before his rampage, he posted on Facebook that “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!”
A few months later, Warner Brothers and director Todd Phillips began hyping Joker’s imminent release. Almost immediately, the howling macaws of uber-wokeness issued baleful warnings that the film would be all the excuse that sexually frustrated and incurably racist white men would need to justify further shooting rampages.
The film premiered at only a handful of festivals this past summer, so it’s impossible to discern how many of the critics who were issuing baleful warnings about how the Alt-Right ideological coup masquerading as a film called Joker would spark one—or possibly (hopefully?)—many mass shootings by the unfuckable, unemployable, unloved, but yet still somehow unjustifiably bitter white males whose toxic ideology and very existence the film supposedly glorifies had actually seen the movie before predicting it would lead to mass murder.
Joker was released on Friday, October 4, 2019. All of these warnings about a violent white male incel uprising were written prior to that date:
…the aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy of Joker is his (director Phillips) alone to answer for….[Arthur Fleck] could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels.
—Stephanie Zacharek, TIME
As Hannah Arendt saw banality in the supposed evil of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, I see in Joker an attempt to elevate nerdy revenge to the plane of myth.
—David Edelstein, Vulture
Joker is the antihero the alienated and angry have been waiting for, and that’s precisely the problem….I do yawn at the idea of another story in which white men are offered a sort of understanding for their violence.
—Sarah Hagi, Globe and Mail
[Joker] shows the toxic white male in all his ugliness ….After Joaquin Phoenix gets mugged in Joker and a co-worker lends him a weapon to protect himself, I thought about the times last month when a white man used a gun in a mass shooting: 22 killed in El Paso, Texas and nine in Dayton, Ohio. Yes, Phoenix’s Joker in the latest film by Todd Phillips is a villain we’ve seen before—not as the nihilist clown to an archetypical Batman, but as the angry white man obsessed with validation.
—Noel Ransome, VICE.com
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?
—Kathleen Newman-Bremang, Refinery29
Again, I have no clue whether any of these scrubs saw a movie called Joker or not, but it DEFINITELY was not the same film I saw.
For starters, Joker is set in 1981—a time when there was no shortage of social alienation and mass shootings, but when concepts such as “angry white males” and “white male terrorism” simply didn’t exist. It owes a tremendous debt to the Scorsese films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, lifting so many themes from the latter that I wonder whether Scorsese is getting royalties. To compound the irony, in this go-round, the late-night talk-show host who gets stalked by the failed standup comic is played by the guy who played the failed standup comic in the last go-round.
So to claim that Arthur Fleck’s murderous rage is compelled by a society which has abandoned white supremacy and where white misfits can no longer claim the right to rape and lynch with impunity is a red herring—this was wayyyyy back in 1981, a magical time when most white people didn’t have a problem with being white and most of the media and academia weren’t constantly flailing at whiteness and trying to stab it dead.
If anything, the film is firmly leftist in its sympathies, and if some depraved loner decides to shoot up a theater either because he misinterpreted the film’s message to suit his own psychosis—or, what is perhaps more likely, because he felt encouraged that all the hype would wind up enabling him to bask in publicity just like King of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin and Joker’s Arthur Fleck—it’s more plausible that the shooter would be some disillusioned young communist than a white identitarian.
Arthur Fleck and his mentally ill mother live in extreme poverty. So does everyone around them, almost all of whom are nonwhite. The film toys with the idea that Arthur is the illegitimate child of billionaire Thomas Wayne. When Arthur finally snaps and starts killing people, it’s a subway shooting of three Wall Street jocks who bully him for being a freak. As Arthur—whom the public only knows as a killer in a clown mask—becomes a folk hero, it inspires an Occupy Wall Street/Antifa style violent street uprising of anti-capitalist rioters in clown masks.
Maybe I was napping, but not once throughout the film do I remember it being made a point that Arthur is white. But over and over again it’s emphasized that he’s a victim of the strong, the sane, and the wealthy. Even the fact that he’s an incel plays less of an integral role in his character than those depicted by Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. It’s clear that Arthur finally snaps after a society which has attempted to beat the life out of a mentally ill man forces him to start beating back. At bottom, it’s a social-justice morality tale.
So why did so many critics, sight unseen or not, feel the need to declare that the film glorified white-male violence?
Because the whole “white male terrorism” threat is, like Tucker Carlson said, a hoax. And because the establishment media is a serious threat to white males.
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