On The Joker

I’ve resisted doing A Take on this one because for all people wanna pretend this is a deep movie, it’s a comic book movie by the guy who doesn’t do Hangover movies anymore because the kids are too sensitive or whatever. It rehashes a trope I have seen a bazillion times before: dude is failed by the system and so driven to violence.

Real quickly, why I don’t love it: mentally ill people are far more often the recipients of violence, not aggressors. You wouldn’t have much of a movie if it just stops with Mr. The Joker getting beaten up and just, I don’t know, doing that until he dies, but that’s the actual story.

It ends up serving a few functions:

1) Violence done by someone who “snapped” is never appropriate or proportional. It portrays any possible act of resistance as illegitimate — like, oh, what a tragedy we, a society have made this mad dog (which we must now put down, of course).

2) It can retroactively justify that initial violence against the mentally ill dude in the movie because his retaliation is so out of proportion. I mean, if mentally ill people snap and cause a lot of suffering, of course people hate them!

3) It lets people who are violent and have reasons they feel are legitimate (also called having a motive) to decide that their violence and is a sign of their oppression. The entitlement to commit violence is the sure sign of the oppressor. Not the oppressed.

I understand that making a figure like The Joker (or whoever) more clearly in the right would make the film less complicated on the surface. But like, who is challenged by this? At all? Seriously, aside from pointing to the systemic roots of this guy being abused, who is challenged by the dark fantasy that the oppressed will go nuts and become villains who must be put down? It is the least fucking subversive thing on the planet to speculate “maybe the minorities… will retaliate!!!! :o”

I’m just not that interested in seeing what perfectly sane and comfortable men find aesthetically pleasing about mentally ill people. It’s been done a thousand times and I’m bored.

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