The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘The Patron Saint of Incels’

Posted on | October 5, 2019 | 1 Comment

 

The new Warner Brothers/DC film Joker is having an impressive opening weekend at the box office, and there’s talk of an Oscar for Joaquin Phoenix, but critics generally hate the movie for its portrayal of Batman’s nemesis as a misunderstood victim of society. Personally, I am troubled by the subject matter and theme of the film. One thing I recognized long ago is that disturbed personalities have a tendency to cheer for the monster in horror movies. To such people, Freddie Krueger is a hero and role model. So doing the “backstory” on a villain like the Joker, humanizing him and showing him to be a product of an unhappy background, is inherently dangerous. Bad people with a chip on their shoulders are apt to identify with such a figure, and thus to see the Joker’s crimes as revenge on an unjust society.

Nevertheless, I am amused by the angry tone of Joker‘s critics, particularly such feminists as Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek:

Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck — he’ll later become one of Batman’s nemeses, the Joker, in case you didn’t already know that — is an odd, lonely guy who lives at home with the mother (played by a wan Frances Conroy) he love-hates.
Arthur works for a sad rent-a-clown joint, and nothing ever goes right. . . .
He gets angrier and more isolated by the minute. No one is ever kind to Arthur; he’s the world’s saddest punching bag. . . .
As you can probably guess, all of Arthur’s travails are leading up to a series of “See what you made me do?” brutalities, most of which happen while he’s dressed up in his clown suit. Violence makes him feel more in control, less pathetic. Killing — usually with a gun, but scissors or a good old-fashioned suffocation will do just fine — empowers him.
But 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. And yet we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for Arthur, the troubled lamb; he just hasn’t had enough love. Before long, he becomes a vigilante folk hero — his first signature act is to kill a trio of annoying Wall Street spuds while riding the subway, which inspires the masses to don clown masks and march enthusiastically around the city with “Kill the Rich!” placards. . . .
Meanwhile, the movie lionizes and glamorizes Arthur even as it shakes its head, faux-sorrowfully, over his violent behavior. There’s an aimless subplot involving a neighbor in Arthur’s apartment building, played by Zazie Beetz . . . Arthur has a crush on her, and though he does her no harm, there’s still something creepily entitled about his attentiveness to her. He could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels.
Arthur is a mess, but we’re also supposed to think he’s kind of great — a misunderstood savant. . . . Arthur inspires chaos and anarchy, but the movie makes it look like he’s starting a revolution, where the rich are taken down, the poor get everything they need and deserve, and the sad guys who can’t get a date become killer heroes.

So, a hero your typical Bernie Sanders supporter can admire? The message of the movie is clear, critic Ian Sandwell says:

[Director Todd] Phillips has spoken about how it’s “good” that movies like this could lead to discussions about violence, but it would have been nice for Joker to explore it more. It has one point to make, and makes it in slightly different ways throughout: the rich are terrible and society needs to do more to help people like Arthur.
That’s not to say that Joker turns Arthur into an anti-hero, at least not for the audience. It’s clear throughout that he’s a psychopath and is not someone to be celebrated.

This theme — “the rich are terrible” — has been overdone by Hollywood, where people get rich making movies that demonize the wealthy. And is it true that “society needs to do more to help people like Arthur”? Well, if locking them up in the looney bin is “helping,” yeah, I guess so.

Crazy People Are Dangerous.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!



 

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