There has been an enormous amount of excitement on the internet since the recent reveal of the trailer for Warner Brothers’s newest superhero film Joker.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, You Were Never Really Here), directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, War Dogs) and produced by legendary director Martin Scorsese is going to be a superhero homage to classic Scorsese films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The movie is being celebrated by fans of DC Comics as an untraditional and experimental take on the superhero genre.

This sentiment hasn’t been shared by several progressive moral busybodies on the internet. Multiple websites including The Daily Dot and The Independent are criticizing the film out of the gate.

In an Independent piece called “If Joker is just another celebration of a toxic egotistical male justifying his bad behavior, I’m not here for it”, the author states:

“As a character, the Joker has acquired a bit of a fan following over the years. His popularity has been bolstered by the performances of Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto – and soon Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the title role in Joker. And while I’m sure DC’s forthcoming film will find its audience, it’s hard not to notice that dedicating an entire standalone film to the Joker (and possibly a couple of sequels if it does well enough) contributes to romanticising one of the most toxic archetypes of pop culture.”

The author continues, bemoaning the romanticization of edgy, disenfranchised young men who exhibit “toxic” behaviors who find the Joker a relatable character.

“But I worry – not to the point that it’s keeping me up at night, but still – that some toxic guy will watch this film and think: “See? There’s nothing wrong with me. There is beauty in my chaos. I am the chaos. I am the beauty. The ends justify the means.”

Over at The Daily Dot, in a piece titled: ‘Joker’ is catnip for Batman’s toxic masculinity fandom, the author castigates Batman fandom as a toxic fanbase that fetishizes emotional detachment and grittiness.

“Joker may well turn out to be great, but it still reiterates a tired old idea of which stories qualify as serious, mature and sophisticated. As I put it on Twitter, you don’t see Warner Bros. making a nostalgic Lois Lane movie in the style of Nora Ephron. Better to stay in the comfort zone of gritty dramas exploring the damaged psyches of lonely white men, the most overdone genre in Hollywood.”

A lot of this backhanded interest seems to be a result of the recent antipathy towards white men in the aftermath of the horrific Christchurch shooting. Progressive websites have been riding “white men” as having collective guilt for the deadly attack and similar attacks like the Synagogue shooting last year and the Charlottesville riots. Slate ran a piece shortly after the attack blaming “All White Australians” as culpable for the shooting. Whether implicit or not on the part of the authors, there is certainly some unconscious bias floating around the offices of these publications.

That said, there isn’t a guarantee that Joker will be the movie that fans are looking for. Todd Phillips is a popular(ish) director with many fans, but his movies have a number of critics who dislike their meanspirited nature and ugly characters. As we saw recently with the release of the widely despised serial killer movie The Snowman, being produced by Scorsese isn’t a mark of quality. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Joker will be a bad or morally reprehensible movie.

The idea that the Joker will in some way feed the same toxic nonsense the created horrific incidents at Charlottesville and Christchurch is ridiculous. Films like this and The Dark Knight are fundamentally about exploring themes of societal hypocrisy, determinism, meaning, and violence. They’re a symptom of problems, not the cause of them.

In any case, we won’t know what Joker is really about or how it explores its themes until the film drops in October.


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