From John Ray's shorter notes
September 04, 2019
Why 'Joker' Is Being Called A 'Toxic Rallying Cry For Incels'
People seem to be universally condemning this film. They also recognize however that there is a reality behind it. There ARE incels (males unable to form heterosexual relationships) and they are often very angry. It seems a pity the film has not become a stimulus for thinking about the incel phenomenon.
And it is not hard to see why the incel phenomenon has arisen so strongly in recent times. There have always been socially incompetent males who become relationship failures just by reason of how they are made, but now that males and maleness are regularly denigrated by the dominant feminist culture, many more males than before have been cast adrift.
Strong, confident males will always do well. They can scoff at at feminist idiocies and form healthy bonds with women. But less assertive men will not be able to defy the abnormal expectations built up by feminist doctrine and will be forced into relationship failure. Only a small minority of incels go on a killing spree but feminism bears much of the blame when they do. The contempt that feminists have for normal maleness engenders contempt for the feminist values dominating society at large and a shooting spree is one way of expressing that.
Once upon a time incels suffered in silence, resigned to being life-long "bachelors" but the damage done by feminism has not only increased the number of incels but generated among them feelings of being unjustly treated -- and that is a time bomb waiting to go off
See also here
The Joker has been interpreted multiple times over the last 50+ years. First with Cesar Romero’s goofy portrayal in the initial Batman and Robin film, then Jack Nicholson’s more charmingly witty take in the 1989 Tim Burton film, and of course, the infamously cunning and maniacal depiction courtesy of the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Todd Phillips is the first director to take the character and devote an entire film to his origin story in Joker and if the early reviews are to be believed, comic book films ‘will never be the same again’.
The film, having premiered at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend, has already inspired millions (probably billions) of words to be written about it. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, the film tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a clown for hire and aspiring stand-up comedian who still lives with his ailing mother and resents the fact that the world won’t pay him as much attention as he believes he deserves. Sound familiar?
The critics are divided on the topic of Phoenix’s performance, with some lauding him for a ‘career best’ turn and others claiming that he actually acts too hard in order to be able to take the film as seriously as it wants to be taken.
But while they disagree about the quality of his performance, what they are almost unanimous in is their assertion that the film is confused in figuring out whether it’s satire or propaganda of white men who, feeling rejected by the world, turn to violence and hatred as the answer to those problems. According to the early reviews, the film walks a thin line that could be potentially harmful if received in the wrong way. It doesn’t seem to handle the themes with the necessary caution it needs in order to avoid glorifying incels and their sometimes violent behaviour.
David Ehrlich of IndieWire called the film “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels,” and believes that it “lacks the discipline or nuance to responsibly handle such hazardous material” in a world of Reddit trolls and maniacal Marvel fans.
Likewise, Jessica Kiang for Playlist wrote that it’s “a film so disturbing it feels almost dangerous: whatever about its hard-R rating, they should maybe think about background checks and a mandatory three-day waiting period at theatres.”
Continuing, she writes, “Joker, based on recognisable IP, and now given the seal of critical and possible awards-consideration approval too, is so aesthetically impressive, effective, and persuasive of its own reality that you see clearly how easily it could be (mis)interpreted and co-opted by the very 4Chan/Incel/”mentally ill loner” element it purports to darkly satirise.”
Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson opened his own review by noting society’s current obsession with dissecting and finding causation for the motivations of “disaffected white men who’ve turned violent”.
“Whether that violence is born of mental illness, isolation, the culminated rage of masculine identity, or all those bound together in some hideous knot, we seem certain that there is some salvable cause,” he writes, going on to explain that he himself couldn’t stop thinking about this obsession while watching Joker because of the parallels between those ‘disaffected white men’ and Arthur.
Likewise, in a damning review for TIME, Stephanie Zacharek writes that the film is a ‘prime example’ of the ‘emptiness of our culture’. “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,” she said. “He could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels.”
With Oscar buzz already thrumming for Phoenix, this will no doubt only be the beginning of the discussion around the film and what it says about incels, masculinity, mental health and violence.
UPDATE: "Joker" had a wildly successful opening weekend, grossing $60 million..
Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs