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‘Joker’: What to Read About the Divisive New Film


‘What’s the Panic Over “Joker” Really About?’ [The New York Times Magazine]

Dan Brooks writes that the panic about “Joker” is really a panic about moral ambiguity: “Legitimate movies are about complicated protagonists who combine good and bad qualities; superhero movies are about two guys, one good and one evil. By combining them into a single guy, won’t this movie cause dummies to think the Joker is good? To ask the question is to argue that nuance is dangerous. By fretting over Arthur Fleck’s sympathetic qualities, progressive-minded critics are demanding the same sort of bright line between good and evil that makes comic-book movies so boring.”

‘Variety Critics Debate “Joker”’ [Variety]

Two critics — Peter Debruge and Owen Gleiberman — debate the nuances on both sides of the argument. Debruge is rankled by “Joker” “because it takes a fictive pop-culture icon and reinvents him as a cruelly misunderstood incel underdog.” (He does concede it would be a “big mistake to banish toxic white men from the movies,” though.) Gleiberman counters that critics are treating a movie “as if it were a two-hour advertisement for the toxic white male,” “a violation of the New Woke Rules,” adding: “But they’re trying to wish away something that can’t be wished away.”

‘The Joker Is Simply a Clown Who Loves Crime’ [The Outline]

Alex Nichols, after debunking a popular misconception about the 2012 Aurora shooter James Holmes (“he was not outwardly Jokerlike and did not tell police that he was the Joker after the shooting”), questions the repeated refrain that “violent media breeds violent behavior.” “It’s odd to hear this refrain from liberals, given that Donald Trump and the N.R.A. routinely blame video games and violent movies for mass shootings in order to steer the debate away from gun control,” Nichols writes. “But this idea has been a mainstay of both parties for decades.”

‘“Joker” — A Political Parable for Our Times’ [CNN]

“This isn’t the first time Phillips’ and Trump’s worlds have collided,” Jeff Yang notes. “Imagine Fleck as Trump,” he suggests. “Phillips may not have intended for his film to be a political parable — or maybe he did — but it’s hard to imagine a darker ending for our real-world horror-comedy than that.”

“Commentary: How “Joker” Mirrors Our Fascination With Monsters, Now in the Trump Years” [Chicago Tribune]

Christopher Borreli connects Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker to “S.N.L.” sketches and likens the film to a sketch “written the morning after the 2016 presidential election, when journalism seemed intent on understanding why so many Americans turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.” This, he writes, is why the Joker is all motives: “mental illness, bad jobs, alienation, misunderstandings, nihilism, devious co-workers, social-service cutbacks.” The Joker is what happens “when our social contract is shattered and no one — not politicians, not the rich (who are targeted in film) — are held accountable to anyone anymore.”


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