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Joker hit theatres with a bang, and folks have found a variety of ways to be upset with the film that was predetermined to be controversial from its inception.
The film was a prime target for outrage from several fronts of the culture war. If one were to put on their social-justice-tinted glasses, the optics of a middle-aged white man (Joaquin Phoenix) with nothing to lose is one that stokes incel flames, and could even embolden white men to become violent.
All of that is nonsense, of course, considering that movies about white dudes losing their cool have been released for decades— à la Michael Douglas in Falling Down—without incident. But this film’s controversies go beyond those of race or inceldom.
The film is chock-full of imagery and soaked in theatrics and drama. Since Heath Ledger’s legendary portrayal of the mad man in Christopher Nolan’s 2012 thriller The Dark Knight, the role has become somewhat of a test for actors and their abilities. Just ask Jared Leto, who failed miserably in the 2015 film Suicide Squad.
One of those dramatic scenes is of Phoenix triumphantly dancing down a Gotham public staircase, moving his frail body sporadically and passionately. This is the first time we really see Phoenix in the full Joker get-up, and it’s meant to be a moment of liberation for the character.
Bring in the controversies
In the theatric trailers, this scene is always shown with an original rendition of Jimmy Durante’s song, “Smile.” In the movie, this song is swapped out for convicted pedophile Gary Glitter’s hit song, “Rock and Roll Part 2.” (For those that aren’t familiar, it’s the one that goes ‘dun-dun-dun duuun, dun. Hey!’ a bunch of times)
And the public was not particularly thrilled with the idea of Glitter making serious dough off of the song.
According to experts contacted by The Sun, the song’s two-minute-long appearance will earn Glitter—who is a convicted pedophile—”hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
The two minutes will ensure that Glitter gets a lump sum, along with royalties, paid out to him based on how the film does in cinemas, plus soundtrack and DVD + Blue Ray sales. Which, considering Joker was greeted with a titanic $235 million opening weekend, would earn Glitter the prettiest of pennies.
The Dark Knight controversy
That massive figure was directly in spite of media smear pieces attempting to scare would-be theatregoers out of seeing the movie. This was probably partially due to the rumour that the Dark Knight Rises shooter was inspired by the Joker.
This paired with the NYPD’s announcement that they would be increasing police presence in theatres across the city, going so far as to have undercover officers watch the movie in theatres.
The media was foaming at the mouth for some lunatic to be inspired by the film, with continual coverage about how *hint hint* there might be a tragedy *nudge nudge* and people should be worried!
Unsure of just how hungry woke media was for a tragedy? Well, take a look at how outlets like Business Insider propped up an incident where an attendee applauded during a murder scene, causing people to “flee.”
The “white-male-rage” angle
Woke outlets try to have us believe that we live in a society that we couldn’t handle a film wherein a white guy snaps. Just take a look at how outlets like NBC, The Guardian, and especially CNN, with one opinion piece, reading that “While many reviewers have focused on [Arthur] Fleck as an ‘incel’ hero—his status as a sexless loner who turns to violence—the true nature of the movie’s appeal is actually broader: It’s an insidious validation of the white-male resentment that helped bring President Donald Trump to power.”
Woke media was certainly setting themselves up for a win-win situation. If there was a shooting, they’d serve us with a firm “I told you so!” And if there wasn’t a shooting, the media could pat themselves on the back and say that they deserved the credit for spreading awareness, and ensuring that the audience stayed vigilant.
Controversy from social justice mobs
The film also came under some light fire due to director Todd Phillip’s comments regarding “woke culture,” stating that it was the outrage mobs that rule online discourse which skewed him from working on comedic projects like his Hangover movie series. Funnily enough, the film he created and the controversy that surrounded it proved his point.
The web also went slightly abuzz when Phoenix appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to give an interview. Kimmel apparently “blindsides” Phoenix by showing uncut footage of himself having a minor meltdown on camera.
Phoenix looks physically uncomfortable, apologizing and addressing the audience. But it was all a hoax. Of course, it was!
For those who have followed Phoenix for more time than just his time in the Joker limelight, we’ve seen a similar gag pulled, nearly a decade ago.
During his appearance on David Letterman, Joaquin pulled his I’m Still Here stunt, in which he appeared on the show like someone who had completely gone off the rails on a crazy train. The stunt, which gathered an equal amount of media attention, was later revealed to be a bit for his new mockumentary.
With all of this considered, Joker is a culturally relevant film that has ruffled more feathers than anyone could have seen coming, and that isn’t a bad thing.
Often times society needs a litmus test to see where we stand culturally. It’s pretty clear that this test’s results have come back horribly negative.