Canceling the Joker

Leftists and feminists fear the Joker. They claim the new Warner Bros. movie, Joker, will inspire mass shootings and “incel” violence. The Batman villain, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is seen as the ultimate angry white man. Critics shriek that no such character deserves fair representation—it’s just too dangerous for alienated white men to see a fellow alienated white man on the big screen.

The criticism against “Joker” shows campus insanity bleeding over into the rest of society. On college campuses, leftists try to shut down opposing viewpoints with ridiculous claims that these words and ideas “threaten their lives.” Similarly, leftists want to cancel “Joker” with dubious claims that the film threatens public safety—all because the film may paint a disenfranchised white guy in a sympathetic light.

Hollywood has a decades long tradition of making movies about disaffected white guys—”Taxi Driver,” “Falling Down,” “Fight Club,” etc.—all released without the eruption of mass violence. Plenty of other new films and TV shows depict graphic violence, but liberals don’t worry about their negative influence. Art, as leftists say they understand it, depicts life in all its glory and misery; a film about an alienated man who becomes a comic book super villain doesn’t seem like a threat to national security.

But leftists persist in this claim.

These arguments essentially amount to telling Hollywood it shouldn’t tell villains’ backstories or show them sympathetically. “I don’t want to watch a well-intentioned but unstable man get bullied until he turns into a mass murderer.” But that’s the story of the “Friday the 13th” horror franchise, which did not inspire any bullied young men to imitate Jason Voorhees.

Many films have told the backstories of unpleasant characters in a sympathetic light. Mob movies don’t show gangsters as one-dimensional thugs, they give them a human face. The 2003 film “Monster” thoughtfully portrayed a brutal female serial killer, but leftists did not claim it would inspire copycat killers. The new movie “Hustlers” celebrates strippers who drug and rob men. This is a serious crime that can result in the death of its victims, yet Hollywood sells it as female empowerment.

Somehow, “Joker”—a movie about a comic book character—is far more dangerous than “Hustlers”—a glorification of real-life criminals. Unlike the Jennifer Lopez vehicle, “Joker” doesn’t celebrate the villain’s crimes or turn him into a hero. It just explains why he became a villain.

If that is scary to leftists, then we had better cancel all films about gangsters, serial killers, and dictators. Some one may want to be Idi Amin after seeing “The Last King of Scotland!”

The critics don’t go this far, because they would make their point ridiculous. The truth is they just don’t want the Joker to be a disenfranchised white guy. If the villain was a woman or belonged to a racial minority, the film would be celebrated.

Writer Geraldine DeRuitter made this point in a viral tweet thread.

“Joker” isn’t viewed as bad because it’s violent and sympathizes with a villain—it’s called bad because it’s about a white guy.

There is also the strange obsession with incel violence. An incel is someone who is involuntarily celibate. Left-wing journos are frightened by these men and believe they are all terrorists. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker has a girlfriend, however, so he’s not an incel. But his anger at society is somehow too close to incel disenchantment for comfort and we now have incel terror hysteria.

The U.S. military warned troops about the supposed incel terror threat surrounding “Joker” and some police departments say they will maintain a theater presence during its opening week.

The makers of “Joker” are aware of the outrage and think it’s stupid. “I think it’s because outrage is a commodity,” director Todd Phillips said. “I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye opening for me.”

Joaquin Phoenix walked out of an interview after a reporter asked about its dangerous message.

“Joker” executive producer Michael Uslan offered a solid defense of the film. “Look at what I consider some of the most important films: What have they done? They’ve held up a mirror to our society, and there are times when people don’t want to see that reflection, they want to run from it,” he said last week. “They don’t want to acknowledge it because sometimes the reflection shows warts and all, whether it’s biases and prejudices or what’s happened to our society, reflecting the times.”

Leftists would rather have a film that confirms their biases and does not challenge any of their assumptions. Art is only supposed to convey the message they want. Alienated white men are too evil for sympathy and they must be demonized.

“Joker” will be a blockbuster and one can hope we can laugh off the hysteria when the incel violence never happens. But the backlash may prompt Hollywood to fear releasing another film like this. Only woke, “Captain Marvel”-like superhero movies will be tolerated. It’s just not safe to sympathize with a white male villain.

About Paul Bradford

Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.

Photo: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

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