THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE MANDALORIAN:A brief check-in to the release of Disney+ this week as Andrew reacts to the first episode of their original, Star Wars show, The Mandalorian. He is surprised more at how much it pulls from Westerns than Star Wars.
A LONG TIME AGO, WE USED TO BE FRIENDS:Veronica Mars was always a show that hovered just below wide popularity, but its fans were devoted and supportive. From the original three seasons that aired on UPN/the CW to its Kickstarted movie, to Hulu’s revival with a fourth season, Andrew and D. Bethel did a rewatch of the show and have some thoughts on what it has been, what it is now, and what it could be in the future.
NEW TV NOT ON TV: Some interesting tv has not only been announced but is starting to get reviewed, but what makes it interesting is that a lot of this tv is not on “regular” tv. With services like Disney+ and Apple TV+ bringing some high profile shows to the scene, other services and broadcast tv is also starting to step up their offerings as well.
THE LAST FIRST:Fallout 76 continues to accidentally grab headlines or, at least, grabs headlines it doesn’t want. After a year of toiling in player complaints, bugs, and marketing schemes gone awry, the game seemed to have found a balance for those still enjoying the experience. Then Bethesda announced (and released) “Fallout First”, a premium subscription for players that would get them a whole host of goodies. In true Fallout 76 fashion, it didn’t take long for this to fall apart in big, bad ways.
Friend of the show, André La Roche, shines a light on the controversy surrounding the release of Warner Bros.’ Joker.
By now, it’s safe to say that the movie Joker is unlikely to incite self-professed incels to violence—a fear that’s beenwelldocumented across the internet. What interests me is the question of why, when so little was known of the movie, was the fear amongst certain individuals so strong and so palpable? And now that the movie has been in theatres for three weeks, and the threat of violence diminished, what value can its skeptics find upon viewing it?
It’s always difficult to enter a discussion on a topic when emotions have run high, hot, and intense. The emotions themselves that people felt leading up to Joker’s release—fear, anger, revulsion—are all obviously real and experienced, especially in light of the potential for politicized real world violence such as the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. There is no arguing with the fact that those emotions were validly felt. However, there is plenty to gain in evaluating why we had those emotional reactions to this particular movie in the first place.
I remember first seeing this narrative of “Joker as inciting violence” when the first trailer dropped. Scenes of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sitting heavy with defeat in therapy or walking around the squalid streets of Gotham City. This contrasts with his voice-over telling the therapist how his mother thought that his purpose was to bring laughter and joy to the world. Fleck is presented as a man relentlessly abused by society and takes it with a quiet restraint: a victim. A wordless montage set to the crooning vocals of Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” depicts him dancing with his mother, on a date with a young woman, at Arkham State Hospital (or Arkham Asylum for the cool comics readers in the back of the room) before the chaos escalates. “I used to think my life was a tragedy,” he informs the viewer, as the montage cuts between scenes of his own personal deterioration and adoption of the Joker persona, and Gotham City’s wider descent into lawlessness. “But now I realize it’s a comedy,” he concludes, as he strides confidently down a white hallway, fully clad in clown face paint, green hair, and a purple suit, exuding a confidence that we can assume is only gained by fighting back.
The legal act of inciting violence essentially requires a specific call to violent action against specific targets in a specific manner…something that a movie about a fictional character living in an early 1980s fictional city is unlikely to do.
One of my friends wondered via Facebook posting, “Is this the right time for a movie about a loner white male out to get revenge on society?” From there, I only began to see more and more individuals pose the same or similar questions. All from just a trailer and description of a movie.
There were fears about a repeat of the Aurora, Colorado shooting conducted by an individual who was (erroneously) reported as having dressed as the Joker. But there were no concrete threats. At least not until after the narrative had gained traction and taken root in the public consciousness. But for the majority of time leading up to the film’s release. . . nothing. Much ado about that.
“Well,” some might say, “This film could have incited violence.” But again––“could”, devoid of any actionable evidence or credible threats seems like a large leap to make. Moreover, the legal act of inciting violence essentially requires a specific call to violent action against specific targets in a specific manner—such as saying, “I implore my listeners to find local attorney Joe Smith as he’s on his way from home and kick the living tar out of him.” This is something that a movie about a fictional character living in an early 1980s fictional city is unlikely to do.
The film’s focus was untethered to any single ideology, but rather promised an ur-mythology regarding a fall from grace of a favored son set against the backdrop of revolution. A paradise lost, if you will.
So, in the absence of evidence of a credible threat, or of incitement, why so much fear about a movie that was yet to be seen? Why so much fear about the mere artistic treatment of notions of alienation, loneliness, and violent reprisal? I’m honestly unable to provide an answer to that, because I didn’t count myself among those concerned about the film’s influence on society. For one, I simply didn’t see anything in the trailer that inclined me to think this movie was going to have a message that resonated with incel culture. Instead, its focus on personal deterioration, and a vague implication of social upheaval were untethered to any single ideology, but (as is the nature of comic books) rather promised an ur-mythology regarding a fall from grace of a favored son set against the backdrop of revolution. A paradise lost, if you will. These themes can be found in any and all political or religious doctrines. In short, I saw this film as promising to deliver tantalizingly dark cinema. By the time it arrived in theaters, I was not disappointed.
So why the initial outrage? Instead of trying to answer the question, I’ll turn it back on those who were the most concerned about Joker’s impact. Why did the mere idea of this movie unsettle you so much? What was it about the vague descriptions and trailers of its themes and contents that caused this movie to register as politicized agitprop that would inspire alt-right and incel mass shooters as opposed to just being about a violent and nihilistic madman?
And dare I make the suggestion that the best, most honest
way to answer the above question for yourself is by sitting down and just
watching the movie. Now that Joker’s out, you know you won’t merely be consuming
political propaganda that you disagree with. Observe how it depicts its
fictional reality and characters, observing within yourself the moods that
those depictions stir, and how they impact your worldview? And then maybe, just
maybe, after walking away from the movie fully informed, reflect upon why you
reacted as you originally did. Perhaps the answers and insights that you derive
will surprise you.
Otherwise, if the reaction that was directed at Joker is indicative of what future “dangerous movies” can expect, it’d be enough to make an individual wonder whether it was just them, or if it was getting crazier out there.
WEEK IN GEEK: Taking a break from the news, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the things that have been interesting to them over the last week or so. First, Andrew goes back to finish Unknown Worlds Entertainment’s Subnautica. Then D. Bethel finds much to appreciate––and much to make him uncomfortable––in the recent film, Joker. Then, to round things out, Andrew also gets underwhelmed but intrigued by the possibility found in Lazy Bear Games’ Graveyard Keeper.
It’s Always A Game (08 Feb. 2019): Where Andrew first talked about his time with Subnautica.
Tummy Drums (04 Oct. 2019): Where D. Bethel mentions “grotesque” art when discussing Warhammer 40,000 (the show notes also include a link to the Wikipedia explanation of “grotesque” in art and literature).
TO ME, MY LITIGATORS: Eyebrows raised recently when a Florida man sued Marvel, Fox, Saban Entertainment, and many other production companies saying that the generation-defining theme song of the ’90s X-Men animated show actually plagiarized a strikingly similar theme of a popular Hungarian tv show from the 1980s. Nerd Law man, Andrew, and X-Men fanatic, D. Bethel, put their heads together to see if this case has any legs to stand on. (A big thanks to friend-of-the-show, André La Roche for his consultation on this topic.)
DISNEY PEMDAS: Last week, Disney made waves as it began an irresponsibly long Twitter thread announcing every title that would be available on its upcoming Disney+ service. D. Bethel and Andrew sort through the announcement, talking about how much this will shift the paradigm of entertainment consumption.
A BLIZZARD OF CONTROVERSY: Activision Blizzard––makers of such hit games as World of Warcraft, Overwatch,and Hearthstone––have hit a geo-political wall as they take a stance over controversial statements made by the winner of a Hearthstone tournament about the protests in Hong Kong against the People’s Republic of China. Andrew and D. Bethel investigate the complicated relationship between popular American entertainment and China.
NOT FAR FROM HOME: It was announced that Sony and Disney/Marvel had once again struck a deal that will keep Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much to the joy of fans and to the benefit of both companies’ bank accounts. Having discussed the initial breakup back when it happened in August, Andrew and D. Bethel have a surprisingly heated discussion of this generally happy news.
THE STRANGEST HANDSHAKE: British tabletop company, Games Workshop, announced that it will be licensing one of its beloved properties––Warhammer 40,000––to American comic book giant, Marvel Comics, to make a line of comic books. This is interesting because both of Games Workshop’s original Warhammer line and especially its Warhammer 40,000 line have deep lore and continuities that has our hosts wondering how well it will translate to a comic book series.
New Dangers (20 September 2019): Where, briefly, D. Bethel and Andrew display their light wrestling knowledge in the light of AEW’s strange storyline built around a jock heel wrestler insults his opponent for liking Dungeons & Dragons.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the trippy but artistic and engaging new Amazon Prime show, Undone starring Rosa Salazar, while D. Bethel––amidst all of his academic toil––finds time to be challenged and charmed by the actual roguelike deckbuilding phone game, Meteorfall: Journey by SlothWerks.
Shortcast 56 – Accidental Artistry (25 May 2018): Where D. Bethel and Andrew talk about reboots in the context of the reveal of Thundercats Roar announced by Cartoon Network.
A Veritable Odyssey (12 July 2019): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the teaser trailer for the upcoming––and seemingly very different––live-action adaptation of another animated film from the ’90s, Mulan.