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Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us

Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us

Friend of the show, André La Roche, shines a light on the controversy surrounding the release of Warner Bros.’ Joker.

The story surrounding Joker‘s release is often as problematic and disturbing as the movie itself. Image source: Warner Bros.

By now, it’s safe to say that the movie Joker is unlikely to incite self-professed incels to violence—a fear that’s been well documented 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?

The teaser trailer for Joker. Source: Warner Bros./YouTube

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.

Joker is a movie of juxtapositions applicable to any number of real-world scenarios. Image source: Warner Bros.

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.

Math That Works

Math That Works

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.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 21 – Love the Stank (30 Dec 2016): Where Andrew harvests his experience playing Stardew Valley.
  • Episode 126 – Not Choosable Parts (10 March 2017): Where D. Bethel discusses another challenging comic book movie, Logan.
  • Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado (11 Aug. 2017): Where Andrew and D. talk about Lazy Bear Games’ previous game, Punch Club.
  • 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).

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

We Are Mostly Ignorant

We Are Mostly Ignorant

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.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Threadnaught

Threadnaught

TWO MAN’S SKY: With No Man’s Sky Beyond––the newest big 2.0 patch for the open world, sci-fi survival game, No Man’s Sky––it kind of brings to a close the long, arduous, but ultimately heartwarming story of this unique game by the small team at Hello Games. Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the years-long journey of this game.

“I’M NOT LISTENING”: Amid the stories about the varoius #[Insert Noun]Gates and #MeToo stories circulating through nerd culture, one of the bigger cases in the last year revolved around voice actor, Vic Mignogna, known for work in many anime, especially the Dragon Ball franchise. When allegations were made about his misconduct in the workplace, he started suing people and companies when they started dropping him from their employ. In the last few weeks––in an almost comical fashion––a few of Mignogna’s cases were dismissed, casting his defense and seriousness about this fight in doubt despite crowdfunding nearly $250,000 to pay for his legal fees. Resident nerd lawyer, Andrew, talks Dan through this bizarre moment.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Mr. Shorts & Chains

Mr. Shorts & Chains

E3 2019: This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has been a strange one with big players absent and new hardware on the horizon, but it’s still bringing announcements and trailers to make our jaded hosts excited.

Games discussed: Cyberpunk 2077, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Fallout 76, Pokémon Sword/Shield, among others.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

E.A.A.: Everything’s An Acronym

E.A.A.: Everything’s An Acronym

MARVELLOUS DEBUT: A quick check-in with the toxic male comics fandom to start the show. A few weeks ago, Andrew and D. Bethel talked about how proponents for ComicsGate and their robot army were trying to tank Captain Marvel well before it released into theaters with negative scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The hosts just wanted to recognize that Marvel Studios’ newest movie debuted to record-breaking ticket sales, thoroughly debunking and neutering the latest efforts by those who try to gatekeep and, honestly, destroy comics fandom and its associated medium.

D. Bethel’s notes for this episode, as referenced in the Captain Marvel segment. Apologies for the harsh language.

A LOT OF GREY AREA: A new trailer for the live-action adaptation of the classic Disney animate feature, Aladdin, went live this week and while the first trailer made Andrew and D. cautiously optimistic, this new one got both of them fully on-board. They talk about adaptations again, specifically from medium to medium (like, in this case, animation to live-action) and why it’s a good thing for adapters (is that the word?) to break with tradition and say something unique even with a beloved property.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 74 – Texas the Rabbit: Where Andrew and D. Bethel talked about ComicsGate’s first attempt to show how comics should be made (and fail at doing so). Also, the RELEVANT EPISODES in the show notes have a comprehensive bibliography of other episodes where ComicsGate was discussed.
  • 21st Century Mouse (22 Feb. 2019): Where D. Bethel discussed the live-action adaptation of Battle Angel, focusing on the choices the filmmakers made to bring the story of the manga and anime to a live-action film.
  • Empty Justice (01 March 2019): Where the review bombing of Captain Marvel was previously discussed.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Boasts of Bethel: Getting to the Point“: Going into the wayback machine, D. Bethel wrote down his thoughts about adapting stories from one medium to another, using the relationship between A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones as a reference point (spoiler free).

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

01 March 2019 – Empty Justice

01 March 2019 – Empty Justice

Image Source: RottenTomatoes.com

HIGHER, FURTHER, FASTER (THAN THE TROLLS CAN FOLLOW): As with many nerdy movies lately that have been labeled as being damaging to the field, Marvel’s upcoming tent-pole film, Captain Marvel (the first from Marvel Studios to have a woman in the lead role), aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes have been targeted by these organized hate campaigns by getting “review bombed.” This means people have taken the steps to make sure sites like Rotten Tomatoes––a site many people visit to see how upcoming movies are trending and reviewing––show a low anticipation or review score with the hope of scaring off potential viewers and condemning the film to low box office receipts. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was victim to this as was 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot and, in possibly in a successful campaign, Solo: A Star Wars Story got hit hard. However, Captain Marvel is on track to break records with ticket presales and be a big smash at theaters.

Andrew and D. Bethel investigate this continuing trend, how Rotten Tomatoes is actually, finally, doing something about this habit, and discuss how and why Captain Marvel seems to be beating the odds.

AS MENTIONED:

  • A brief overview from Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics‘ episode about Milestone Comics:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

INFO:

  • Visit our website at forallintents.net and leave your thoughts as comments on the page for this episode.
  • Join our Facebook page
  • E-mail: Andrew – andrew@forallintents.net, D. Bethel – dbethel@forallintents.net
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
  • Subscribe to and review the show on the iTunes store.

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shortcast 74 – Texas the Rabbit

Shortcast 74 – Texas the Rabbit

POST-APOCALYPSE NOW: After D. Bethel talks a bit about the California fires (he’s safe albeit drenched in smoke from the Camp Fire––please donate money over supplies to help most during this time of containment and rebuilding), Andrew discusses his hour or so playing Fallout 76.

#IRONSHITES: Richard Meyer and the ComicsGate controversy has been covered many times before on the show, and the latest installment has Richard Meyer aka “Comics & Diversity” putting his money where his mouth is. His 120-page graphic novel, Iron Sights, (written by Meyer, art by Ibai Canales) has been released (it cost $20 for a copy of the book if you contributed to its Indiegogo campaign) was summarily criticized by Twitter user, Jafleece, in a spectacular and validating fashion. The 60+ thread starts here:

Andrew and D. discuss not only what they saw from the thread, but what this says about the claims Meyer and ComicsGate have been levying toward the industry for awhile now.

END BITS: Also, they spend some time at the end to discuss the death of Stan Lee, below is the clip that D. mentioned was his favorite Stan Lee cameo, from this year’s Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games.

And, for good measure, the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu tralier:

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 158 – Bluster and Impotence

Episode 158 – Bluster and Impotence

MEYERED IN CONTROVERSY: Richard Meyer and his “Diversity and Comics” YouTube Channel have been no stranger on this podcast with his leading the charge of the abhorrent ComicsGate dissention among comic book fandom. After gaining notoriety with his “Dark Roast” YouTube video (since deleted) that accused various popular industry creatives of committing sexual, devious, and illegal acts to get their way to the top, Mark Waid––among others––reached out to Antarctic Press to voice concerns with their decision to publish Meyer’s comic, JAWBREAKERS. After hearing those concerns, Antarctic Press terminated their contract with Meyer and went to the internet to spew bile in response. At the end of September, Meyer sued Waid for “tortious interference with contract” and “defamation.” D. Bethel and resident nerd lawyer, Andrew Asplund, dive back into this cesspool to navigate what exactly is going on throughout this new development.

NOTE: No comment made by Andrew during this episode constitutes legal advice or establishes client-lawyer relations.

TWILIGHT RETURNS: It was recently announced that the previously announced Jordan Peele-produced reboot of The Twilight Zone will actually star Mr. Peele himself as the host for the digital-only streaming service CBS All-Access. Andrew and D. talk about their excitement––and fears! (to make it spooky for Spookytober)––for the upcoming show.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Con Artists #02 – StocktonCon, pt. 2

Con Artists #02 – StocktonCon, pt. 2

With the first day of StocktonCon completed, Kyrun and D. Bethel begin the second day by getting in the car and driving down the 99 to Stockton. It’s early, they’re tired, they’re going wherever the conversation takes them.

While this morning conversation doesn’t touch on conventions or marketing strategies, they dive deep into a major aspect of comics culture: continuity. It’s at the heart of a lot of stories and in the hearts of a lot of fans, often to the point of taking despicable actions when a creative team makes changes that they don’t like.

They examine their own thoughts about the importance of continuity as well as why, it seems, so many people hold continuity with the highest possible value. Also, for some reason, the conversation dives deep into D. Bethel’s own biases when it comes to mainstream comics and how––and if––he overcame those biases.

OTHER EPISODES:

LINKS:

  • “Shortcast 45 – The Cure for Canon Shift”: An episode of A Podcast [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes where D. Bethel and Andrew Asplund have a long conversation about the necessity of (or problems caused by) continuity in fiction.
  • “Shortcast 68 – Swinging Gates”: An episode where D. Bethel and Andrew Asplund discuss “ComicsGate”, the vitriolic (and dangerous) reaction of some fans at attempts by the industry to include more diversity and modern sensibilities in mainstream comic books.

––––––––––––––––––

Special thanks to Kyrun Silva for agreeing to this experiment (and for driving us to and from the convention). Thanks to Ben Schwartz of Empire’s Comics Vault for hosting the table.

FEATURED GUEST:

-Kyrun Silva of Taurus Comics

FEATURED RECORDING EQUIPMENT:

-Tascam DR-40

FEATURED LOCAL COMIC SHOP:

Empire’s Comics Vault

FEATURED MORNING BEVERAGE:

-Hot Tea, Brand: Yorkshire Gold

FEATURED BAD X-COMIC ANNUALS CROSSOVER EVENT:

Shattershot

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Road Music” by D. Bethel