DC DECONSTRUCTED: News of a major restructuring of DC Comics by WarnerMedia last week set the comics world ablaze with speculation and worry. D. Bethel and Andrew try to parse the information and speculate on what it could mean not only for DC Comics but for comics in general.
LOWER THE SHIELD: Over seven seasons, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comes to a close. Our hosts’ appreciation for the show––especially this final season––has not been a secret. Now that is has ended, they finally––finally––talk about the final season and the show it brought to a close. SPOILERS ABOUND for the final season, especially the two-part finale.
THE INTERMINABLE CUT: Zack Snyder had already made it clear that his “Snyder Cut” of Justice League for HBO Max was going to be long, but recently made clear that it was going to be even longer than the 214 minutes he previously said it would be, meaning it will likely be close to four hours of film. Andrew and D. Bethel have some thoughts about long run times with nerdy and geeky movies.
A NEW BAT IN THE BELFRY: With Ruby Rose’s sudden departure as the lead in CW’s Batwoman after the conclusion of its first season, the studio had a lot of interesting choices to make. This week, it was announced that Javicia Leslie would be taking over as the lead––not as Kate Kane, but as a brand new, original character, Ryan Wilder. Andrew & D. Bethel discuss the casting, legacy characters, and how a show can survive––and thrive––even when their lead actor has been replaced.
“A Casualty of the Rhyme” (22 May 2020): Where D. Bethel and Andrew––along with friend of the show, Taylor Katcher––cover the news of Ruby Rose leaving her lead role in Batwoman after the first season.
THE DELONGATED MAN: Actor Hartley Sawyer has been fired from his role as Ralph Dibney––the civilian name for The Elongated Man––after racist and misogynist tweets he made years ago once again resurfaced. Andrew and D. Bethel discuss accountability in the world of social media and the permanence of internet publishing.
WotC RESHUFFLES:Magic: The Gathering publisher, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) announces it will be retiring old cards with clear racist imagery and implications from circulation.
#RELEASETHETAYLORCUT: With a bunch of DC Comics-related news dropping this week, we had to light the Taylor signal to bring in our resident DC expert and Senior Optimist Reporter, Taylor Katcher, to talk about the release of the infamous “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s Justice League on the forthcoming streaming service, HBO Max. Also discussed is the shocking news that Ruby Rose would be stepping down from the lead role on Batwoman after the first season (and had already been renewed for a second).
CRISIS ON INFINITE TAYLORS: With another, even bigger crossover of the DC/CW shows, we had to have friend-of-the-show and Senior Optimist Reporter, Taylor Katcher, come onto the show to talk with Andrew and D. Bethel about the glorious mess that was “Crisis on Infinite Earths” that saw Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman, Supergirl, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow fight to save the multiverse.
Katcher, Taylor and Taylor Cassell. “2019: Nerd Endings.” A Website [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes. 13 January 2020.
Where the Taylors wrote about watching all of the nerd stuff during 2019.
“Episode 152 – My Own Finger” (05 January 2018): Where D. Bethel and Andrew brought Taylor on to bring them up to speed on all things DC Comics with his first “State of the DCE-Union.” It is also Dan’s favorite custom show image that he ever made:
“Guestcast 03 – Muted Police Action” (07 December 2018): Where D. Bethel took the week off so Andrew and Taylor could talk about another DCCW crossover event, “Elseworlds.”
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew talks about becoming enraptured by the first episode of the new CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Picard while D. Bethel enjoys the poignant but strange end to a creative team’s long run on Batman with the DC Comics’ Black Label series, Batman: Last Knight on Earth by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
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).
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.