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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:

Tummy Drums

Tummy Drums

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.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Ghost Highway (23 August 2019): Where Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the great Sony-Marvel contract dissolution of 2019.
  • 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.

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Reliable Virtual Helmets

Reliable Virtual Helmets

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.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Ghost Highway

Ghost Highway

ANDREW IS OLDER: We start by celebrating Andrew’s birthday a little bit. So, what did he do? He watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan again and also went to see Weird Al Yankovic in concert during his “Strings Attached” tour where Yankovic and his band toured with a 41-piece orchestra.

FARTHER FROM HOME: The news this week was kind of bad for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans as Sony and Disney apparently stepped away from the deal that brought them together in the first place. What this means (as it currently stands) is that future Spider-Man films can’t interact with the MCU or Avengers-based films. Andrew and D. Bethel talk about what’s going on here and what are the ups and downs of this news story.

RELATED LINKS:

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Reverent Irreverence

Reverent Irreverence

WEEK IN GEEK: With all that’s been going on in the nerd world, our hosts take some time out for themselves this week. For Andrew, he attended the theatrical premiere of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine documentary, What We Left Behind. D. Bethel stayed home to explore the digital recreation of classical Egypt while playing Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Origins.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Here’s the nightmare chocobo camel Dan witnessed. You have been warned:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Captaining America

Captaining America

ENDGAME POSTGAME: SPOILER WARNING Andrew and D. Bethel have both seen Avengers: Endgame and, conveniently, the Russo brothers lifted the spoiler ban on Monday; so, our hosts dive right into soup of scenes, moments, narrative threads, and surprises that make up this landmark movie.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 54 – Cameo Train (11 May 2018): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss Avengers: Infinity War in startling detail.
  • Avengers Pregame (26 Apr. 2019): Wherein D. Bethel and Andrew discuss the hype and expectation leading up to Avengers: Endgame.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Image: Marvel (From Spidey Super Stories #39, art by Win Mortimer and Mike Esposito)

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FEATURED MUSIC:

Tickle It

Tickle It

THE NAME OF THE GAME: The first trailer for the upcoming live-action cinematic adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog has––as can be expected––drawn a lot of conversation and criticism…including on your favorite nerdy-geeky podcast. Andrew and D. Bethel have a lot to say about the trailer and, in a larger scope, movie adaptations of video games and what works and what doesn’t. But first, the trailer:

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Ben Schwartz’s––Sonic’s voice actor––bizarre interview with Larry King:

  • D. Bethel’s Free Comic Book Day video:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Crutch Talk

Crutch Talk

A MARVEL OF A MOVIE: Albeit a few weeks late, both Andrew and D. Bethel have finally seen Marvel Studios’ newest entry into their cinematic universe with Captain Marvel, and they have a lot to say about it. This conversation does discuss SPOILERS for the film, so be wary of listening if you have not yet seen the film.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

22 February 2019 – 21st Century Mouse

22 February 2019 – 21st Century Mouse

Image sources: Warner Bros. (left) / 20th Century Fox (right)

WEEK IN GEEK: Both Andrew and D. went to see new movies over the last few weeks, so they can enter the incredibly potent world of hot takes as Andrew discusses how The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part delivers on the promise of the first one and D. tries to figure out what he thinks of Alita: Battle Angel and if he can separate nostalgia and snobbery from cinematic compromise.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Bethel, D. “News Blast: Alita – Battle Angel.” A Website [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes. 8 Dec. 2019. Where D. Bethel discusses reaction to the trailer.
  • Bethel, D. “The Year — 2018: Comics.” Long John. 28 Dec. 2018.
    D. Bethel summarizes his experiences reading through the entirety of the original Battle Angel manga by Yukito Kishiro (and published by Kodansha Comics).
  • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri, animated by Madhouse Entertainment) features Colin Macleod as the main character:

Source: Manga Entertainment/Madhouse/Imagi Animation Studios

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/