If you want to criticize a movie for openly encouraging criminal behavior, forget Joker and take a look at Jennifer Lopez’s Hustlers.
As a free speech extremist, I find all this hand-wringing over movies more than just a little fascist. While watching Hustlers, I knew what it was doing. There’s no question the movie sides with the strippers who drug and rob all those terrible white, Wall Street guys. Worse still, the movie is based on a true story and even in real life the criminals got off with a slap on the wrist.
But if you read my review, I don’t mention any of that because … So what?
Movies that side with criminals are as old as movies.
Over 80 years ago, a studio called Warner Bros. entered the big leagues with countless gangster stories starring James Cagney, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Muni, and the Dead End Kids as sympathetic criminals.
What’s more, Hustlers wasn’t even the first movie this summer to filter sympathy for criminality through a feminist lens. There was also The Kitchen.
But because everything is stupid in the Age of Trump, you have a bunch of “film writers” who know nothing about pre-1999 film, pretending director Todd Phillips’ smash-hit Joker is something new and terribly dangerous — as though Petrified Forest (1936), White Heat (1949), Clockwork Orange (1971), Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), Natural Born Killers (1994), Casino (1995), and Fight Club (1999), haven’t already mined the idea of siding with crazed, nihilistic psychos.
Taxi Driver ends with our psycho becoming a hero.
Clockwork Orange ends with us sympathizing totally with a spree killer and rapist.
Joker doesn’t even go that far. Something everyone is missing, especially these elite, know-nothing critics, is that fact that Joker is really a horror movie, and one no different than Psycho (1960) or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). And like those classics, Joker deliberately asks us to sympathize with its sad sack protagonist before ripping the rug out from under us by revealing just how monstrous our “hero” really is.
That is not an immoral approach to a movie. Rather, what could be more moral than shaming the audience for daring to empathize with such a person?
So not only is this neo-Moral Majority Tipper Gorey moral panic over Joker wrong on the facts, the hypocrisy is breathtaking.
If you want to get all worked up over a hit movie that actually does side with criminals and criminality, that actually does present the victims as having it coming, there is no question Hustlers applauds and endorses “women of color” poisoning rich, white men with drugs before maxing out their credit cards and expense accounts.
There is also no question The Kitchen sides with vicious mobsters who steal, murder, and muscle innocent people for protection money because the mobsters have vaginas.
Even so, condemning Hustlers as “problematic” is just as wrongheaded as attacking Joker, just as silly, shallow, and censorious.
If you want to intelligently judge a movie, you have to look at what the movie is really about, what it’s moral is. Hustlers is not about how cool it is to drug and rob white guys. What it’s really about is how greed, betrayal, and drugs unravel everything — and that is a moral story to tell.
Clockwork Orange is not about how cool it is to kill and rape. What it’s really about is defending human free will — and that is a moral story to tell.
Joker isn’t about how a white man filled with repressed rage can change the world with a gun. What it’s really (here’s my review) about are the terrible consequences of a government that controls everything (from garbage pick up to your health care), a growing lack of empathy in our culture, the sick allure of celebrity, and how mindless Americans will follow anyone, even a psychopath, if it allows them to blame their own shortcomings on someone else — and that is a moral story to tell.
This moron at CNN who declared Joker “an insidious validation of the white-male resentment that helped bring President Donald Trump to power” might win the award for the most shallow hot take ever.
You have to ask yourself how simple a man has to be when that’s his only takeaway from a movie where a psychopath kills an innocent mother and child (off screen), kills the man who makes his dream of being on TV come true; where a small child helplessly watches his parents, even his poor mother, gunned down by Joker’s Antifa-style minions — this is not even a mugging gone sideways, it’s a cold-blooded hate crime and murder.
Here’s an interesting exercise: Go back and read the CNN moron’s piece, or any of these other moronic anti-Joker hot takes, and replace “white guys” with “women of color,” replace “Joker” with “Hustlers.” If you do that, these whiners and scolds almost make sense. They’re still puddle deep and moronic, but at least there’s some ground available to stand on.