Art, when it’s done well, can serve the same useful function as comedy: it can force society to address its absurdities head on, with prejudice and without apology. Arguably (and admittedly I haven’t seen it yet) that’s the goal of the new Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular character. At least that’s what the trailer would have one believe, as the viewer is given the backstory of — and maybe asked to empathize with — one of the most evil villains in the comic book universe.
This kind of film comes at a good time, as the nation continues to wrestle with its disaffected young white men who find themselves so overwhelmed by God only knows what that they take up guns and randomly kill innocents while in the throes of their psychotic fugues.
Perhaps in a film like this we can collectively see a little of the societal ills that fail to stop a Joker — or, God forbid, help create him — and reflect and be moved to act a little more kindly to our fellow man once we leave the theater. That’s often the real benefit of cinema and where it acts as a force for good in the world.
Arguably, of course, it can act in the opposite direction and that’s apparently what one young lady says is why she already has a problem with the new Joker film (it’s unclear if she’s actually seen it). Because she has no patience for the story of these disaffected men and how they become what they become (otherwise known as an “origin story.”)
She’s sick of the joker.
Why the Joker movie is problematic. Rachel Miller nails it. pic.twitter.com/vTHlVOBHCY
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 5, 2019
She isn’t sure there’s ever a good time for cinema to explore what makes men (and women) behave the way they do. She’s certainly entitled to her preference.
But exploring the human condition is literally why cinema — and pretty much every other form of high art — exists.
It would seem this young lady just doesn’t want to know what’s bad in the world. But that’s the fools’ paradise of an entitled mind.
No, she, like the character of the Joker and all the disaffected young men she likens to the character, must take the world as it is — ethereally beautiful at times and brutally dark at others — and make decisions about how they want to live, just like the rest of us.
The irony, of course, is that refusing to see both sides of life is what the Joker does, in fact. He sees only the dark after awhile. Ms. Miller, it would seem, wants to only see the light and forget the dark exists. And that, in its way, is equally disturbing.
In any event, the film has an R rating for a reason, and Ms. Miller can exercise the choice of not seeing it if it offends her so. This is not, after all, the society of “A Clockwork Orange” where her eyes will be forcibly held open to indoctrinate her into kindness.
Nor can she force anyone else to shut their eyes because she doesn’t like what they might see.