Joker was one my favorite films in 2019. My first thought after finishing the movie was I couldn’t believe that it was directed by Todd Philips, the same guy who brought you The Hangover Trilogy and Road Trip (2000). Actually, come to think of it, the first Hangover movie is actually an impressive work of staggering genius. I learned from one of the Bill Simmons Rewatchables podcasts that Philips famously chose to take a smaller advance on the movie in return for a larger cut of royalties for each subsequent unit (DVDs, streaming sales) sold on the backend. That business decision has most definitely yielded bank; Philips really hit the jackpot with that one!
Last October, I saw Joker with Talia at the theater downtown, nearly a year ago now. It’s strange to think of last year– it just feels so long ago. After we finished the movie, we walked around downtown for a bit and talked. It was super nice out with orange leaves everywhere and autumn in full ascent. Good times. Talia felt the movie irresponsible; to her it felt like Joker was celebrating anarchy. Gotham had degenerated into such disrepair that the rich (like Thomas and Martha Wayne) had everything while the poor and impoverished Author Flecks of the world were left with scraps. The system had failed and the situation on the ground increasingly ominous and portentous. Whiffs of French Revolution were in the air; no one was in the mood to eat cake.
I agreed with Talia’s read on the movie but I felt Philips was actually being responsible. By showing us, in a fictional movie, a possible timeline of where extreme wealth inequality could lead, my take was that Philips was trying to give the world’s elite and ultrarich a “shot across the bow.” (Conveniently packaged in an entertaining two-hour parcel, steeped in comicdom’s most iconic lore, even.) To me though, Joker was a warning that if the wealth gap continued to widen, a bourgeois overthrow was not out of the question and not farfetched at all.
America currently finds itself in late-stage capitalism. It’s anyone’s guess where the country goes from here but I do think this year, 2020, we’ve seen some other canaries dying in the coalmine. Between BLM, Portland, and Seattle, take your pick. Maybe this cries of the proletariat have always existed but I can’t help but feel they’re a tad louder this year. Just in 2016, we were celebrating Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton— evidence, at the time, we’d finally put racism behind us! Good lord, that feels like eons ago.