I’m not sure “liked” is the right verb for my reaction to Joker, but it rattled me. It was effective. It stayed with me. It’ll probably be on my ten-best list for the year. I can certainly see why others might dislike the movie, or even be repulsed by it.
Yet among critics there has been a curious reaction: In many cases, they’ve been saying not, “I didn’t like this movie,” which I get, but something more like, “It’s really important that you not see this movie.” As I’ve noted many times before, these days the highest possible praise from New York Times critics comes in words like “subversive,” “revolutionary,” or “incendiary.” Critics can’t really make the case that Joker is an outrage to public morals after two or three generations of them have been making the case that opposing public taste and getting people riled up is an important part of what art does. So they’ve been making disingenuous arguments. I’ve seen four of them so far:
- You’ll get shot by an incel if you see this movie.
- Don’t see it because Gary Glitter (convicted pedophile, co-author of “Rock and Roll, Part 2”) will make money from the use of his song in the instantly-infamous staircase scene.
- The movie’s racist. You don’t want to reward racists!
- It’s boring.
My replies are as follows: 1) Lunatics and mass shooters are unpredictable. They don’t think in linear, logical terms. Anyway a lot of other movies, TV shows, and video games have shown things from a killer’s point of view. 2) It turns out that Glitter sold his rights to the song a long time ago. 3) You can’t be serious. 4) You can’t be serious.