Magazine October 28, 2019, Issue

Joker: A Violent, Noxious Scorsese Rip-Off

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (Warner Bros.)

There are pop-culture products that can’t survive the current moment’s agitations — young-adult novels canceled by the online mob, movies buried because they starred Louis C.K. or Kevin Spacey. But there are other products that successfully surf those agitations, riding on crisis-of-liberalism angst and think-piece addiction to make themselves seem essential, dangerous, or both.

That’s how Joker, a violent, noxious origin story for the most famous supervillain that features none of the usual superhero bells and whistles, managed to set an October record at the box office. Conceived as a DC-universe version of a Martin Scorsese movie, a Taxi Driver–type story

This article appears as “Scorsese Simulacrum” in the October 28, 2019, print edition of National Review.

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