• Steven Krage

On "Joker" and The Discordance of Public Opinion

"It's a troubled time... crime rate... is at record highs... and the divide between the 'haves' and the 'havenots' is palpable. Dreams are beyond reach, slipping into

delusions." - "Joker" (2019) Final Script Preface, Todd Phillips & Scott Silver

Though that statement was written about a fictional universe, Gotham City, the parallel to the current state of affairs in the US cannot be underestimated. We are a society at war, both domestic and foreign, between family and friend, stranger and familiar alike.

It truly is the time of the Haves vs. the Havenots and everyone, I mean everyone, has an opinion about it.

The distillation of this schism is best seen in aesthetics: music, art, and film, the every-man's balm. And nowhere is this divide so great as the opinion of Todd Phillips & Scott Silver's "Joker".

The Comic Book Nerd War™ has been raging since the first papyrus was Frankenstein-monstered into paper. DC vs. Marvel, Batman vs. Super Man... it's a debate that shall rage until the very fiber of our being is erased like the lines in a test sketch.

Yet, the vehement rage and fierce adulation this film has inspired is beyond me. I give you two totally contrasting opinions of the film, culled from two Facebook friends:

Viewer #1:

Viewer #2:

"Joker is a powerful commentary on the many causes of mental illness and how society fails people with mental illness at every single turn. I cried multiple times. I’m going to have a hard time picking a better movie."

If that's not the definition of "polemic," that I don't know what is!

My two-cents:

The pleasure of aesthetics is the rub of opinion.

It wouldn't be nearly as entertaining watching these things if everyone has the same dull opinion. So why, might I ask, are we so venomous and acerbic about it. It used to be that two sane human beings would be able to discuss a work of art in rational terms. Now, sadly, we're waging a war of words with ad hominem attacks and violent rhetoric.

It makes no sense to me that an aesthetic argument can be "won" or "lost." The point is that aesthetics are a response to art from the basis of the viewer's own sense of life.

Also, in this era of "the every-man as scholar" we have lost the allure of searching out information from a source that we truly know is intellectual and as non-"Facebookian" as possible.

Instead of waging war over whether the "Joker" is the best film of the century or if it's a miserable pile of dreck, why not dissect why you like something within yourself. Understand, philosophically, why you enjoy the aesthetics that you do and, thus, you'll be able to articulate it better in debate.

When it comes to a debate on aesthetics, it's better to be Leonard Maltin than some high-school cretin who decided to start a YouTube channel about cinema because he saw "Citizen Kane" in film class once and has now become an expert on the medium. Search out the best evidence you can find, plunge into historical records, and see why a piece of art is divisive. I guarantee that you will find a similar situation in history to contextualize the plethora of psychological response to aesthetics.

In Plain English:

Don't talk out of your ass and, before you open your mouth, know why you are going to open it.


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