Junk day, junk superhero media

Some days you wake up coughing, more tired than the night before, having woken up multiple times in the night for no good reason and you just know the day is shot before you even get out of bed.

And the worst thing is you can never be sure whether it’s true or a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The social media world is, as we know, full of fake positivity, #inspo, 7th generation jpgs of misattributed quotes and hustle porn. We also know that the real world is filled with multiple hours in a day, and plenty of time to reset and retry and actually get things done.

However, it’s gone five, and I am throwing in the towel on being productive. I know for certain it’s unhealthy to beat yourself up about stuff you can’t change, and I can’t change the fact I don’t have it in me today to look at writing work or jobsites or anything else I would like to have done.

There is some stuff I have achieved. This very blog, for instance, was on the verge of not happening at all, but luckily I’ve managed to weaponise my bitching. I’ve half-changed some bed sheets, done some laundry, went to Aldi, and even put in a little guitar practise, which is rarer than it should be.

The rest I’m going to have to put aside for the day, and hope tomorrow turns out better. As for right now I’m going to finish changing the bed, go be social with the housemates, and hopefully we’ll make some progress on the Watchmen TV show tonight.

Brief thoughts on Watchmen: it doesn’t necessarily need to use or be related to the imagery and story of Watchmen, I feel like a scab watching it because it is appropriating a graphic novel which by rights should belong to its creators, not a company, AND there’s enough phenomenal artistry in evidence from so many departments – acting, direction, photography, music, costume – coupled with its timely thematic material and finite nature that should make it an easy recommendation.

The problem with recommending it is that the second half of that second actually makes me double down on the first. If I have better thoughts when I’ve finished the series, I’ll let you know, because right now I don’t know where the balance lies.

I have similar thoughts about last year’s Joker film, except there I know where I stand. A story that definitively depicts the Joker’s origins necessarily diminish the character, which is something all prequels risk, but I’m happy saying this film is a failure artistically.

It’d be better if it wasn’t the Batman villain, because using that character breaks it similarly to the way Man of Steel’s climax breaks the character of Superman: they’re children’s characters that work best on a metaphorical level, the more realism you interject and the more you divorce them from their original context the less useful they become.

The whole point of Superman is that he is a living embodiment of old-fashioned American morality. Putting him in a no-win situation doesn’t reveal anything about the character, it just reveals the vacuum that exists in the filmmakers’ soul. The whole point of the Joker is that he is anarchy, and Batman stories crave a restoration of order. So, the only end the Joker can come to is that he gets punched in the face by Batman.

Sure, you can tell superhero stories where the hero’s actions depict that American ideals have been crushed and debased by successive neoliberal perma-war governments, and stories that argue for anarchy over order. However, it is much cleaner and more powerful to use analogues for Superman, Batman, and Joker to do so. What you lose in brand recognition you gain in the ability to make new characters mean new things in the stories you’re telling, rather than contradicting or undermining whatever people think of characters that have been around for eighty years in a rather juvenile fashion.

Next, the Joker film isn’t as novel as it thinks it is. The film is an original story, sure – to an extent. However, it owes such a debt to various comic and film depictions of the Joker, and also the work of Scorsese, specifically The King of Comedy, I’m much happier to direct you to any of the above rather than watch this film.

Phoenix’s performance is great, as is the score, and the cinematography and costuming is suitably grungy and downtrodden. However, the script and direction have the air of people who think they are saying something important about the radicalisation of young white men in society. These themes are timely, but the problem is the film doesn’t actually say anything.

All the characterisation is ripped from the Scorsese film, the depiction is obviously not as radicalisation happens in real life because it’s the Joker in Gotham, and yet the filmmakers refuse to take a point of view on it all. The Joker being depicted as an antihero in a film that hasn’t the courage to either condemn or revel in his descent into violence sparking an uprising makes the film a specific kind of ugly I’ve never experienced before.

If the film was condemning Joker’s actions, it’d work well as a dark, twisted morality play, even if it didn’t end with Batman punching the Joker in the face. If the film was properly celebrating Joker’s actions, it’d work as a dangerous, nihilistic B-movie thriller. Instead, it’s made in a way that pretends to be impartial, in a way that suggests the filmmakers enjoy playing Devil’s advocate a bit too much. It’s like being trolled, but paying for the privilege.

The main problem with Joker is that it’s not funny. If it was a true burlesque, or satire, or even a parody, the film would have a position you can stand from and see the events as darkly comic – which would suit the Joker’s character. However, the film doesn’t have a position, so it’s not funny. It’s just an ugly film with an ugly space in it. It’s entirely plausible to take the film as an encouragement of the acts depicted therein, as well as take the morality play angle, but not in a deep and interesting artistic way. The film is silent, so you can make it say whatever you like. That isn’t courageous filmmaking, it’s cowardly, and it’s boring. Frankly, it isn’t good enough.

Wasn’t expecting to do a Joker essay today! There we go, something productive after all. I’ll be back tomorrow with something else, hopefully more positive, but I promise nothing.