January 10, 2020: updated: 2.0
I suspected as much about Joker (2019). People online were making so much of it, but there must be something off with this movie, I thought, and sure enough . . .
It’s a very good movie. The acting is great. The music is great. The story is well-written . . .
But my assessment of its propaganda messaging is that it promotes:
1) Nihilism. I associate this with people who have given up on conscience and concern for others as they act out their emotions.
These first two themes equate to the “growth” curve in the main character’s development. I think these two themes are extremely seductive, possibly to many people. There are not just villains like this in pop culture and literature. There are many hero figures such as Achilles or Rambo for which the world around them has to stop (rightly or wrongly) while they express their feelings and desires.
3) Class envy and violent conflict. As some of us are aware, the super-elites believe that order is supposed to emerge from chaos. This story, just like The Dark Knight Rises has the same theme of a false solution that won’t work to resolve an unjust system. Dictatorship supposedly emerges as a (contrived) reaction to these conditions. The earlier 2008 Batman movie Dark Knight includes Batman creating a hyper-surveillance system as a result of the Joker’s terrorism.
4) Contrary to reality and experience, the movie at one point tries to say that psychiatric pharmaceutical drugs actually work as intended and are a supposed solution for mental illness. This point is very explicit in the plot and I think this might have been very important in making the movie. Drugs are a key Brave New World policy. To be fair, it is interesting how the movie deals with this topic. However, I think there is a huge problem with associating evil and criminality with mental illness in general.
5) Trauma and abuse, in the Joker’s case anyway, supposedly leads to power–the power of not having a conscience–which would actually be a deficiency or weakness. I think hardship can make people stronger, but I think abuse damages people and can make them abusive also. Trauma is a grim topic explored by some authors such as Jasun Horsley (auticulture.com, Prisoner of Infinity, Vice of Kings).
It would be better if we could understand these topics in more depth, but the overall issue is that we can’t allow our psychological drives and emotions to determine everything about how we live our lives. We need to define a higher value system and put it first when it comes to our motivations.