Admittedly, when I originally saw the trailer for the new Joker movie I didn’t have much interest in it. I’m not really a DC girl, and after the abysmal performance of Jared Leto’s Joker, I was pretty put off.
After its release, the reviews seemed really mixed – on the one hand the movie was hailed as beautiful, revolutionary and a deep commentary on society, and on the other hand… people were saying this movie validates incels? I kept hearing whispers that this was a movie that validates white supremacist school shooters and incels, and obviously that was a big YIKES.
— IndieWire (@IndieWire) 31 August 2019
Eventually I was convinced by someone whose opinions I trust dearly to go and watch it, and when I did I was surprised at how politically charged it was. Joker had absolutely nothing to do with incels, and everything to do with class inequality. It’s offensive to say otherwise, and here’s why.
Incels Are Not Oppressed, Arthur Fleck Is
God, imagine thinking incels are oppressed.
Let’s look at the typical image of an incel: a middle to upper class guy who treats people badly, spends majority of his time on the internet either hating on or sexualising women to the point of complete dehumanisation and degradation, and thinks he is entitled to a woman’s body at all times whether she consents or not.
This is not oppression. If anything, incels are just further proof of the deep societal oppression women face – the fact that there is an entire global movement of men who refuse to acknowledge us as human beings but rather as tools for an orgasm.
Comparing Poverty and Mental Illness To Sexual Frustration Is Super Wrong
Comparing the plight of incels in society to the plight of a man who suffered intense physical abuse as a child and has a serious mental illness that debilitates his social reactions as a result, is highly offensive to anyone with a disability or mental illness. Being hated because you choose to abuse others and be a terrible person does not equate to being hated because of a debilitating illness that you can’t control.
The film talks about how when you are poor, the system is already rigged against you. You don’t have access to the basic things that can enrich life, and people already think you’re worthless. No one wants to help you. Even when you’re a nice guy and spend your time cheering up sick kids in hospitals.
Then, once you factor in a debilitating mental illness that makes the people around you uncomfortable no matter how hard you try to fit in and be nice, you’re rejected. You’re alone. And you begin to resent a system that has let you down your whole life.
This is not the same as being mad at women who don’t want to fuck you. Incels are perpetrators of abuse, who actively spread toxic mindsets about women in order to humiliate and dehumanise them. Arthur Fleck is a victim of abuse, who tried for his whole life to spread warmth and positivity in a world that constantly punished him for his existence, before eventually snapping. They aren’t even remotely comparable.
There Is Literally No Comment On Female Rejection In The Joker
The Joker’s sexuality is not something that is deeply explored in this film. He has a female love interest at some point, who we learn he projected feelings onto and never had a relationship with. When he shows up at her house and realises she doesn’t know him, that’s pretty much the last we see of her. She is not blamed for not wanting to fuck the random older guy down the hall. In fact, after the brief scene in which the Joker realises he is not dating her, she is never brought up again.
If You Think The Joker Has Anything To Do With Incels, You’ve Completely Missed The Point
The entire point of this film is to acknowledge the oppression people in poverty and people with mental illnesses face on a day to day basis, and how these are inextricably linked. It is a commentary on how these people are born into societies that are rigged against them, and that every time we turn away from helping a vulnerable person reaching out, we are complicit in the society that destroys them.
Does it humanise terrorists? Yes. But it’s a completely different discourse – one of class struggle, and the validation of people as more than their mental illness. This film is a criticism of the rich and privileged who create the foundations of a society that allows oppression, and then act shocked when the people they’ve oppressed their whole lives finally retaliate it.
It’s confronting because it makes us think about our actions and words and how much they can impact others – and that maybe we have a hand in other people’s suffering. It’s about the fact that people reach out every day, and we ignore them.
Specifically and critically what we need to point out is the oppression faced. Incels and white supremacists are not oppressed and have privilege and status as human beings in society. Arthur Fleck was a caring and innocent man his whole life until he was betrayed by a shitty society, whereas white supremacists and incels are not innocent.
Image Sources: Warner Bros