This article aims to demonstrate the ways in which media interests at the levels of cinematic production through to their journalistic reception work to control and marginalize certain progressive ideologies that run counter to their interests, in this particular case by deploying widespread stereotypes of mental illness and instability that map neatly, in the arena of normative ideology, onto the image of the insane clown (always an “anarchist”). It also intends, more specifically, to demonstrate the ways in which progressive anarchist philosophy remains an ideological scapegoat for even ostensibly left-inflected political stances.
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The release of Todd Phillips’s Joker in 2019, while generally garnering rave critical reviews from more progressively minded cinema scholars, was met with media reception that was more mixed. From rhetoric diminishing the narrative to “the back-story that nobody wanted,” to more dire accusations of the narrative glorifying the most violent consequences of mental health problems, the media seemed baffled by a film about an infamous DC Comics villain in an idiom of social realism that did not satisfy the established conventions of such films.1. But it is this very response that speaks to the larger ways in which the character of “the Joker” has worked as a convenient receptacle for the vilification or trivialization of progressive anarchist philosophies, even from the ostensible neo-Marxist left. This article aims to demonstrate the ways in which media interests at the levels of cinematic production through to their journalistic reception work to control and marginalize certain progressive ideologies that run counter to their interests, in this particular case by deploying widespread stereotypes of mental illness and instability that map neatly, in the arena of normative ideology, onto the image of the insane clown (always an “anarchist”). It also intends, more specifically, to demonstrate the ways in which progressive anarchist philosophy remains an ideological scapegoat for even ostensibly left-inflected political stances.
To defend such an argument requires at least a summary review of just what is meant by “anarchist philosophy.” The answer to such a question could readily fill several volumes. (Indeed, it has.) Most contemporary theorists agree that anarchism, as a body of theory, is significantly more multivalent than the “grand narratives” that were typical of modernism. However, in the interest of summary, it will suffice to postulate that much anarchist philosophy pivots on a recurring set of theoretical tenets. Anarchist theorist Randall Amster goes a long way in recounting an overview of all that populates this list. He states that, following Joseph Proudhon, “anarchists around the world began creating a theory and practice that was diverse yet centered around some basic points of agreement: (1) opposition to hierarchy, (2) decentralization [of state authority], (3) a commitment to freedom and autonomy, and (4) an opposition to vanguardism as it was expressed in authoritarian socialist traditions.”2 This list should further include: a vehement rejection of the state as an ostensibly necessary governing agent for complex social organizations; the refusal or rejection of unjustifiable coercive power in all its forms, of authority, and of alienating and exploitative capitalist social relations; distrust of property ownership of the means of production by either private (capitalist) or state (socialist) interests; rejection of (in fact, a deep disdain for) institutionalised (state-supported and/or hierarchically organized) religion as it manifests as an oppressive and exploitative ideological force; faith in social formations founded on a practice of mutual aid; praxis in both the forms of direct action and philosophy; prefiguration of nonhierarchical and affinity-based communal social organization; a refusal of sociopolitical blueprints, part of a larger philosophy described by Allan Antliff that “pointedly refuses determinism”3; and, as the word “anarchy” indicates, a rejection of particularly patriarchy, since it is the dominant authoritarian ideology underpinning most (all?) contemporary cultures.4 None of these necessarily implies the embrace of any degree of violence nor the necessity for mental illness to subscribe to them.
In Living in the End Times, Slavoj Žižek opines that “one of the best ways to detect shifts in the ideological constellation is to compare consecutive remakes of the same story.”5 When Todd Phillips’s version of the Joker is compared against the Joker as performed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) (a comparison widely entertained by the media in order to explain why Phillips’s Joker apparently missed the mark so completely), a pattern of relegating anarchist philosophy to one of two poles of a reductive dialectic becomes evident. Anarchist cinema scholar Richard Porton explains that “anarchists” in cinema tend to be reduced to one of two types of character: the irrationally evil, “bomb-throwing beardie-weirdie,” or the befuddled (indeed, quite mentally ill) lovelorn loser, whose misguided acts of violence often miss their target and never effect any valuable social change. By making this comparison, these two ostensible “inevitable failings” of anarchist philosophy are represented as the only poles of an unresolvable dialectic that otherwise requires no further investigation. In this article, I will discuss the ways in which the unmitigated “evil” of Nolan’s Joker and the pathetic mental “illness” of Phillips’s Joker take the respective positions of these two coordinates, and thereby evacuate by absence the more dialogic and progressive aspects of anarchist philosophy, as media narratives have been wont to do since the Russian Revolution.6
Indeed, the contemporary media heightened this reduction by exploring especially Phillips’s Joker as merely holding out an unhealthy potential for the glorification and justification of vigilante violence, replete with the concomitant risks of generating “copycat” killers amongst the mentally ill in the age of American mass shootings. As such, these types of media reductions completely missed the much more obvious progressive philosophical implications of the narrative as a harbinger regarding the worst social, psychological, and even environmental effects of capitalist alienation and the forms of poverty and disenfranchisement it engenders. This media framing also, perhaps quite self-interestedly, overlooks the narrative as a scathing ideological indictment of the status quo. The discursive implications of such a clear indictment of corporate media outlets would, of course, be a narrative whose parameters they would be eager to control, if not a narrative they would be even more eager to entirely diminish or evacuate. Rarely do I find myself, as a critical scholar, in the position of defending what Stuart Hall might refer to as the “dominant reading” of media content, but in this case, due to the particular nature of the critical message foregrounded by the narrative, it seems that the dominant reading, or at least the obvious one, is quite at odds with a status quo reception. Rather than seeing the film as an editorial on a society that creates mental illness and then punishes it, it seems the media, arguably the main target of the film’s social critique, only wanted to criticize the film for ostensibly making a hero of the violence that such mental illness might breed. But even a less-than-critical eye would recognize that there is very little that invites identification with Arthur Fleck. He is really quite reprehensible, or at least pathetic, albeit sympathetic in the role of protagonist.
This oversight by the media response to the film is a flagrant displacement of a discourse that might have recognized the media itself as the primary villain in the movie, embodied quite clearly in the character of talk-show host Murray Franklin played by Robert De Niro. Perhaps most exemplary of this astonishing instance of media eisegesis is the strange interaction I had with CBC Radio Vancouver back in October 2019. One balmy afternoon while I was present at the University of British Columbia, I received a phone call from an interview solicitor at CBC Radio. They were inquiring after my willingness to participate in a live interview about Joker. I am always a bit surprised when I receive such solicitations due to the still fledgling nature of my academic status. Indeed, the solicitor was unduly effusive toward my scholarship, about which it was quite clear she knew very little. Apparently, however, she had received my name from Professor Ernest Mathijs, Head of the Centre for Media and Cinema Studies at UBC. Dr. Mathijs is a mentor well familiar with my work regarding Christopher Nolan’s Joker in the second film of his Batman trilogy (played by Heath Ledger) in a course I taught at the University of Victoria entitled Anarchist Cinema and Media Practises regarding the ways in which anarchist philosophy remains parodied or vilified in contemporary cinema. Dr. Mathijs had further explained that I felt very much that this new Joker film was quite progressive, at least in the ways that it was clearly a bit of fantastical social realism concerned with exposing the alienating effects of rapacious capitalism and rampant media culture on the conditions of poverty and mental illness to which they give rise, and as a harbinger of the ways in which these conditions may eventually engender explosive consequences. However, as I explained to the solicitor, I had not yet actually seen Joker, and was therefore unwilling to make live contributions to a widely broadcast discussion of a film with which I was as yet unfamiliar. Nevertheless, the solicitor said that it was irrelevant if I had seen the film or not, and that they simply wanted my “expertise”! Even more skeptical now, I interrogated further. As it happens, they wished to position me in a dialectic interview against a mother who had suffered the horrifying loss of a child in a mass-shooting incident, and who felt very much that a movie like Joker glorified violence as a dramatic solution to social alienation. As Douglas Kellner explains,
There had indeed been fierce debates about gun control and the problem of mass shootings in the days following the July 21 Aurora massacre [during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and in which the terrorist may have sustained an obsession with the Joker] in the mainstream media, with debate polarized, as in previous situations. . . . Many pro-gun advocates used mental health explanations to divert gun control debate, whereas others blamed movies and a violent media and gaming culture.7
I was incredulous, and explained that, while I maintain my perspectives on the obvious themes of the film, I was certainly unwilling to participate in a wide broadcast as the foolish/arrogant academic foil against this utterly sympathetic mother whose perspective was, in any case, as reasonably valid as my own. What remains outstanding in this anecdote, however, are the ways in which at least this one media outlet was attempting to, as Stuart Hall or Chantal Mouffe might understand it, fix the meaning of the film, or at least fix the coordinates of the debate, by locating any perspective that understands the film as a critique of media capitalism on the “wrong” side of a simple binary regarding the film’s meaning.8 The fact that I had not seen the film was irrelevant to a media agenda in which the scholarly defense of the obvious media criticism within the film is positioned against a hyper-focus on only this particular film’s potentially deleterious effects, as long as my participation worked to solidify these coordinate perspectives. There was no interest for this media outlet in drawing attention to the contradictions of their industry that the film so explicitly betrays, or in the banal recognition of the film as viable social criticism. In this instance, the only media-sanctioned debate was whether or not the film was likely to create mass-shooting “copycats.”
Nevertheless, it is not actually the project of this article to defend Joker as a progressive narrative in its concern with exposing the horrifying social consequences it represents. Here I will be exploring the larger, perhaps more ideological effects of the film in the ways that the cultural work is far less apparent – that is to say, the ways in which the film works to diminish and vilify anarchist social philosophies. Especially when considered as a counterpoint to Nolan’s Joker. In order to do so, I will survey implications that arise from Joshua Bellin’s analysis of 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995) and The Cell (Tarsem Singh, 2000) regarding the similar vilification and outright “othering” of certain psychologies understood as “mentally ill.” More broadly, citing Daniel Boorstin, Chris Hedges argues that capitalist ideology “has a claim on us, it does not serve us; we serve it. If we have trouble striving toward it, we assume the matter is with us, and not with the idea.”9 Perhaps more succinctly, and more relevant here, Bellin simply states that “fantasy film partakes of its culture’s self-delusive belief that its insane convictions are sane,” a perspective that resonates with Žižek’s deconstruction of The Dark Knight.10 All of these contributions will be informed by an understanding of Camp et al.’s arguments surrounding the image of the clown in cinema and other media as anarchists and as mentally ill (respectively), and the very trope of the “psychotic clown anarchist” that different versions of the Joker have come to signify.
Examples of representations of the insane clown, whether used for either reactionary or progressive ends, are manifold. One of the most visible of these in popular culture has been the American alternative hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse, one of whom adapts the stereotype of the anarchist-clown by taking the moniker “Violent J.” In the video for their “Hokus Pokus,” donning the spectacle of their gothically inflected clown make-up, Violent J punctuates his performance with the same sort of maniacal tongue-waggling laughter performed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and that would be coded more sympathetically by Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker. The video opens with the two band members becoming violent over a pair of shoes in a shoe store. Later in the video, the other band member takes a crowbar to a bank machine and lets the monetary contents float through the streets, the same flagrant disrespect and subversion of this abiding symbol of capitalism as in The Dark Knight when the Joker burns millions of dollars in cash. Even further along in the video, preconceiving imagery in Phillips’s Joker, they empty the garbage cans in front of a luxury home in a gated community rendering the illusion of the gentrified landscape as one that is littered with the detritus of capitalist waste. Finally, they engage in a comic slap-battle with two police officers, each the very type of character that has come to act as a media stereotype signifying the racialized abuse of power, and that has remained a common target of anarchist critique. While the anarchist-progressive motives of the Insane Clown Posse remain ambiguous at best, and their commercial motives are manifest, they, at the very least, represent a refusal of racial homogeneity and of generic musical boundaries in their multi-faceted variety of songs.
In “Toward a Relational Ethics of Struggle,” Paul Routledge provides a clearer example of the image of the clown put to progressive anarchist ends, “because [as he explains it] nothing undermines authority like holding it up to ridicule” in the fashion that a clown might do.11
In the months prior to the  G8 summit, an idea spread that an army of clowns should be deployed during the protests. The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) thus was created to challenge the G8. . . . CIRCA was clandestine because without real names, faces, or noses, the spectacle of celebrity was refused: activists took ridiculous military names such as Private Joke, Corporal Punishment, Major Disaster, and General Panic. . . . CIRCA was an army, because it believed that we live on a planet in permanent war – a war of money against life, of proﬁt against dignity, of progress against the future; and because a war that gorges itself on death and blood and excretes money and toxins deserves an obscene body of deviant soldiers.12
Routledge cites an online manifesto that makes clear their intention to employ the stereotype of anarchist “chaos” as part of their progressive agenda. “We were ‘circa’ because we were approximate and ambivalent, neither here nor there, but in the most powerful of all places, the place in-between order and chaos (see Routledge 2005; www.clownarmy.org).”13 Significantly, contrary to the stereotype of the violent anarchist clown, as the other elements of their performative communal identity make clear, neither violence nor mental illness was necessary to their artistic political agenda.
However, such progressive use of the clown trope is easily subverted. A more obviously reactionary example of the insane clown would be the character of Pennywise in Stephen King’s It, realized in various cinematic incarnations, and whose unmitigated evil, finding victims almost exclusively rendered vulnerable through childhood trauma, is so obvious that nothing more really needs to be stated here. However, there is one scene worthy of note early in It Chapter Two (Andy Muschietti, 2019) in which the evil of the insane clown is specifically associated with mental illness. One blogger, going by the handle “Valeada” on the doesthedogdie webpage under the heading “Is there a mental institution scene?” explains that in It Chapter Two, “a character is imprisoned in an institution and stirs up a commotion/riot amongst the other patients/prisoners, which is delt [sic] with physically by the guards. Most of the patients/prisoners exhibit standard stereotypical movie ‘crazy person’ behaviour.”14 In terms of the reduction of the clown anarchist to mental illness, it is clear that Pennywise, symbolized through the iconic floating red balloon, had been the instigator of this patient’s violent insurrection. Similarly, Camp et al. explain that “Heath Ledger, who played the Joker [in Nolan’s Dark Knight], described him as a ‘psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.’”15 Indeed, the larger thesis of Camps et al.’s paper discusses the implications of “mass media depictions of persons with a mental illness, most of which emphasize crime and violence . . . , unpredictability . . . , and social incompetence . . .”16 They explain that “Recent analyses of media show that depicting someone as mad positions the person as ‘other than human’” . . . ‘Othering’ is done using language and images familiar from use in previous depictions of mad men and women, creating intertextual echoes in the present image.”17 Of these examples in popular culture of the vague association of anarchism and the insane clown, it is notable that the more reactionary two in Pennywise and Nolan’s Joker are the far more popular in terms of both audience sizes and sheer box office returns.
Indeed. it is very much a Joker-as-clown and/or mentally ill psychopath with which anarchist stereotypes are so often conflated. In his Film and the Anarchist Imagination, Richard Porton laments that such reductive representations of “anarchists” have a cinematic pedigree almost as old as the form itself.18 According to Porton, prior to the October Revolution, anarchists had been represented as less of a comic MacGuffin than as a bona fide threat. Afterward, with their due replacement by the Bolshevik stereotype, anarchists were relegated to a more comic/pathetic narrative position. “After Bolshevism replaced anarchism as the cinema’s favorite political bête noir, it was more common for anarchists to be either ignored or lampooned as nincompoops.”19 In more contemporary cinema, Porton sees two different poles between which anarchist identities are situated, the irrationally destructive villain or the befuddled lover.20
Nolan’s Joker is very much in the former category, and just as unambiguously anarchist. For example, contrary to Satrio Jagdad’s assertion of the Joker’s “moral nihilism,” the Joker spends much of his dialogue outlining a very specific set of anarchist “morals,” albeit these contradict bourgeois morality on almost every count. Amongst these are his universal rejection of authority, his articulation of a desire to “introduce a little anarchy,” and most importantly, his claim that he is an individual that has no plans, a contention that might be interpreted as an anarchist refusal of blueprints. Furthermore, Camp et al. list “Suggestive behavior [which] includes laughing when threatened with death, being unconstrained by social rules and expectations, . . . His actions show him as beyond social controls.”21 Any one of these might also be considered progressive anarchist behaviours, outside of what Camp et al. refer to as his otherwise “malignant ends.”
But are the Joker’s “ends” so easily dismissed as “malignant”? In his analysis of The Dark Knight under a subheading that asks “What does the Joker want?,” Slavoj Žižek further asks, “How, then, do Batman and the Joker relate? . . . Is Batman the Joker’s destructivity put in the service of society?”22 An analysis from the perspective of anarchist theory actually provides a ready answer to this question. Quite clearly, Batman’s primary goal is to maintain an authoritarian status quo. Structurally, and in the idiom of melodrama’s clearly defined heroes and villains, Batman works narratively to delineate an ideology of “good authority” (in the institutions with which he collaborates and in the types of individuals whom he defends – judges, “cops,” and lawyers), and “bad authority” (embodied in the violent patriarchal oppression of the mob against which he has been struggling). Given his status as a billionaire philanthropist whose privileged position in society could be readily dismantled under the rapacious economic practices of the mob, such loyalties make perfect sense. By contrast, and in the vein of anarchist philosophy, Joker rejects both factions of authoritarianism. The Joker viciously murders citizen vigilantes – Batman imitators – who are still “plugged into the matrix,” so to speak, or, in other words, expendable defenders of the status quo in his view. Thus, Joker quite readily represents the type of characters that Žižek, citing Descartes, refers to as “those whose sentiments are very contrary to ours [and so might be thought of as] barbarians or savages, but [who] may be possessed of reason in as great or even a greater degree than ourselves.”23 In contrast with Joker’s ostensibly “savage reason,” it is astonishing, in fact, the ease with which the actual Matrix films (Wachowskis, 199, 2001, 2003) use the “still plugged in” excuse to explain away the moral contradiction in the violent behaviour of its so-called heroes against fellow humans still under the illusory influence of the matrix, and the ease with which audiences accepted the excuse. The Joker in The Dark Knight reverses this ethic back on to the “heroes” of Gotham, its defenders of the status quo, which, as an anarchist, results in his characterization as the narrative’s “supreme villain.”24 However, in the very opening scene, the Joker also handily robs a mob bank and dispatches a number of underworld criminals in the process. The bank’s manager/defender laments that “criminals in this town used to believe in things: honour, respect. What do you believe in!?” The Joker offers only an enigmatic response that does not imply anarchism, but he clearly rejects any code of honour that respects the mob’s authority. In fact, Joker proceeds to kill one of the more adversarial mob bosses to secure his criminal monopoly, and another later for insubordination. This is, in fact, what terrifies the organized mob so much about the Joker. When Batman violently interrogates mob patriarch Salvatore Maroni, he tells Batman “Nobody’s gonna tell you nothin’.” They’re wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he’s got no rules,” a contention that resonates quite clearly with the very title of Matthew Wilson’s critical analysis of the potentialities of an anarchist society entitled Rules without Rulers. Perhaps the most thematically and visually compelling example of the Joker’s progressive anarchism, however, occurs in a series of scenes that begins with Alfred explaining to Bruce Wayne that the Joker’s unorthodox criminality is part of a malignant aberration in which “some men aren’t looking for anything logical like money, . . . some men just want to watch the world burn.” Shortly thereafter, the Joker torches a ridiculously large pile of the mob’s money. In this collocation of narrative significations, not only is the money economy presented as intuitively “logical,” but the apocalyptic burning of the world is symbolically likened to the burning of a pile of money, a metonym of capitalist accumulation par excellence, and a clear representation of the Joker’s wish to see it destroyed. In doing so, Joker both bankrupts the mob (although he claims he is only burning his “half” of their wealth) and likely destabilizes the money supply on which the establishment’s fiscal planning depends.
Nevertheless, any vehement anarchist theorist surely would point out the various contradictions in ascribing progressive anarchist philosophy to this version of the Joker. He clearly takes authority over the mob, murderously punishing insubordination, and creates something of a criminal vanguard in his own person. (Of course, Batman’s equivalent authoritarianism and his decadent bourgeois resources are never questioned). And contra both the anarchist refusal of blueprints and the Joker’s own claims to the contrary, it is quite clear that this Joker most certainly always had a plan. At every stage of the narrative, it is clear that he has been one step ahead of Batman and the authorities, whom he systemically thwarts, in a series of narrative MacGuffins that keep the story running. That is to say, he is definitely a man with working blueprints of some kind. As these latter examples are clearly contradictory to anarchist philosophies, I think Žižek is astute to ask “What does the Joker want?”25 If the Joker might be understood, even provisionally, as progressively anarchist, then what is it that necessitates rendering him such an amoral villain?
Žižek contends that “The Dark Knight is a sign of a global ideological regression for which one is almost tempted to use the title of Georg Lukacs’ most Stalinist work: the destruction of emancipatory reason.”26 In order to have justified such a sweeping claim, he elaborates the following rationale, quoted here in pieces and at length due to the salience of all of the fully realized argument.
What, then, does the Joker, who wants to disclose the truth beneath the Mask, convinced that this disclosure will destroy the social order, represent? He is not a man without a mask, but, on the contrary, a man fully identified with his [clown] mask, a man who is his mask – there is nothing, no “ordinary guy,” beneath it. This is why the Joker has no back-story and lacks any clear motivation: he tells different people different stories about his scars, mocking the idea that some deep-rooted trauma drives him.27
This contradictory honesty that may “destroy the social order” is reminiscent of sentiments expressed throughout anarchist discourse by such figures as Mikhail Bakunin and George Woodcock, that destruction may be the necessary sine qua non of any truly radical new creativity.28 Žižek further explains that, in opposition to the Joker,
At the end of . . . The Dark Knight, . . . Batman and his police friend Gordon recognize the loss of morale the city would suffer if Dent’s crimes became known. . . . This need to perpetuate a lie in order to sustain public morale is the film’s final message: only a lie can redeem us,29
at least in their own quite conservative perspectives.
Finally, in a language that echoes both anarchist and Marxist philosophies regarding the need to disillusion an ideologically saturated mass society, Žižek argues that, “the Joker and all revolutionaries . . . want . . . the masks to be torn off and the truth to be disclosed to the public.”30 While it duly seems that the Joker is quite an apocalypticist, it is necessary to consider the less vulgar definition of that term regarding revelation, unveiling, and redemption. When we remove all of the stereotyping that Porton justly laments, the Joker is really the most progressive character in the film. He quite clearly wants to subvert a status quo that is so garishly peopled with all of the patriarchal authority that anarchism rejects: police chiefs, wealthy white male playboys, judges, DAs, really the whole bourgeois city aristocracy and its “normativity” that Batman chooses to protect, even at the cost of his own identity. And this is why Žižek finds it “No wonder that, paradoxically, the only figure of truth in the film is the Joker, its supreme villain.”31
Indeed, as one might expect from a reactionary Hollywood blockbuster, participant with the maintenance of a status quo “cobweb,” Nolan’s Joker is represented as a violent clown-anarchist with no morals.
Throughout the ﬁlm, characters, including the Joker himself, referred to the Joker in pejorative terms: “freak” (four times), “clown” (four times), “terrorist” (twice), . . . “mad man” (once). . . . An accomplice was described as “a paranoid schizophrenic . . . the kind of mind that the Joker attracts.” Others said he “cannot be reasoned with” and that he was a “murdering psychopath” and an “agent of chaos.”32
Indeed, the narrative simply reduces him to an amoral and indiscriminate murderer, the readiest cinematic signification available to shore up his identity as villain, although none of his apparent politics would have necessarily required such carnage.
Beyond the media, the misguided conflation of “madness” and “chaos” with anarchist politics comes into evidence even in some neoteric scholarship. In a recent work by Douglas Kellner on the social effects of such films as Nolan’s, especially on gun validation and domestic terrorists, Kellner’s most insightful observation is that, “While throughout Dark Knight Rises various villain characters and the ambiguous Catwoman articulate rational critiques of the existing system of wealth and power, ultimately Nolan’s Batman films serve as reactionary spectacles and Batman is presented by the end of the trilogy as the savior of capitalism and the existing system of wealth and power.”33 However, to make his argument, especially about the stigmatization of mental illness and the glorification of violent vigilante individualism/hyper-masculinity (the Batman movies are notoriously overpopulated with men – heroes and villains), Kellner throws around the terms “apocalyptic” and “anarchist” quite promiscuously, apparently trading on their generic definitions that sustain associations to mass destruction and violent chaos, but never carefully defining either.34 At one point, Kellner goes so far as to refer to “anarchistic fantasies of power, destruction, and dominance”35 while even the most basic understanding of the term “anarchism” recognizes it as antithetical to both power and dominance. In a symptomatic read of the films as “a critical allegory about the corruption, violence, and nihilism of the Bush/Cheney era,” Kellner recognizes an “anarchistic Joker character” as “subversive,” but only for its worst potentialities.36 Rather than viewing the Joker as a stereotyped representation of an “evil” counterpoint to the conservative social politics he indicates Batman defends, Kellner merely lumps Joker in with Batman as yet another deviant split personality, a symptomatic consequence of the contemporary political climate in the U.S., and an even worse social manifestation than Batman with his violent nihilism and apparent sociopathic lack of basic sympathy. Although the Joker is unambiguously set in opposition to Batman in his anarchist politics, the narrative codes such a rejection of all forms of authority as necessarily evil, and such scholarly contributions as Kellner’s summarily reduce Joker’s anarchism to a sort of schizophrenic mental illness.
Similarly, in the tellingly titled “The Psychological Issue and Hidden Motives of Joker as a Villain,” Setiawan Furqoni argues that “Joker’s action and attitude represent a symbol of resistance and power against the established law. He shows that the law has been corrupted which has created a great loss for society while on the other side he is a criminal with a psychopathic mind who wants to take over the Gotham City.”37 The fact that the introduction to “The Joker Effect” makes clear that this Joker does not seem to have any desire to take over the city notwithstanding, the larger oversight here is that Furqoni reduces Nolan’s Joker to motives that he argues are the result of a Freudian PTSD latent in Joker’s ambiguous relationship with his father. “From his PTSD, he tends to show violence, dishonesty, suicidal tendency, manipulative, and other symptoms that indicate Joker as a person with mental illness.” Furqoni makes no critical return to the earlier reference to the character’s progressive politics in exposing legal corruption, and takes up with a scholarship status quo when his analysis of Joker’s choices are limited to “violence, dishonesty,” and a “suicidal tendency” that does not quite align with the character’s vehement survivalism. Indeed, when this Joker is accused by a mobster of being “crazy,” an oft-used pejorative against the suicidal and the mentally ill, his only convincingly reliable line of dialogue in the film is simply “No, I’m not.”
Todd Phillips’s Joker is, by contrast, more unambiguously mentally ill, and more pathetic than honest-heroic. In Joker, the viewer is introduced to Arthur Fleck, an emaciated street clown who depends on social services for the medication required to treat his ambiguous mental illness. At the narrative outset, these medications become unavailable to him since the social program that sponsored his access to them falls victim to budget cuts. Suffering from depression and poverty, he is devastated when he is set up by a fellow clown to carry a gun into a children’s hospital and gets fired from his contract work. Also suffering from a symptom of his mental illness that has him respond with maniacal laughter to situations of high emotion or danger (a symptom of a condition identified by Dr. Andrew A. Nierenberg as pseudobulbar affect, and very similar to Camp et al.’s description of the behaviour of Ledger’s Joker), he is brutally assaulted by three arrogant financial apprentices, whom he dispatches with his gun.38 Returning to the squalor of his home life, it is clear that he quite tenderly tends to his aging and also mentally ill mother with whatever meager mental and financial resources he can muster. Over time, however, he discovers that his mother had abused him (possibly the source of his mental illness) as an adopted child, but that she had subsequently convinced him that he was her illegitimate child with Bruce Wayne’s wealthy father, Thomas. Before discovering this, Fleck awkwardly approaches Thomas Wayne in a confrontation in which he is further abused and humiliated. Vengeful, he murders his mother. Meanwhile, he had previously made an attempt to perform a comedy routine he had been nursing for some time in an effort to begin a new career. This effort ends in disaster when his disturbing performance falls flat and he is ridiculed on television by his mentor and hero, a paternal talk show host named Murray Franklin. Eventually his illusions fall, as Hedges (via David Jopling) indicates they inevitably will under such duress,39 and the narrative reveals that Fleck’s fledgling relationship with a young mother resident in his building has been nothing but a toxic and dangerous fantasy. Driven further into madness, he murders the clown colleague that set him up and accepts an invitation to a live recording of Franklin’s show, whom he also murders. He escapes police custody into the ravaged streets of the city overrun with clown-anarchists inspired by the media coverage of his shooting of the apprentices. The film ends with Fleck incarcerated in a mental institution and in a conversation that is oddly reminiscent of the one with which the narrative began, a representation that leaves the viewer wondering if the entire narrative has been merely a figment of Fleck’s imagination and, if so, when the viewer entered with him into the narrative fantasy.
Although the narrative leaves the page blank, so to speak, regarding his colleague’s motive for having set him up in such a way, it does serve other specific narrative functions from an anarchist perspective. First, it may be read as an anarchist refusal of blueprints at the level of scripting. More specifically, however, it brings at least two thematic elements into sharp relief. The first of these is the clear indication of the ways that capitalist social relations work to dissolve class affinity and pit workers competing for limited income resources against each other in the same vein as the characters in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Secondly, and perhaps most abruptly, is the narrative harbinger of the worst consequences of tolerating such social relations. Considering Fleck’s brutally violent reprisal against this colleague, whom he stabs in some of the most vulnerable parts of his body with a pair of scissors, the example of these socially alienating conditions is rendered more obvious in the visual and visceral representation of this horrifying outcome.
Part of this progressive exposé, however, includes the implication of Fleck as mentally ill, a representational strategy fraught with ideological implications. Indeed, as Porton, Bellin, Camp, and Hedges variously insist, it is merely the form of “madness” that comprises anarchist philosophy that is unduly pathologized in order to maintain a psychotic delusion of the present system of social relations as itself a healthy one. Bellin applies this notion to his analysis of 12 Monkeys.
12 Monkeys exposes both the characteristic power and the characteristic infirmity of social reality: those who subscribe to the majority opinion of what constitutes the real – in particular, an opinion that decrees the mentally ill as deadly threats to social order – are prevented from questioning or even detecting the actual violence perpetrated by the “legitimate” agents of society, a violence that is neither aberrant nor exceptional but inherent in the discourse of normalcy and abnormality itself.40
In a movie such as Joker that is so clearly a harbinger of the worst effects of the social causes and alienation of mental illness resides the very promise of “exposure” and for the stereotype to reveal itself as such. In this more optimistic vein, Foucault concludes that “Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it.”41 In reference to the introduction of the term “homosexuality,” Foucault reports that it “also made possible the formation of a ‘reverse’ discourse: homosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or ‘naturality’ be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified.”42 This consideration of the discourse surrounding “homosexuality” might also apply to the similar discourse surrounding mental illness, that its presence in popular discourse, or in the example of Joker in cinema, may expose its contradictions and open avenues for a more progressive understanding of it.
Foucault’s description of the discourse of “homosexuality” might also duly apply to an understanding of “mental illness” as a universal human condition that exists on a continuum, rather than as a binary of the ill (who reject the status quo) and the well (who accept and/or are happy within it). “As [Sander] Gilman writes, ‘The banality of real mental illness comes into conflict with our need to have the mad be identifiable, different from ourselves. Our shock is always that they are really just like us. . . .’”43 Incorporating arguments made by Tassilo Schneider, Bellin goes on to postulate that
fantasy films not only about mental illness but of mental illness could constitute a self-critical exception to the mainstream; by plunging viewers into the minds of the mentally ill, such films might nullify the fantasy tradition’s us-versus-them mentality by expressing “profound uncertainty about the question of how ‘other’ the Other really is.”44
Joker realizes such potentiality in its mid-narrative revelation regarding Fleck’s imagined romance, and again at the end of the film through a graphic match to the opening scene that calls the veracity of the entire narrative into question. Just as with 12 Monkeys, “not only does one not know whether these are memories, hallucinations, dreams, or somehing else but one does not discover their significance, their role within the narrative, until that narrative has ended.”45 Summarily then, the progressive potential of a film like Joker with respect to the issue of mental illness is that Fleck’s perspective is the audience’s, and he is entirely sympathetic if not “relatable.”
More broadly, Bellin explains that “mental illness inheres not in the simple presence of a ‘defective’ mind but in the complex negotiation among psychic processes, cultural values, and clinical norms.”46 On an even more inclusive grand scale than the continuum implied above, according to Chris Hedges, these “cultural values” and “clinical norms” are part of a much larger and more troubled social milieu. The social ills that besiege Arthur Fleck in Joker and engender his alienating social behaviours are pervasive in capitalist culture, and represented significantly by the urban landscape of detritus and decay that comprises almost the entire mise-en-scene of the film. As Hedges reports, “The country’s moral decay is manifested in its physical decay. It is no coincidence that our infrastructure – roads, bridges, sewers, airports, trains, mass transit – is overburdened, outdated, and in dismal repair.”47 More succinctly, Hedges relates “the poverty ripping apart the working classes” directly to “our crumbling infrastructure.”48 Overall, it seems that “mental illness” is more universal and culturally pervasive than stereotypes of the aberrant “other” imply. Joker stages this contention through the mass population of “copycats” of Fleck’s clown-faced dissensus as well as through the delusional self-righteousness of Thomas Wayne and Murray Franklin.
Hedges describes this troubled social landscape in terms that are clearly reflected and exposed in allegorical narratives like Joker, and the ways in which media spectacle works as a dysfunctional form of narcotizing self-delusion. “[T]he flamboyant lives of celebrities in the outrageous characters on television, movies, professional wrestling, and sensational talk shows are peddled to us, promising to fill up the emptiness in our own lives.”49 Hedges understands this phenomenon as “a culture of narcissism” in which ill-gotten “faith in ourselves, in a world of make-believe, is more important than reality.”50 Social actors, such as the talk-show host Murray Franklin in Joker, “all pedal a fantasy.”51 One of these fantasies is the contradictory practice of positive psychology. “Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are in some ways ill. Their attitudes . . . need correction.”52 Certainly Fleck’s inappropriately timed maniacal laughter is a sickly satire of such forced positivity in the face of the brutal alienation as that which normative ideology requires.
Indeed, Fleck further escapes his troubling reality into fantasies in which avuncular talk show host Murray Franklin publicly relates to Fleck and commends Fleck’s altruistic loyalty to his elderly mother. Unfortunately, in his failed efforts to perform a stand-up comedy routine, Fleck actually becomes the butt of Franklin’s unsympathetic comedy. Hedges’s understanding of “celebrity culture” is reflected in Franklin’s indiscriminate use of Fleck’s reputation in this way. “Human beings become a commodity in celebrity culture. They are objects, like consumer products. They have no intrinsic value. They must look fabulous and live on fabulous sets. Those who fail to meet the ideal are belittled and mocked.”53 Thus, Fleck begins to become disillusioned. Hedges argues that
the juxtaposition of the impossible illusions inspired by celebrity culture and our “insignificant” individual attachments, however, eventually leads to frustration, anger, insecurity, and invalidation. It results, ironically, in a self-perpetuating cycle that drives the frustrated, alienated individual with even greater desperation and hunger away from reality, back toward the empty promises of those who seduce us, who tell us what we want to hear.54
In its work as a revelatory allegory, however, Joker inverts this second phase return to the seduction. While Fleck physically inhabits the media space when he appears on Franklin’s show, the frustration of the first phase supersedes his return to fantasy, and the consequences are extreme. Rather than enact capitulation, he exacts violent revenge and shoots Franklin in the head.
As a further harbinger of what the current condition of commercial, media-saturated capitalism may bring about, the penultimate scene of Joker depicts anarchist protestors, all donning Joker’s iconic clown face, rioting in the streets. This might seem a less-than-progressive form of anarchism, but as Susan White explains, “there are many films that successfully portray actions that must be called anarchistic, even if the participants would not describe themselves as such – environmental and consumer activism, resistance of the corporate structures, women and minorities taking oppressive situations into their own hands in order to ‘take back the night.’”55 Similarly, and ironically considering the carnage depicted in The Dark Knight and at the end of Joker, in his redemptive conclusion, Kellner, citing Marcuse, understands even Nolan’s film as the same type of harbinger which I have ascribed to Phillips’s Joker. “Harbingers of the revolution in values . . . are found in ‘a widespread rebellion against the domineering values, of virility, heroism and force, invoking the images of society which may bring about the end of violence.’”56 Nevertheless, exposing yet another unsavory truth about contemporary society, Joker’s closing scene is a satirical critique of a social reality in which “the booming and overcrowded prison system handle the influx of the poor, as well as our abandoned mentally ill.”57 Fleck murders the disinterested therapist interviewing him and runs amok in the institution in which he has been incarcerated, presumably a preamble to an escape in which he would take up his role as a criminal antagonist to the still pre-adolescent Batman.
Unfortunately, as Bellin and Hedges also articulate, such blatant allegorical revelation is just as readily contained in its critical project. This containment is all the more likely when such a revelation does not align with the desires of the wider audience or if it exacerbates social anxieties. Citing Sander Gilman, Bellin argues that
We want – no, we need – the “mad” to be different, so we create out of the stuff of their reality myths that make them different”. . . . Gilman identifies visual representation of the mentally ill as one of the most powerful forces in casting these internal phenomena outside the realm of the “normal”: “The images themselves become the space in which the anxieties are controlled. Their finitude, their boundedness, their inherent limitation provide a disease analogous to the distance the observer desires from the “reality” of the illness portrayed.58
In this larger discursive construction, the mental illness of the culture at large is transferred to the “other”-ed individual, represented securely in cinema, and results in a media focus only on such individualized aberrations. The corollary to this transposition of a larger social illness into the “mad” Other occurs when an individual is disillusioned enough to recognize a larger cultural insanity in which they may be participant, but the effect is the same. Gilman also argues that
the fear we have of our own collapse does not remain internalized. Rather, we project this fear onto the world in order to localize it and, indeed, to domesticate it. For once we locate it, the fear of our own dissolution is removed. Then it is not we who totter on the brink of collapse, but rather the Other. And it is an-Other who is already shown his or her vulnerability by having collapsed.59
In this context, Žižek’s reference to “the Benjaminian distinction between constituted violence (empirical acts of violence within society) and the constitutive violence (the violence inscribed into the very institutional frame of society)” provides useful insight.60 This distinction underpins his discussion of solutions to the types of social ailments that Joker stages. According to Žižek, “the truly radical solution [resides only in] identifying the problem as the ‘symptom’ of the entire system, the symptom which can only be resolved by abolishing the entire system.”61 But such a revelation seems as yet too unsavory for the members of a culture under the influence of widespread media validation of the status quo. It is not surprising that Bellin concludes that “social explanations of [such phenomena as] homelessness are minimized, if not neglected outright: ‘The label of mental illness places the destitute outside the sphere of ordinary life. It personalizes an anguish that is public in its genesis; it individualizes a misery that is both general in cause and general in application.’”62 What is important here is that it individualizes the misery as a projection into an identifiable “other” who can be comfortably disavowed or rejected.
In an even more pessimistic analysis, Hedges claims that this process actually generates a kind of perverse therapeutic schadenfreude. “We secretly exult: ‘At least that’s not me.’ It is the glee of cruelty with impunity, the same impulse that drove crowds to the Roman Colosseum, to the pillory of the stocks, to public hangings, and to travelling freak shows.”63 Thus, Hedges concludes that “In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion.”64 Ultimately, the ensuing “flight into self-delusion is no more helpful in solving real problems than alchemy. But it is very effective in keeping people from questioning the structures around them that are responsible for their misery.”65 Symptomatic of Joker’s reception, therefore, rather than seeing Joker for its powerful critique of contemporary culture and the alienating effects of capitalism on its most vulnerable citizens, the commercial media has largely framed it as an instance of glorified gun violence aimed at the mentally ill “other.”
The need for “comforting myths – the core of popular culture – that exalt a nation and ourselves, even though ours is a time of collapse, and moral and political squalor,” overwhelms the revelatory allegory in Joker.66 Its cinematic and narrative construction works very much in the way Bellin describes the film The Cell, which “manages to involve its audience to such a degree in Stargher’s mind that identification with him, in the sense of sharing his perceptions and even his failure to differentiate reality from fantasy, complicates the audience’s ability to distance themselves from this apparent monster.”67 Such proximity runs counter both to a cultural self-defense mechanism that requires clearer boundaries, and to the form of positive psychology embedded in the obnoxious but rampant media celebration of irresponsible decadence and spectacle that Hedges observes. This unpopularity of discomforting social realism is the very same refrain that has been levelled against the so-called canon of Canadian cinema for decades. Canadian film scholar Jim Leach variously refers to “the common lament that Canadian films offer a negative and pessimistic vision that nobody wants to see.”68 Together, these perceptual and ideological phenomena work in concert to supersede Joker’s progressive potential for revelation of either the constructed discourse of stereotypes surrounding the mentally ill or of the social contradictions inherent to rapacious media objectification.
Ironically, a media response that displaces mental illness into a singular aberrant individual rather than seeing it as a symptom of the entire system of domination is the very phenomenon that the narrative allegory in Joker attempts to expose. In their paraphrased summary of the theory of selective processes, Baran and Davis ask, “When the ubiquitous mass media that we routinely rely on repeatedly provide homogeneous and biased messages, where will we get the dissonant information that activates our defenses and enables us to hold onto views that are inconsistent with what we are being told?”69 Broadly, Joker is an allegory about just this effect that, unfortunately, in much of its wider reception has manifested as an example of selective erasure rather than an exposure of “biased messages” and “dissonant information.” However, this is also why anarchist analyses such as this one are also so important at this historical juncture of rampant media spectacle. “Why is anarchism such a powerful investigatory tool? Because it lays bare the fundamental power structures at work in any cultural production – including film.”70
Ultimately, it stands to reason that the commercial media would work to draw attention away from the critique of its institutions that Joker so explicitly thematizes by capitalizing on a broad societal fear of the murderous “copycat.” But as Kellner points out, the causal relationship between such narrative constructions as the Joker and the behaviour of domestic terrorists is poorly understood. According to Kellner, for example, “There is as of yet no evidence that [mass murderer] James Holmes was directly influenced by the Batman/Joker mythology and carried out the Aurora Movie Theater Massacre as a direct consequence of Batman movies.”71 In media studies, what has come to be referred to as the “hypodermic needle” effect or the direct-effects model has been largely debunked, and Kellner observes that these narratives could only have been an element in a larger nexus of social influences and personal shortcomings that “inspired” Holmes. Nevertheless, the notion of the “copycat” or direct “modelling” needs continued scrutiny, with due consideration to the more nuanced theories of media “reinforcement” and “cultivation.”72 However, such attention to media functions within the status quo should not be at the expense of more “radical” social ideologies that might “cure” the “entire system,” such as anarchist philosophy.
Unfortunately, the “anarchist” villains in Batman movies participate in the misrepresentation of anarchist politics, or at least its unjustified association with evil or mental illness, and are amongst the media representations that glorify a model of violent anti-heroism for men suffering from a standard of toxic masculinity to emulate. According to Kellner, these films further champion this model with the ceaselessly realized promise of overcoming these “crises” of masculinity with “media celebrity.”73
The Batman films frequently present newspaper and television headlines and stories recounting the actions of the various film villains and Batman himself in the narratives, providing a clear recipe for fame and celebrity by sending out a message that the media create celebrities out of violence and criminality.74
Joker could even more readily be accused of this function; its larger narrative pivots on the media coverage of Fleck’s first murders and the “anarchist clown” copycats it inspired. However, in reality, this is a social problem created in part by such representations that pander to otherwise toxic models of masculinity – they are not merely symptomatic of it – and these representations diminish the progressive politics of anarchist philosophy to which they are unjustly ideologically attached in the process.
From this perspective it becomes clear how the two films, The Dark Knight and Joker, work together to evacuate progressive anarchist theories and fix the poles of stereotyped anarchism in the convention of the insane clown. All anarchists are mentally ill “jokers,” either pathetic or villainous, but always “other.” On one side of the binary we have Phillips’s Joker, a pathetic victim of bullying, assault, abuse, and media humiliation turned dangerously violent, a mentally ill “other” that Bellin explains as easily ejected from the social illusion of normalcy.75 On the other side is Nolan’s evil and maniacal super-villain, almost super-human in his powerful intelligence, fearlessness, resilience, and fortitude, elements of a toxic model of hyper-masculinity that complement Batman’s rippling muscles, self-sacrifice, and aggressive morality. Hedges explicitly links “this hypermasculinity” to “our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed, and the sick.”76 Ironically, then, Nolan’s Joker, the model of villainous masculinity, becomes a receptacle for the crimes committed against the type of individual represented by Phillips’s Joker: one type of ostensible anarchist is to blame for the plight of another, and “polite” society need not respect either.
While Phillips’s Joker is, in fact, highly progressive in the way that it works as a harbinger to expose the potential social consequences of the various symptoms capitalist alienation it stages, and to position the viewer within the ostensibly mentally ill mind of its at least remotely sympathetic protagonist, when considered more broadly as one extreme of a dialectic pair, the other of which is represented by Nolan’s Joker, it clearly works to position anarchist politics somewhere between the two poles of evil and psychotic. In concert, films such as these “feed the public perception of mentally ill individuals as violent monsters who must be eliminated to restore order to the social world and thereby deny the alternative possibility: that the social world may be the breeding ground for monsters.”77 The effect of this larger ideological dialectic is to evacuate the progressive potential in any representation of the Joker and mutually vilify both mental illness and anarchism. Surely, if this function has any efficacy, Phillips’s Joker is unlikely to produce “copycat” mass shooters. I can’t imagine anybody, even the ostensibly “mentally ill,” wishing to be as “pathetically anarchist” as this larger media discourse implies that Fleck is. Thus, it seems that the media efforts to imply the possibility of Phillips’s Joker creating “copycats” was a misguided and backward-looking assumption that unduly traded on the similar discourse that inspired it surrounding Nolan’s Joker. This media-sanctioned framing is unconvincing when applied to The Dark Knight and even less when applied to Joker. However, it does work to establish a larger ideology that locates the source of social violence in a distorted version of the mentally ill anarchist rather than in the larger system of social relations that necessarily gives rise to it.
* * *
All images are screenshots from trailers for Joker and The Dark Knight.
- See in particular, “The Joker never needed an origin story, but especially not this one,” an online review on the Vox website available at https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/9/10/20858765/joker-review-joaquin-phoenix, or the Saturday Night Live parody of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street in the role of the Joker (https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7mlul6). [↩]
- Randall Amster, “Introduction,” in Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy (London: Routledge, 2009), 3. [↩]
- Antliff, 73. [↩]
- This list has been derived from a survey of various significant texts concerned with anarchist theory. [↩]
- Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times (Verso, 2011), 61. [↩]
- Richard Porton, Film and the Anarchist Imagination (New York: Verso, 1999), 23. [↩]
- Douglas Kellner, “Media Spectacle and Domestic Terrorism: The Case of the Batman/Joker Cinema Massacre,” in Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 35, no. 3 (2013): 161. [↩]
- In his famous 1997 lecture “Representation & the Media,” Stuart Hall argues that media journalism attempts to fix the meaning of an event on which it is reporting based on its own institutional biases and the shared ideology of its cultural milieu, what he refers to as “the production of meaning” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGh64E_XiVM). “Popular culture is marked by what Chantal Mouffe (1981) calls a process of articulation-disarticulation’ (231). The Conservative Party political broadcast [in which the word ‘socialism’ was superimposed with the image of prison bars] reveals this process in action. What was being attempted was the disarticulation of socialism as a political movement concerned with economic, social and political emancipation, in favour of its articulation as a political movement concerned to impose restraints on individual freedom”; John Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, 8th ed. (Routledge, 2018), 10-11. [↩]
- Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2009), 15. [↩]
- Joshua David Bellin, Framing Monsters: Fantasy Film and Social Alienation (SIU Press, 2005), 140. [↩]
- Paul Routledge, “Toward a Relational Ethics of Struggle: Embodiment, Affinity, and Affect,” in Contemporary Anarchist Studies, eds. Randall Amster et al, (Routledge, 2009), 85. [↩]
- Routledge, 83-4. [↩]
- Routledge, 84. [↩]
- Valeada, “Is there a mental institution scene? – IT Chapter 2,” 2019, https://www.doesthedogdie.com/is-there-a-mental-institution-scene. [↩]
- Mary E. Camp, Cecil R. Webster, Thomas R. Coverdale, John H. Coverdale, and Ray Nairn, “The Joker: A Dark Night for Depictions of Mental Illness,” in Academic Psychiatry 34, no. 2 (2010): 145. [↩]
- Camp et al., 145. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Porton, 11. [↩]
- Porton, 23. [↩]
- Porton, 30. [↩]
- Camp et al, 148. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 60. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 63. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 59. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 56. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 61. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 60. [↩]
- See Porton, 7; George Woodcock, The Rejection of Politics and Other Essays (Toronto: New Press, 1972), 100. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 60. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 61. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 59. [↩]
- Camp et al., 146. [↩]
- Kellner, 167. [↩]
- Kellner, 159, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167. [↩]
- Kellner, 162. [↩]
- Kellner, 163. [↩]
- Setiawan Furqoni, “The Psychological Issue and Hidden Motives of Joker as a Villain in the Movie ‘The Dark Knight,’” in SKRIPSI Jurusan Sastra Inggris-Fakultas Sastra UM (2016). [↩]
- Andrew A. Nierenberg, “The Joker Movie and the Stigma of Psychiatric Disorders,” in Psychiatric Annals 49, no. 12 (2019): 510. [↩]
- “Philosopher David Jopling calls such illusions ‘life-lies.’ He argues that so-called positive illusions may work for a while but collapse when reality becomes too harsh and intrudes on the dreamworld” (Hedges 123). [↩]
- Bellin, 162. [↩]
- Foucault, “Method,” 318. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Bellin, 142. [↩]
- Bellin, 139. [↩]
- Bellin, 158. [↩]
- Bellin, 141. [↩]
- Hedges, 144. [↩]
- Hedges, 145. [↩]
- Hedges, 27. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Hedges, 27. [↩]
- Hedges, 119. [↩]
- Hedges, 29. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Susan White, “Anarchist Perspective on Film” in Reinventing Anarchy, Again, ed. Howard J. Ehrlich (AK Press, 1996), 272-3. [↩]
- Kellner, 173. [↩]
- Hedges, 158. [↩]
- Bellin, 142. [↩]
- Bellin, 141. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 55. [↩]
- Žižek, End Times, 23. [↩]
- Bellin, 156. [↩]
- Hedges, 34. [↩]
- Hedges, 49. [↩]
- Hedges, 119-20. [↩]
- Hedges, 160. [↩]
- Bellin, 146. [↩]
- James Leach, “Second Images: Reflections on the Canadian Cinema(s) in the Seventies,” in Take Two Tribute to Film in Canada, ed. Seth Feldman (Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1984), 106; James Leach, Film in Canada (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 218. [↩]
- Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis, Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future, 7th ed. (Cengage Learning: 2015), 108. [↩]
- White, 273. [↩]
- Kellner, 168. [↩]
- These latter two notions are ascribed to Joseph Klapper and George Gerbner respectively; Baran and Davis, 113, 287. [↩]
- Kellner, 168. [↩]
- Kellner, 168. [↩]
- Bellin, 143. [↩]
- Hedges, 92. [↩]
- Bellin, 145. [↩]