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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Joker Wasn't The Movie We Deserved, But The One We Needed | Jack Saint

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- [Jack] Look, folks, if you're coming here and you're not

already a fan of my videos, I'm gonna level with you.

I am a full-on,

card-carrying SJW.

- Why won't you just shut up? (man screams)

- [Jack] You know the ones that have

to read political statements into everything they watch

and talk about how this thing you liked

as a kid is problematic for some reason?

That's me.

You ever get recommended that video

about how the movie Sky High is actually fascist?

Yep, that's me.

(frog ribbits) - Uh oh.

- [Jack] So trust me, if anyone was going

to do a big, hot take about how Joker is secretly an incel,

red pill, alt-right propaganda movie, it's gonna be me.

And I'm here to tell you this movie, I really liked it.

(bright music)

You know what else I really like?

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Also, quick disclaimer: this video is going

to use the word society repeatedly.

I'm not gonna make a joke about it.

I already made a joke about it in a previous video.

I'm kinda sick of the joke.

I wish we could stop making it.

Now to get some out of the way before I move on,

it should be obvious to anyone who's seen Joker

that it resists easy and straightforward answers

about who it's for or what it's really trying to say.

Even beyond questions of what elements

of the film are even real

and not the wild fantasies of its lead character,

it's a film that isn't particularly interested

in sign posting any correct message

to take away from it, instead giving us a series

of both sympathetic and horrifying vignettes,

painting the picture of a man and the culture he's a part of

being driven to the absolute brink.

Joker is a deeply political movie,

but it isn't one interested in only giving lip service

to one possible perspective.

I think a lot of people are going

to be coming out of this movie not sure

whether the titular Joker was a hero or a villain,

which speaks not only to how much audiences

have been trained to see clear-cut moral rights

and wrongs in their storytelling as of late,

but a deliberate effort on the part

of the filmmakers to leave you as questioning

where their own line of acceptability is drawn.

With that said, I also don't think there

was the desire to leave you as apathetic about this,

to come away going well, I guess you can't say

who's right or wrong for sure.

Oh well, YOLO.

I feel like it's impossible

to be really engaging with the material here

and come away shrugging your shoulders about it.

It invites real conversation, and that's what I'm going

to be trying to do today by providing my take

and hopefully fueling something more constructive

than the usual fabricated two sides bickering each other.

The second thing I wanna get out of the way is what I mean

when I say this was not the movie we deserved,

even if it was the one we needed

because for the most part, this is going

to be a surprisingly positive video for me,

considering how critical I usually am

of the political messaging in big Hollywood fare.

So to be clear, I think Joker does a tremendous job

of illustrating very contemporary anxieties

about class divide and marginalization

in our current society,

and I'm gonna get to why in a second.

But I do think it missed the mark pretty profoundly

on aspects of marginalization that can't really be ignored

if we're talking about somewhere like the USA,

especially taking into account the film's period setting.

Namely, this film does almost nothing

with the clear racial and sexual aspects

of how marginalization has played out

over the last few decades, and in some ways,

I think it even opens itself up

to some very dismissive perspectives on things

like the ways black and Latino communities

have clearly been the primary victims

of overt systemic oppression.

Overwhelmingly, these are groups that suffer most

from many of the things this film has to talk about:

poor education services, poor social care,

job insecurity, and, as we're increasingly finding out,

pollution and negative health defects

at the hands of big industry on top of hindrances

like racial profiling and housing discrimination.

For all the film has to say about how the working class

and mentally ill are treated, these groups are boiled down

to token representation in the form

of cardboard cutout characters serving mainly

as hindrances to the white male lead.

Now for sure, you can respond by saying

that this is inevitable when you're making a movie focused

on the Joker, and the Joker is obviously going

to be a white guy until the SJWs get their way.

And to that I say absolutely, which is why,

for me, it's a somewhat minor criticism

among most of what I have to say.

Still, when a kind of unified uprising

against an oppressive system is the focus of your story,

I definitely wish more of an effort

to acknowledge this stuff had been made.

There's only so far a conversation can go

when you're ignoring half of it,

and frankly, I think that's a problem Joker 100% falls into.

Okay, now, fair warning, I'm about to gush.

The gushing is about to happen.

Are you ready for the gush?

Here it is.

(water splashing)

So Joker is obviously not nearly the first movie

to deal with issues of poverty,

mental illness, oppression, or marginalization.

Yes, I have seen The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver,

and you should also, as well as everything Ken Loach

has ever made, everything Spike Lee has ever made,

everything Andrea Arnold ever made,

Sling Blade, Winter's Bone, Precious, Girlhood,

Moonlight, and Tangerine, but not The Florida Project.

I have some bones to pick with that one.

Also, maybe check out some Gaspar Noé films,

but try and do it on an empty stomach.

I think there's a huge amount of perspective missing

from anyone suggesting Joker is something totally new

when, even among flashy, stylized US dramas

about class divide and violent protest,

last year we got the absolutely incredible

Sorry to Bother You.

Once again worth recognizing so many of the films I

just listed both star non-white and non-male main characters

and were given far less investment and publicity

than Joker, and that probably isn't a coincidence.

But the point is Joker is doing incredibly well

both critically and commercially,

and I think that's a big part

of why it's worth talking about.

The message of Joker appears to be very much coming through,

even among people who generally avoid stories

with this kind of focus.

But what is that focus?

Okay, so brief summary.

(man belching) Spoilers.

Joker 2019 tells the story of Arthur Fleck,

a clown for hire and failing standup struggling not only

with extreme poverty in a run-down Gotham City

but also severe mental illness,

resulting, among other things,

in an inability for Art to recognize basic social cues

and a pronounced tic forcing him to laugh

in inappropriate and uncomfortable situations.

Taking cues from the now famous Killing Joke story

from which the movie is mostly based,

we then track Arthur as he goes through one bad day or,

in his case, one bad week or so.

First, some kids steal his sign and beat him up.

Then he gets fired from his job for bringing a gun to work.

His mother gets sick.

He's openly mocked by his childhood idol

after a particularly bad standup set

goes the AT's equivalent of viral.

Lack of state funding means he loses access to any kind

of social care or medication for his various disorders,

and, with his mother's eventual death,

Arthur completely loses his grip on reality

as he embraces the violent alternate persona of Joker,

or at least I think it would be easy

to say this is Arthur losing his grip on reality.

The question ultimately posed by the film

is could we really imagine any outcome other

than this if we do factor in the reality Arthur lives in?

Which brings us to my first point of phrase, framing.

A common pattern when we look

at many big Hollywood genre movies,

especially superhero films, is a focus very much

on society as being made up of individuals who appear

to make the world a better place or to make it a worse one.

It's a classic framework.

We have the hero who we can put all

of our hopes and dreams into, and then there's the villain

who represents a disruption of the status quo

and who needs to be defeated to restore order.

Watch any Avengers movie, you see what I mean.

And this is a pattern that repeats

in a lot of fiction like this.

Sometimes, this bad individual will

at least represent ideas meaningful to the main character.

Lex in Batman V Superman might represent powerlessness.

Obadiah Stane in Iron Man One might represent greed.

Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy II might represent ego.

Joker in The Dark Knight represents chaos.

In this way, he probably lines up closer

with The Killing Joke incarnation

than the one we ended up with here.

As a villain, if, again, we could call Arthur a villain,

the one we get this time lines up with a second run

of villains who don't just represent abstract ideas

but specific contemporary issues in our society.

Killmonger in Black Panther is one

of the most obvious examples,

written to represent broadly the disenfranchised minorities

in the wake of colonialism,

more specifically the black community in the USA.

And then there's Spiderman: Homecoming, frankly,

the closest thing the MCU had to real acknowledgement

of the growing class divide in much of the world

with Vulture being a blue collar worker forced

into a life of crime to support his struggling family.

Sadly, Parker himself doesn't contribute much

to that conversation.

Unlike basically every other iteration

of the character usually seen as the working-class hero,

compared to heroes like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark,

here he's the pet project of a doting billionaire

and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

But that's not the point here.

What I want to highlight with these examples

isn't just what these movies tend to talk about

but the way they talk about them,

namely that, with rare exception,

any time a social issue is introduced in these movies,

it's framed in the context of a villain

who might have a point but it still fundamentally wrong.

Vulture might have a point that the rich exploit

and quickly discard the poor, but he's a criminal

who kills people and threatens teenagers and steals.

He's wrong and needs to go to jail.

Killmonger has a very good point

about the indifference towards atoning

for our histories of colonization, but here,

yeah, he also kills people, and he wants to kill

all their children, too. (man screaming)

Ideas are boiled down to individuals

who can then be quickly discarded

so we never really have to consider

how broken elements of our society really are.

For more on that, check out my video on ideology in the MCU.

But then there's Arthur Fleck.

Now Arthur Fleck does do terrible things in this film.

He kills first in self defense,

but after that point commits murder more and more freely,

even suffocating his own mother

in a moment of bitter revenge,

all of this culminating in the brutal shooting

of a talk show host in front of a live studio audience.

These are horrific acts, and it'd be hard to empathize

with any real-world person who acted in this way.

But here's where the penny drops

and the question left by the film

that made me realize how much I enjoyed it.

Even if we agree that much of what Arthur does is wrong,

can we truly blame him for his actions

given the world that he lives in?

Even more pressingly, can we not

in some ways justify his hatred?

Arthur Fleck is extremely poor and severely mentally ill,

two groups usually the first to suffer

when social support fails a community.

When, say, a conservative government talks

about austerity, talks about a reduction

in public spending to reduce budget deficits,

these are the groups they are knowingly harming,

as indeed they do here.

Even his mental illness is to some extent alluded to

as being rooted in the same lack of support

with the revelation of his adoption and years of abuse

before being discovered by social services.

This is if we ignore the even darker possibility

that Arthur was actually the disowned child

of corporate mogul Thomas Wayne, here framed not

as the angelic father figure he's usually seen as

but just another indifferent multi-millionaire,

spouting tired rhetoric about how he's here

to save everyone, all the while chastising them

for protesting the reality of their social conditions.

Arthur Fleck, for all he supposedly loses his grip

on reality, in some ways simply sees things

for what they are.

He sees a marginalized public being constantly mocked

and derided by a privileged elite

with no real knowledge or care

of the life he's had to struggle with.

And he says fuck you, no more.

And against all odds, the public picks up that message.

Fuck you, no more.

And the film smartly does the thing these types

of movies rarely do.

It lets that idea fester.

We don't get a Batman showing up

to calmly moralize how he understands Joker's frustrations

but can't endorse his violent methods,

to take him down and throw him in jail

to restore order for another day.

The film essentially presents us with an idea

that if this is the material reality of the world we live in

this is outcome of violent, desperate protest

is the only one that makes sense.

And, well, this is the material reality

of the world we live in.

At the climax of the film, Arthur himself pointedly claims

that he believes in nothing,

and I think that's important here.

I think if Arthur were framed as a more straightforward,

revolutionary idealogue, more of a Killmonger figure,

it would risk inflating his nihilistic bloodshed

with the 99%-style resistance protest movements the film

is clearly nodding to with its conclusion.

At the end of the day, Arthur is what you

might call pure ideology, a man so consumed by the feeling

that the system will not give him a voice

to change the reality of his condition

that he resigns himself to the small victories,

the ability to put a face to every privileged asshole

who told him he was nothing more

than a punchline and to pull the trigger.

This is the actual outcome

of the individualistic rhetoric I talk about

in these types of media in which we desperately try

to play along with the fantasy

that there's one bad figure representing all the ills

of the world who we just have

to put a stop to to end the problem.

And Joker 2019 says no.

Actually, these problems are the result

of a series of much more wide-reaching,

interconnected systems, the result of a class system upheld

by a state, most of the time upheld by corporate interests.

It's a simple equation.

If you take these communities and you remove the systems

in place to care for them and you remove any real ability

for them to change that or, in many cases,

care for themselves, this is the result.

And frankly, yeah, I think we really need that right now.

And it gives me hope that a film that acknowledges all

of this is currently doing absurd numbers

all around the world.

Here we have a multi-million dollar project

that doesn't cast a moral judgment

on violent revolt against a broken system,

that doesn't say maybe you have a point

but you went too far.

And by the same token, it doesn't spell out this

is good, it's a good thing this is happening

because frankly, we know that it isn't.

Nobody out there protesting right now wants

to be fighting tooth and nail out

on the streets for their rights.

People who just wanna wreck shit

and cause chaos are a slim minority

against a population that simply wants

to be listened to and treated fairly.

It's a film that's willing to stand up

and say that this is, like it or not,

the predictable outcome of what the powers

that be choose to do with its people.

And I don't care if you're coming at this

as someone who already believes all the same things I do.

Hell, maybe you usually find yourself

in political opposition to me more often than not.

I just feel like if there's anything

that's going to get us all to realize

that we're all fighting the same enemy here,

it's going to be stories like this one,

stories that don't seek to police the line

between justified and unjustified acts of protest

but simply say this is our world, here are its outcomes.

What could we do together to change that?

And sure, that could be naive.

There will, after all, always be people like Thomas Wayne

or De Niro's Murray Franklin, insisting that,

despite all we know about Arthur

and the society he's living in,

he should've just worked harder

or made different choices as an individual,

people who want to ignore how these are predictable outcomes

of marginalization like we see in the film,

people who, as Arthur says, won't get it.

But who knows?

Maybe just once, we can basically agree things need

to change rapidly and fundamentally

if we have any hope of making it out of this thing alive.

Now a few things I wanna touch on before I go.

One, once again, I think it's evident

that this film doesn't give us a transparent,

correct interpretation of what it has to say.

This is my reading, and I've ready many others

that differ pretty fundamentally to it.

I've seen some argue the film,

quite contrary to my pro-revolutionary read,

has a deeply conservative bend.

It does, after all, conflate anti-fascist movements

with literally the most famous supervillain in the world.

And yes, to anyone who says the film plays

into the trope of demonizing the mentally ill,

I definitely see where you're coming from.

I do think the film really goes out

of its way to underline that Arthur

could have been a perfectly functioning member of society

had he not been so relentlessly shat on

by the systems in place that were supposed to protect him.

By the end of the day,

he is still yet another severely mentally ill man

committing random acts of ultra violence

when we know full well

that the overwhelming majority of these kinds

of attackers have no history of ill mental health.

Finally, I want to acknowledge again yes,

I think the film drops the ball drastically

when it comes to acknowledging the other intersections

of oppression that clearly play a role,

especially if we're talking about the USA.

I think it's sad to imagine that may be part

of why the film has succeeded is because

of its reticence to acknowledge things

are more complicated than class.

In any case, I do hope that if you've stuck around

through this, you hear where I'm coming from.

And even if you disagree with my reading,

which I'm very much prepared for,

we can have a sincere conversation

about it in the comments here and elsewhere.

I don't know, worth a shot, right?

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You can also check out The Serfs,

my channel recommendation for this video.

They do great political streams over on Twitch

at, as well as fun YouTube videos

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And I guess I'll catch you next time.

As always, love you all, and stay safe.

(pleasant upbeat music)

The Description of Joker Wasn't The Movie We Deserved, But The One We Needed | Jack Saint