Buzz explodes for ‘The Joker’; naturally Twitter is ground zero for gold

Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker. (Film trailer snip/Warner Brothers)
Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker. (Film trailer snip/Warner Brothers)

Once the trailer for the new film The Joker was released, fans emerged with enthusiasm. Well, not all fans. Some on Twitter bemoaned what media are calling a “character film”, perhaps to explain how the Joker became a villain.

One individual, Alan Zilberman, self-described as a “Tattooed freelance film critic”, found gold in his comments about the film no one has actually seen yet. Overall, as with many matters, Twitter became Ground Zero for buzz about The Joker.

How did it all begin? People began to weigh in on the new film featuring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. I have to confess I have long admired Phoenix as an actor. He belongs to a group of actors I often say are so good I could watch them in anything. Other members of my personally selected star club include Kathy Bates, Denzel Washington, and Clint Eastwood.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the prospect of what I think may be a biographical exploration of one of Batman’s primary foes. Until I heard who was playing The Joker.

I couldn’t understand why the film would be made. We all know who The Joker is, we’ve seen him many times, and we’ve heard stories explaining why his face looks so weird and he acts so crazy. Thus far, for me, Jack Nicholson was the best Joker in the land. I’ll hold onto that until I see Phoenix in the role. I found Heath Ledger to be a disappointment in that role, and I realize I am in the minority with that opinion.

As people began to weigh in on the trailer for The Joker, Zilberman posted a Tweet that initially resonated with me:

“JOKER, a film where you’re supposed to sympathize with a mediocre white man radicalized into deranged violence, will no doubt be appealing to the wrong audience for the worst reasons.”

Zilberman has less than 3,000 followers. That Tweet outperformed expectations for those numbers. It was ‘liked’ by 1.7k, RT’d 1.2k times, and ‘loved’ 4.8k times. A statistical quirk, I guess, but social media gold for Zilberman.

Many fans took issue with what Zilberman said; others snarked sympathetically. Such is the way of the Twitter cesspool, a site I’ve likened to a horrendous train wreck capturing all manner of attention from onlookers.

Having read quite a bit of commentary since last night, I’ve decided I want to see the film even if it is about a “mediocre white man radicalized…”

Part of the reason I want to see it now is because of the lead actor. Other celeb actors are in the film—among them, Robert DeNiro who plays the same character in every film I’ve seen him in despite the roles being different. IMDB provides a list of the cast and crew.

I have watched the trailer a few times. It seems to be an attempt to draw empathy (or sympathy?) for a character long known for cruel pranks and innovative ways to kill people. I will say that it isn’t uncommon for filmmakers to attempt to establish common ground with villains. Many films have done that, such as the 1960s version of Bonnie and Clyde. Film is such a powerful medium it can make a hero of a villain if the creators are skilled enough.

Batman has been around a long time, and so has The Joker. There’s a fascinating account of the evolution of Batman at Fandom. The same website provides a history of The Joker, a character who first appeared in the comic in 1940.

There’s a good overview of the new film at Digital Trends.

The Joker hits the big screen October 4, 2019. Once it does, you can count on resurrection of debate about it on Twitter and other social media platforms. For some, that debate may produce social media gold in the form of numbers. Unfortunately, those numbers often have little to do with financial reward for the originator.

(Kay B. Day/April 4, 2019)


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