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Joker Director’s Issues With “Woke Culture” and Comedy Explain So Much

Love, a Due Date stan.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker in upcoming Joker movie from DC

Like the brilliant Harley Quinn herself said, “I’m so f**king over clowns”—specifically Joker, but still. Maybe it’s because everyone has been talking about this movie ad nauseam and it has made my once slight excitement turn to hatred. Look, I’m a fan of dark superhero tales. I love a twist into the darkness that can inhabit our heroes because of their actions. It’s why I love the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight movies and why Iron Man 3 is one of my favorite Marvel movies.

That being said, I don’t particularly care about why the Joker became a murdering clown with psychopathic tendencies, but prior to all this, none of that really bothered me. I was kind of excited to see what Joker had to offer me, but the more I hear about the poor white comedian and his struggle to be funny, the more I want to take the microphone out of his hands and stomp it into oblivion.

It doesn’t help that director Todd Phillips, also known for The Hangover trilogy, is sharing the narrative that comedy is basically dead. Why? Because “woke culture” (which is not a thing) makes it so comedians cannot throw derogatory slurs around and call it comedy.

woke culture means nothing

Phillips is basically stating that he found comedies difficult to make because of this mysterious “woke” culture. In a lengthy quote that basically sounds a lot like crying because someone probably told him he shouldn’t say an offensive word anymore, Phillips goes on and on about this “f**k comedy” mentality and how it bled into Joker.

“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the f*cking funny guys are like, ‘F*ck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies—I think that what comedies in general all have in common—is they’re irreverent. So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but f*ck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.”

I can’t even get into the idea of him thinking that Joker is turning the comic book universe on its head because this is literally a character that has been part of the cultural zeitgeist (in the live-action form) since the ’60s and had maybe the most famous “dark” take of all in The Dark Knight, but whatever, sure, comedy is dead and this take on the Joker is original. Whatever, I’m tired.

Anyway, the idea that Todd Phillips essentially thinks comedy is dead is IDIOTIC TO ME, a stan of his Due Date, but whatever, if you want to think comedy is dead, then you just don’t like the way it has evolved. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if a television show like Barry can win Emmy Awards and Fleabag can win Best comedy series, the genre is not dead, but it has changed from comedies about white dudes getting high and/or drunk and forgetting what they did the night before.

(via Vanity Fair, image: Warner Bros.)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.