Joker: Don’t Trust the Narrator

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gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, sort of thing?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
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      says:

      More like The Usual Suspects.

      My problem with saying “we don’t know that anything related to us happened” is that, sure, maybe… but then there’s no story.

      It leads to asking whether we know if Arthur was in the police car at the end of the flick.

      Which leads to whether we know if we’re actually watching the movie and not somewhere in the middle of a Salvia Divinorum trip waiting for the bricks to rebuild the universe for us.

      There was a lot of fuzziness in a lot of scenes… I think Arthur fired 9 bullets from his six-shooter in the Bankerbro scene, for example (and that’s without getting into whether Bankerbros would know Sondheim) but if Arthur didn’t kill them, then what happened?

      The answer “well, *SOMETHING* like what we saw… maybe it wasn’t exactly like that but it was in the general ballpark” can be satisfying. The answer that Arthur didn’t do anything in the movie at all and is still at home in his apartment, taking care of his mom, going to his job where he spins a sign for furniture stores and just had a really interesting daydream after seeing a group of youths run past (without interacting with him at all) is something that we can’t rule out if we decide to let the nose of the camel in the tent.Report

      • Avatar gabriel conroy
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        says:

        I think I agree, but we don’t have to go as far as the reductio of your last paragraph. (And to be fair, you didn’t say we had to as far as that reductio. You were just laying out a reductio.)

        Does the Batman universe/background story help us out here? Are there things that Batman connoisseurs know that can help fill in the blanks? I ask because I’m only a casual fan of Batman and don’t know all the in’s and out’s.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird
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          says:

          I don’t know about you, but half the Batman Universe stuff took me out of the movie for a second. The Thomas Wayne stuff was really good. The various stuff around the city being called the Gotham variant of whatever they were (it wasn’t just the garbage company being on strike, it was Gotham Waste Disposal, and that sort of thing).

          But the… avoiding spoilers… Batman Universe stuff that wasn’t Thomas Wayne and wasn’t a visit to the Gotham Metropolitan Hospital was stuff that jerked me out of the movie for a second.

          So… for me… the Batman universe stuff was the weakest part of the movie. Gotham was a good setting and Thomas Wayne a good character allowing multiple interpretations of what happened in the backstory (and I’m sure that the #MeToo movement, peaking in 2017-2018, informed much of the artistic choices involved in showing the maybe/maybe not of the various choices involved in picking one narrative over another).

          We’re deliberately going to feel one way about saying that Thomas Wayne’s narrative is likely to be closer to reality. I imagine that Phillips wanted us to feel that way.

          If we wander through “maybe this didn’t happen the way it was depicted to us either”, that lets us off that particular hook.Report

  2. Avatar North
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    says:

    I don’t know if this PoV is right about the movie but I really like it- possibly because the rotting world that Joker portrayed was so profoundly vile that it’s comforting to think that it was merely a phantasm filtering through the protagonists twisted mind.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I did see the movie this way, although it irritated me a bit because the delusional narrator thing is a bit overdone. I was half expecting Joaquin would turn out to have been Tyler Durden all along.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I still think that if they wanted to make a Joker origin movie, they really needed to go with the gangster falls into a vat of magical chemicals narrative. Every other narrative is just unsuitable. The Joker is a classic unreliable narrator. Portraying unreliable narrators on film is hard. So while the filmmakers might want to suggest that all of this is in the Joker’s head, there isn’t any way to really make that indefinite enough to the viewers. Its either something that really happened to the character or made up.Report

  5. Avatar Kristin Devine
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    says:

    I haven’t seen it yet but having read a bit about the unreliable narration and hallucinations, I was even wondering it we may be meant to possibly interpret that even the Batman/Joker stuff was a hallucination and planned to watch it through that lens. Like a guy thinking he was Napoleon. I’ll report back when/if I see the movie (husband is not super into this one)

    Great piece as always Gabriel!Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy
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      says:

      Thanks, Kristin. For what it’s worth, I’m glad I saw the movie, even if I’m not sure I liked it. I got it through DVD netflix. In other words, I didn’t pay any more than I was already paying: ergo: I didn’t pay extra to see it at the theater. I’m not sure it would have been worth it.

      I.e., I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but I’d be glad to hear your thoughts if you see the movie.

      Again, thanks for reading!Report

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