[Marxism] The tragedy of the Joker | Red Flag

MM marxmail00 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 17 15:56:55 MDT 2019

German social theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, reflecting on Hollywood’s culture industry in the post-WWII period, maintained that comedy, musicals and the “happy ever after” dramas of mainstream cinema serve as distractions. “Fun is a medicinal bath”, they wrote. “The pleasure industry never fails to prescribe it. It makes laughter the instrument of the fraud practiced on happiness.” The culture industry functioned largely, they thought, to divert people’s longing for a society of genuine happiness into the transitory emotional satisfaction and false joy of narrative certainty. For those concerned with changing the world, however, it’s better to examine with sobriety the ills of society than succumb to the garish Technicolour illusions of mainstream cinema.

Present day cinema, even more than when Adorno and Horkheimer were writing, is an obscene and exploitative industry. It trades in pat clichés and the regurgitation of tired narratives. The endless remakes of superhero films suggest that something is rotten in the state of California – a crisis of imagination reflective of the broader malaise of a capitalist system consuming itself in its own excesses. Every now and then, however, something brilliant, challenging and disturbing appears. Todd Phillip’s Joker is one of those films.


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