The film Joker does, in fact, include some painful, realistic scenes depicting mental illness, but the film does not come off as a public service announcement. More, the disability, well written and well played, paints the character as blatantly real in glorious, uncomfortable brush strokes. There are scenes that depict a man possessing a gun without a proper background check, but this is not necessarily a critique of the N.R.A. Instead, it makes the film suspenseful and raw. There is a scary clown, but this is no horror movie. His infamous walk down the outdoor concrete steps in the light mist, finally in costume and visually realized, is epic, not frightening. No Jack-in-the-box scare moments. No misdirection with some mounting, dark soundtrack, making us jump when a cat comes suddenly from around a corner…cue-off music…then a maniac with a mask and a hatchet from behind the rust-spotted water boiler…no.
It is not a super hero movie either. No one in the script has special powers, and we don’t see zip lines hitting buildings at perfect angles five blocks away, nor “super human” jumping, flipping, feigning, and punching. While I could criticize the film for not showing Joker’s full evolution (Bruce Wayne and his father are characters, so we are fully expecting Joker to become THE JOKER, the ultimate nemesis of Batman, using his mental instability to outsmart his opponents), heck, I would suppose it means that there is going to be a Joker 2.
And it is not finally the point. Joker is not a social justice movie, nor a political movie, nor a horror movie, or a superhero movie. It has beautifully filmed violence, stark and shocking like the types of filmatic shots mob movies employ, but it is no mob movie. It has family drama out the waazoo, but it is no Lifetime special, no weeping mistresses, no burning beds. We feel for the character, but it is no tragedy, and God DAMN there is a lot of laughing in this motherfucker, but it is no comedy in any sense of the word.
It is a movie that has defied genre, and writers of weird fiction should be rejoicing. Not the splatterpunks, nor the Lovecraft copiers, but the poor bastards who have been relegated to the small market because we write horror with a literary feel, something that has no place on the bookshelves, at least those in the metaphorical bookshops of mass popular appeal.
For once, we have something entirely, deliciously disturbing, that doesn’t fit into a “category.” And for writers sticking to their guns, for their lives, authoring pieces of writing true to their own given vision, bottom’s up for you! Maybe we will finally earn shelf space at Barnes and Noble, where those fat and lazy, boring and pretentious “cozy mysteries” have been taking up space for too many years.