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    The Killing Joke discussed (spoilers)



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    The Killing Joke discussed (spoilers)

    Post  mindspike on August 25th 2016, 5:13 pm

    When Kim and On-Screen Matt said in their podcast segment review of the Killing Joke movie that there was much to talk about, they weren't wrong. I feel that a number of things about the book and the movie need to be discussed and explained.

    The movie:

    The movie is.... complicated. In a panel after the ComiCon viewing, Bruce Timm stated that the first "act" of the movie should be considered completely separate from the adaptation of the novel. The entire opening story with Batgirl is essentially the "backstory" of his DCAU stories. Completely aside from all the issues I have with the content (and there are many) I do think the two stories should have been presented as separate entities on the release instead of joined together. That alone would have made a huge difference. As it is, the first portion has absolutely nothing to do with The Killing Joke, and has left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don't want to talk about it.

    I feel the movie failed on multiple thematic and presentation levels. The most important one is the "Lady or Tiger" ending that was not presented well. The question of whether Batman kills Joker at the end of the movie speaks to the legitimacy of Batman's vigilante actions. Unlike the lady or the tiger, though, there are no good choices here. If Batman kills Joker, it proves that even the best of men are no better than Joker himself, with no ultimate distinction in their conduct. If Joker lives, justice goes absent as Joker escapes the consequences for his actions. If Batman laughs with Joker, then the joke is on Gordon, as Batman is the metaphorical representation of Gordon's symbolic purpose - to protect and serve.

    Also important is the contrast between Joker and Jim Gordon. This is ultimately their story, how one man can have one bad day and lose his mind because of it. Joker's crucial line "Madness is the emergency exit," is completely absent from the film. This is the crucial difference between Joker and Gordon. When faced with adversity, Joker quit; Gordon perseveres. Joker refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of his own choices; Gordon accepts responsibility for the consequences of the actions of others.

    Other than these two failures, I thought the movie adequately (but not excellently) represented the book.

    The book:

    It has been said that Alan Moore hates women, that his works are uniformly misogynistic. I don't think that's the case; I think Alan Moore hates *everyone*. I think his stories routinely brutalize and dehumanize women because that's how he gets the biggest, most dramatic reaction. "From Hell" is an excellent example of this, with "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" taking the same literary stances, but softening the blow by having the characters justify their actions sympathetically.

    In The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon's sole purpose in the story is to get shot in the spine, stripped naked, and brutalized by Joker in ways that are never explicitly portrayed. She is a plot device, and nothing is made of her character in any way within the context of the book. So why choose Barbara?

    Is it because stuffing a woman in a fridge is so shocking? I'd be pretty horrified to see *anyone* stuffed in a fridge. And there are plenty of alternate victims: James Jr (the son), Barbara Keane-Gordon (the ex-wife), or for that matter any number of helpless doe-eyed orphan girls. In the end, I think Barbara was chosen not for her relationship to Gordon, but for her relationship to the readership.

    I believe Moore went for maximum shock value. Barbara Gordon was a popular character that had yet to be "revitalized" after the company reorganization. Boys were attracted to her. Girls idealized her. Brutalizing Barbara was guaranteed to draw a reaction from every possible reader. I don't think Moore was trying to make a misogynistic statement, I think he was just pandering to hormones and lowest-common shock value.

    At the end of the day, I think that's really all that Moore was doing with Killing Joke. I think he was being intentionally offensive. Yes, the story has a fair degree of literary structure, but it's isolated and not well focused. "Watchmen" is an exercise in meticulous plot structure. "V" explores the development of psyche as a response to external stimuli. "From Hell" is a detailed and scathing criticism of both Victorian and modern society. By comparison, I find Killing Joke to be a crude exercise in studied offensiveness.

    Outside of the literary structure itself, I find very little redeeming in the content of any of these stories. All of which leads to my conclusion, I'm pretty sure that Alan Moore hates everyone.

    -Winston Crutchfield
    "The rational mind is dangerous; the Christian mind is devastating."
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    Re: The Killing Joke discussed (spoilers)

    Post  jazzact13 on August 25th 2016, 11:41 pm

    I think the last animated Batman movie was "Bad Blood", which would be one to discuss in its own rights, but I don't want to digress. It's important for this discussion for one reason, at the very very very end of the movie Batgirl shows up. For about two seconds. And so far as I can tell, she's there only for the sake of "Killing Joke".

    Which really seemed like a cheap way of bringing in that character, and may also explain why they seemed to need to introduce her more at the beginning of "Killing Joke", which seems like what you're saying was what the first part was about (I haven't seen it, and really not sure I want to).


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    Re: The Killing Joke discussed (spoilers)

    Post  Paeter on August 26th 2016, 10:37 am

    My feelings about "The Killing Joke" comic these days are more about its historical significance in comics than as work that stands the test of time. It explored some things about the Batman/Joker relationship that were rarely if ever touched before. It brought dark brutality and pseudo-realistic psychology to the actual modern continuity of DC comics (I first heard about it through some remarks in the "Death In The Family" story from the late 80's).

    I read it again a few years back and I remember it feeling a bit self-indulgent or maybe just stylistically removed from DC comics in a way that, because of the passing of time and changes in the medium, didn't feel innovative anymore. (I'd take some Gail Simone any day over The Killing Joke!) And even in the comic book (as Matt and Kim said of Hamill's performance) Joker didn't feel like the same Joker I read in other comics.

    So if you're coming to the material for the first time today, or after a long time away from it, I can especially understand why it would get some negative reactions now.

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    Re: The Killing Joke discussed (spoilers)

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