Back in 2017, legendary director Mel Brooks referred to PC culture as “the death of comedy”. In particular, when asked whether he could even make some of his films in teh current political climate, he was quoted as saying the following:
No, no, I mean maybe Young Frankenstein. Maybe a few. But never Blazing Saddles, because we have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy. It’s okay not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering into the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.
Question is…was Brooks right? Filmmakers are more than fine commenting still on current issues and pointing out the hypocrisies of the modern world, but it’s noted more and more how sensitive people have become to these issues. While Brooks made his films to laugh at the issues of the world, the stupidity of people and how they act to others, the idea of making fun of it is considered offensive now. But is that not the point of comedy? To laugh at the horrors of life so it’s easier to face and deal with them. Joker director Todd Phillips seems to think so. So much so he even claims, in the midst of a profile piece on his lead star Joaquin Phoenix for Vanity Fair, going as far as to say he practically did Joker because he was having difficulty finding work in the comedy genre:
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–king funny guys are like, “F–k 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–k 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.
Whether Phillips is right or not, it’s noted that after it’s critical reception at Venice Film Festival, Joker seen newer critical reception for the film less positive and more divided. This has occurred as the film has seen various attacks by groups as being a dangerous film that will trigger violence by those who might identify with the social ruined lead character. Ranging from family members of the 2012 Aurora shootings warning fear of similar attacks happening during screenings of Joker to worry the film portrays improperly mental illness. One way or another, at the end of this week, we’ll begin to see if modern “wokeness” is fair to worry about such films that take unconventional approaches to serious material, comedic or otherwise.
Joker co-stars Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Marc Maron, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, and Brian Tyree Henry.