([identity profile] wrote in [community profile] scans_daily2009-07-12 11:41 am

Two controversial scenes from the Joker GN

I'm posting these in small part to find out if anyone's up for an Elseworlds/Alternate Universe week. I've got at least three I can share.... (Idk if Lex Luthor: Man of Steel counts as Elseworlds, but if it does, I've got a fourth...)

But anyways... on to the controversy!!

Part One. The LESS controversial scene.

Joker crying. I think this was one of the more shocking scenes for me (granted there were A LOT of shocking scenes).
In this, the narrator, Jonny, is staying at the Joker and Harley Quinn's apartment. He happens to walk past a mostly closed door and glimpses this. (While he sees this, he's telling the reader about a story about his frog. The story ends up  coming full circle at the end of the GN)

Why is this controversial? I for one don't think I had ever seen the Joker shed a tear in comics (and in the funeral scene during the Man who Killed Batman B:TAS episode, his crying is somewhat comical). We have no significant reason why he's crying -- it appears just after Harvey Dent doesn't take his phone calls and he blows up his bar. (And kills a henchman). Was it manic depressive? Was he just really strung out on drugs? Was he upset because Batman had not come out to play with him yet?
Without getting into the Joker's origin, I'm guessing this is Azzarello trying to show us the tragic clown aspect. Here is a egotistical bastard who despite all the glee he gets from murdering and torturing, he loathes himself.

In part, I think, it's controversial because he's on his knees before Harley, and so we see a co-dependent relationship in which she is the rock here. For some that could be unsettling because we almost we see a human, not just a clown or a monster, and (a very minute) potentially a redeemable person. It also shows us that despite Harley not having any lines, she actually IS portrayed as a *strong* character, just not in the traditional *independent woman* nor in the *good girl* sense. She's strong enough to see the humanity of this monster.

Azzarello's Lex Luthor: Man of Steel showed many different sides of Luthor because he in fact loves his humanity. He believes what he is doing is for the greater good. However, Joker's a bit more difficult: he tries to hide his humanity (making up different origins, his attempts on Harley's life [Batman #663, Batman: Harley Quinn], the 180 he did in Going Sane, etc.).

What did you think of this scene? Do you think this was a good way of making him more complex? Could it have been done differently? (Remembering that the fake/real sad origin story has already been done in The Killing Joke..)

And now...

The Rape Scene.

Hoo boy. This scene.
Anyways, while we don't see the actual rape occur, this scene occurs AFTER the crying scene and is after Joker believes Jonny *raped* (for lack of a better term) his trust when he didn't reveal he had a wife (and Harvey found out and used it against them). This woman is Jonny's wife.
On the one hand we feel an almost pity for Jonny for not being able to stop it (go up against the Joker??!); on the other hand, we don't (this is someone he cares about here -- how could he just sit by and let that happen?!).

Thing is, while I doubt the Joker is "above rape," has he ever committed sexual crimes before? (And no, I don't think he raped Babs in TKJ. First of all, it was written by Alan Moore, who doesn't exactly shy away from that kind of thing and would have said so if it had happened; secondly, I think the reason why he undressed Babs was to better show off the wound -- sick, yes, but he's trying to upset her father). But this is technically an Elseworld's tale, so this Joker is different. And if it's "funny" to him, he'll do it. (The joke that perhaps Jonny could have stopped him, but did not....)
Anyways, as distasteful as it was, it does show us that he's completely irredeemable. You get this almost false hope from the crying scene and then comes this.
But was there a better way to show that?
(Granted, IMO, it's not as ridiculous as the almost-rape that occurred in Oracle: the Cure. That was.... well, let's just say it didn't enhance the plot in any way.)

Now I'm a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves, people!
The Joker is neither a Joe nor a Kerr. Discuss.

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Thing is, while I doubt the Joker is "above rape,"

Whenever somebody says that, I start laughing. Oh, so he's not above manipulation and murder and showing his complete power over you and doing whatever he wants to you, but he's above rape?

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, this always got me. "It's ok if he murders a hundred babies, but rape? No way!"

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 10:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, but I imagine it'd be difficult to make rape funny. I mean, even when he kills someone (when he's written well, of course), yeah, it's gruesome, but there usually is some level of humor. Idk how you'd achieve that with rape . . .

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:01 pm (UTC)(link)
He might have at one point been a Joe (Napier), but never a Kerr. How very odd.

To be fair, the kind of insanity we see in the Joker is impossible given any sort of realism. This Joker (and the Dark Knight's Joker, for that matter) has been adapted into a setting with a higher realism, and needs to have some actual mental deficits to make sense within the narrative.

I'm in the process of re-reading 100 Bullets, and I feel that Azzarello's The Joker is closer in tone to that then to Dark Knight. Joker using rape as a weapon here? Seems to make sense if you're trying to show the worse human being imaginable. Rape in the regular DCU? Seems horribly off-kilter.

[identity profile] 2009-07-13 08:14 am (UTC)(link)
Having read Azzarello's 100 Bullets up to 'The Hard Way' trade, Volume 8, I think, I found that this was my only real problem in reading Joker - That there wasn't much that identified this Joker as anything like the DCU version, moreso than TDK's version, and that bothered me, especially as the solicits promised to get inside his mind.

As it is, though, I felt that the Joker could've easily been replaced with a crazier version of Lono, or any one of the numerous 'crazy gangster' types we've seen in crime fiction and movies over the years. I know that Azzarello was obviously aiming for a touch more realism than what we usually get, but I found that even Morrison's 'super sanity' version of the Joker spoke to me more than this version. There was nothing that really made this a 'Joker' book, for me. It was just a crime novel with a crazy gang boss and some Batman characters slotted in to various roles. Even the Dark Knight's appearance, come story's end, made little sense to me.

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:08 pm (UTC)(link)
[nitpick]Having read this GN, I'm not sure this constitutes an Elseworlds story. First, it wasn't marketed as such. Second, it takes place in neither a world noticeably different from the usual post-Crisis DCU (as in JLA: The Nail), nor in the past or future of that world (e.g. Generations), nor a combination of the two (e.g. The Batman of Arkham). Rather, Joker is a self-contained tale that could conceivably take place within normal DCU continuity (or what's left of it), much like the standalone Devil's Advocate.[/nitpick]

Crying Joker: Although we're not specifically told why he's crying, I took it as indicating his sense of betrayal over his criminal colleagues muscling in on his turf while he was in Arkham. Or perhaps just of the stress he was experiencing, trying to get back what was "his." Does it make him more "human?" Only inasmuch as he is a human being anyway (albeit a horrible one) and crying, like laughing, is something humans do. Going by my hunch as to why he's crying, it certainly doesn't make me feel sorry for him within this story. (As opposed to, say, the end of TKJ, or especially Going Sane, where I did actually feel bad for the bastard.)

Rapist Joker: Yeah, there were definitely other possible ways for ol' Jonny to realize that his hero was in fact a monster undeserving of adoration. Not because, as some have argued with reference to the controversial TKJ scene, the Joker is asexual. He may well be so as normally portrayed, but in Azzarello's novel there's definitely a sexual element in his relationship with Harley.

No, it's because rape, whether of women or children, has long been comics shorthand for "complete monster" and apart from the sexism issue that Gail Simone and others have correctly raised, it's a cliché so overused that it simply doesn't "shock" anymore. There are various possibilities for emotional manipulation and cruelty that can establish a character as a "complete monster." Example: in the otherwise poor Joker-origin story "Lovers and Madmen" from Batman Confidential, Joker dresses as a circus clown and asks a little girl in the audience whether he should spray her or her father with "seltzer." When she chooses her daddy, he says something like, "All right, just remember, when you're older and in chose daddy." Then he Jokerizes him with gas. That's your complete monster right there: not just murdering a man before his daughter's eyes, but laying the guilt on her. And all without stripping and/or rape.

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:36 pm (UTC)(link)
I tend to think of it as an Elseworlds because of the characters. Joker, Oswald, Crock, and others are much more "street-level" here, concerned with regular crimes and rackets that are normally dealt with by normal gangsters and thugs in the DCU. One could argue that this GN just shows an off-day (or a mostly Batman-less one). Most out of step is Harley, who is completely unlike the Harley we regularly see. There's also the matter of Joker's glasgow smile.

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:54 pm (UTC)(link)
But I don't think that rape is being used here as a shorthand for a complete monster, but rather as a part of his actions as that monster, if that makes sense. In the story Joker doesn't resort to rape just for the sake of rape, but it is a part of the awful mind game he plays, ripping apart the man who idolizes him. And given the context of the situation, it goes pretty close to the situation you described.

To degree that rape in itself is automatically sexist as a story vehicle, even if it has been overused to a degree at a certain point of time, is kind of limiting, because there a monsters and villains in the real world who do that. By the same degree I could argue how I never want to see theft in comics, because we've seen so many thieves in them. And yeah, there is a difference and it is all about context, but if I understood you crrectly, you are automatically judgind it's use here without taking that context in to account.

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 06:58 pm (UTC)(link)

And he fact that he raped her IN FRONT OF KILLER CROC makes the whole thing fucking hilarious.


[identity profile] 2009-07-12 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Are we sure the woman he's crying to is Harley?

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 08:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes. She's shown earlier in a nightclub, starting out unmasked and uncostumed and then performing a reverse-striptease.

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 08:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Right, the crying thing. 96% sure that Azzarello wrote it so you wouldn't know why he was crying, because its totally weird and is another way of alienating the Joker - like the fact the book isn't from the Joker's POV, because Azzarello thought it would take away the unpredictability of the character, since he's insane and whatnot.

Also, it comes right after the part where Jonny Jonny thinks he understands the Joker. And we all know how that turns out.

So yeah, its a good way of making him more complex.

Or he just totally misses his best buddy Basty, who has been a total bitch by ignoring his calls.

has he ever committed sexual crimes before?

Not that I can think of, its not really his MO. Unless it would be funny to him, like the above rape. Rape probably seems to obvious to him and it's a control thing anyways.
ext_396558: (Default)

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 10:31 pm (UTC)(link)
I saw the crying as a sort of materialistic outcry against mortality; throughout the GN the emphasis is on Joker wanting Gotham to be 'his', up to the extent that it ends with him screaming "This Belongs To Me!". Juxtaposed with Jonny's narration, the implication would seem to be that Joker is terrified of ever losing what little of the city he has - Harley and all - as well as mortified at the inevitable prospect of his having to destroy it all before anyone else can take it away from him.

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Does anyone have scans of the nightclub scene, or would that break the limit?

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(Anonymous) 2009-07-12 09:42 pm (UTC)(link)
At the end of Hush Returns the Joker cries...Well I don't remember if he cries actual tears, but he looks like he's crying and he strips buck naked, gets on his knees and looks pretty upset about life.

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 10:20 pm (UTC)(link)
The art is so....line-y!

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[identity profile] 2009-07-12 11:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Actually, it's pretty obvious that Joker never violated Babs - the blood forced out from her wound due to the pressure would have been fatal. Even if it hadn't been, either the doctor or Harvey Bullock would have mentioned it. No reason not to.

[identity profile] 2009-07-12 11:27 pm (UTC)(link)
I think this has a lot in common with The Killing Joke. In both cases, a woman is humiliated in order to get to a male protagonist. And her personal humiliation doesn't even really count. It was never directed at her. It was directed at the man. Her pain is inconsequential.

secondly, I think the reason why he undressed Babs was to better show off the wound

Well, certainly to humiliate her and her father. To show her father that his daughter has been terribly injured and also humiliated.

In TKJ, Barbara was shot to get to her father and Batman. Then stripped and photographed, which was possibly to show how bad the wound was, but also, imo, definitely added to show how bad things in general are, ramp up the tension. Stripped, photographed naked? His daughter, whom he knows is Batgirl, is in that bad of shape to put up with that level of humiliation. Then there's the part of the male protagonist (Gordon or the guy above) experiencing the debasement of the loved one.

Here, it's quite similar. Woman as extension of male protagonist, gets the brunt of the assault (which is by design, humiliating, thus humiliating the man AND the woman, although she is just collateral damage.

TKJ: Babs shot; Joker not even knowing she's Batgirl) stripped and photographed in order to send pics to her father, Commissioner Gordon. The assault she receives is based not on her, but on her father.

These scans: Woman raped to humiliate her husband. (And her, yeah. But her personal hell is just an aside.) The assault she receives is based not on her, but on her husband.

Also, I would like to mention that in TKJ Gordon spent time stripped, himself (i.e. in leather sex shorts, if I remember correctly) also being photographed (if I recall correctly?). Nobody mentions that, I've noticed, in TKJ discussions, which tbh, I don't enjoy, but... that is odd to me.
kingrockwell: he's a sexy (Worried Bruce)

[personal profile] kingrockwell 2009-07-12 11:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Jim had no such thing as sexy leather shorts or shorts of any other kind.

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[identity profile] 2009-07-13 01:46 am (UTC)(link)
Tell me--on the crying page, did anyone else think at first that Joker was going down on Harley in that third panel?

Even that was disconcerting, because I thought, "I'm pretty sure Joker is the kind of guy who solely recieves."

[identity profile] 2009-07-13 01:59 am (UTC)(link)
It took me a bit, because I was reading the first pages with the guy Jonny as the narrator so I thought it was him thinking that while stumbling upon the scene of Joker crying. Oops, yeah. So re-read with Joker telling Harley all this, it makes a lot of sense.
It's strange to think of the Joker as being bullied as a youth. The need to be in control to the situation. The need to be the one that threw the toad off the roof. The fact that he went looking for it afterward, shows he obviously cared a great deal for the creature. Haven't read the comic so I can only guess that it may have been his best and possibly only friend? Sad, but I get the whole "So I did it myself." The unspoken part of that is "So they wouldn't have the satisfaction [of doing that to me]."
It's one of those rare glimpses, a blink and it's gone. I think Callisto from Xena said it best: "Sometimes it even scares me. Then I get over it."

[identity profile] 2009-07-13 02:16 am (UTC)(link)
The first scene is straight from "The Shining."

[identity profile] 2009-07-13 02:48 am (UTC)(link)
I dunno, I don't like Joker raping because it's too...common. Lots of monsters rape. Joker does stuff with pizazz. With flare. I see something that "normal" boring him. Kind of like how robbery is common (in real life and in the comics). When I see comics of Joker pairing up with Two-Face or something for a plain old museum heist or some such thing, I have a similar reaction -- that something like that is just waaay too dull for the Joker. Unless there was some big bang he could do during it, what would be the point?

I actually do sexual assault research for a living (if you can call what I get paid a living) so at some level the paragraph I wrote above really squicked me out. It's a fictional character, it's a fictional character, it's a fictional character...

[identity profile] 2009-07-13 06:32 am (UTC)(link)
That makes perfect sense - the Joker is the kind of guy who poisons fish so he can copyright them. A crime like rape that is something horrible would probably seem pedestrian to him. The Joker only does things for excitement and to tick Batman off...he really has no other motivation, nor does he need any.

[identity profile] 2009-07-14 12:15 am (UTC)(link)
i just imagined this as a youtube vid.


[identity profile] 2009-07-17 02:03 am (UTC)(link)
I wonder why he says to give her money.