Why Are 'Joker' Fans So Angry At 'Parasite' Winning The Best Picture Oscar?

Photo credit: Niko Tavernise - Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Niko Tavernise - Warner Bros.

From Esquire

Robert Storms is angry. He's very, very angry.

"You got to be shitting me, right?" he spits. "This has to be a joke. This absolutely has to be a joke."

Storms is a Joker fan, and he's very, very angry that Parasite beat it to Best Picture at last night's Oscars, because it's not in English. It's not a particularly advisable take to throw yourself into, seeing as it hinges on nonsensical fury with a pronounced xenophobic edge, but it's his take.

Joker stans on Twitter have already stepped in to disbar Storms from being part of the fandom – most of his other recent videos are about how rubbish he thinks Birds of Prey is, which is a bit of a pointer as to his motivations – but if you were to summon up your instinctive idea of what an archetypal Joker superfan would sound like in the aftermath of Parasite's all-conquering night, you'd land very close to him.

Yes, he's overreacting for the sake of a more interesting video and a poppy thumbnail. But if the oversized comedy shoes fit, wear them, and Storms isn't alone in feeling that Joker should have high-kicked down the Dolby Theatre staircase with the statuette.

Hardcore Joker fans might tetchily dismiss the idea that the fervency of their feeling stems from an instinctive aversion to anything that's not Anglophone, but it's pretty incontestably present. There are other factors here too, though.

The outrage which Joker ultras feel seems to turn on the sense that a Best Picture win would have conferred some kind of legitimacy on it, and finally stuck it to the nay-sayers who said it was an unsatisfying, sour, lumpen, pompous film built around a bravura repeat of Joaquin Phoenix's performance in You Were Never Really Here. Which, you know, it was.

At the same time, Joker styled itself as an insurgent that said things no other film would ever dare to, and which was too hot for mainstream cinema to handle. If Joker's cachet came from revelling in its subversive anti-elite energy, then placing so much importance on Phoenix winning Best Actor or the film getting Best Picture doesn't make a great deal of sense. Surely, if you identify with a character who embodies a kind of impotent rage at the system not recognising you, you should be cockahoop that Joker didn't win.

But an Oscar win wasn't even necessary. The 11 nominations it got were already a pretty clear indicator that it had been accepted by the Hollywood establishment. No film got more nominations from the Academy this year. You can't be an outsider when you're leading the nominations. You're the frontrunner.

On top of that, the irony of Storms calling Joker "a movie about how people in high places look down and frown upon the poor" is not lost on anyone who's actually seen Parasite. My friend: that's the film. In fact, the spasm of indignation on Joker's half might in part be because Parasite's win draws into sharper focus all of the inadequacies of Joker. Todd Phillips' film was beaten by another picture which does what it strains to hard do, but much more elegantly and without leaning on Martin Scorsese's hard-boiled classics to confer an air of legitimacy.

But there's a more fundamental point here too. Anyone sucked so deep into the fandom that the success of another very good film somehow diminishes or denigrates their own chosen film, to the point that they frequently sound like they think their chosen film is actually the only film ever to have existed, doesn't really like film at all. They like being very, very angry.

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