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batman-the-killing-joke

This animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 graphic novel presents a much darker universe than the nineties TV show Batman: The Animated Series that this reviewer remembers watching at the tail end of his childhood. Batman: The Killing Joke is by no means a juvenile outing, and contains some decidedly adult content, themes, and insinuations. The story concerns the origins of the Joker, but Joker enthusiasts may be disappointed that the Clown Prince of Crime does not appear until half an hour or so into the program. Before that, the screenplay is preoccupied with the complex relationship between Batman and his protégée Batgirl. One of the most bizarre of the Batman storylines, The Killing Joke gives viewers a sensitive Caped Crusader who worries about the nature of his “relationship” with the Joker and even offers to “rehabilitate” him and maybe collaborate – even after Joker has shot and possibly even raped Batgirl! The ending, too, is a bit of a head-scratcher, and likely to be a conversation-starter after viewing. The idea of the Joker and Batman having a laugh together might seem too insane to consider until one begins to understand the characters as a pair of Judaic archetypes.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Batman: The Killing Joke is:

6. Anti-bankster, literally depicting a banker as an organized crime figure.

5. Anti-nuke, referencing the danger of nuclear holocaust, which, as one character puts it, could be ignited by a flock of geese appearing as a blip on a computer screen.

4. Family-ambivalent. Viewers are treated to a touching father-daughter relationship with Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon, but the Joker’s origin story, in which the financial and psychological strain caused by his wife’s pregnancy and death precipitates his downfall and transformative madness, is arguably antinatalist in character.

3. Pro-gay, perpetuating the homos-are-a-girl’s-best-friend convention.

2. Pro-miscegenation. “I don’t understand why you’re having fishing troubles when we are in the middle of a lake,” Batgirl’s gay friend tells her as he gestures toward a table full of young men including a bespectacled, intellectual-looking congoid. “What do these guys have to do to get your attention?” A white man and black woman are shown studying together in a library – marking race-mixing as the preference of the sophisticated – and a black floozy is also shown caressing the face of a white bad guy.

1. Sexist! The first act of Batman: The Killing Joke is concerned with young heroine Batgirl’s frustration with the limitations placed upon her by her mentor. She aspires to take more active part in Batman’s crime-fighting, but Batman views her as a rookie whose inexperience represents a dangerous liability. A burgeoning feminist, Batgirl objects to him “getting protective and sitting in judgment”, and confronts him with her previous understanding that they were supposed to be partners. “We are – but not equal,” Batman tells her, laying the bat-smack down on that uppity ho.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Blackfish poster

Not many movies move this jaded reviewer to tears, but Blackfish (2013) does exactly that. This top-notch documentary details the troubled life of Tilikum, a literal killer whale responsible for the deaths of three people – two orca trainers, Keltie Byrne at Sealand of the Pacific in 1991 and Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in 2010, plus mysterious SeaWorld trespasser Daniel P. Dukes in 1999. Like other orcas before him, Tilikum was abducted as a child and delivered into captivity for the entertainment of tourists. As Blackfish reveals, hunters prefer to capture the young whales because they are cheaper to transport, with the result that orca families are systematically bereaved by the amusement park industry.

The whales are then thrust into unfamiliar surroundings, frequently into the company of unfriendly fellow orcas, and kept in cramped quarters equivalent to confining a human being to a bathtub for the whole of his life. Whales living in captivity, consequently, tend to have lifespans half of that of their brethren in the wild and can manifest what in a human would be considered psychosis or psychological trauma. Tilikum’s life seems to have been an unusually unhappy one. In addition to the indignity of doing demeaning tricks for fish in an unsavory circus atmosphere, he was regularly abused by the female orcas with whom he performed as a lucrative stud – Tilikum’s dorsal collapse, or lugubrious drooping of his fin, serving as an appropriate symbol of his sexual humiliation and sadness.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Blackfish is:

4. Statist. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appears as a force of good in the film, condemning SeaWorld for covering up such unscrupulous practices as misleading its employees about Tilikum’s violent past.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Blackfish stands as a shocking document of the reprehensible things some people will do to “make a buck”.

2. Animal rights militant. No person with a heart, having once seen Blackfish, will want the practice of killer whale capture and exploitation to continue.

1. Diversity-skeptical. Three of the interviewees, speaking only with overt reference to whales, make statements on the tribal nature of the creatures suggestive of broader relevance for the humans in the audience. Multiculturalism, it turns out, is just as dysfunctional among killer whales! Orca researcher Howard Garrett explains killer whale groupings in captivity:

And they say that they’re a family, that the whales are in their family, they have their pods; but that’s just a, you know, an artificial assemblage of their collection, however management decides they should mix them, and whichever ones happen to be born or bought and brought in, or – that’s not a family, you know, come on.

Orca trainer turned animal rights activist Jeffrey Ventre adds:

You’ve got animals from different cultural subsets that have been brought in from various parks. These are different nations. These aren’t just two different killer whales. These animals, they’ve got different genes, they use different languages.

Most sobering of all, Emory University biopsychologist Lori Marino offers uncomfortable truths diversity cultists ought to heed and consider in their parallel human ramifications:

Well, what can happen as a result of their being thrown in with other whales that they haven’t grown up with, that are not part of their culture is, there’s hyper-aggression, a lot of violence, a lot of killing in captivity that you don’t ever see in the wild.

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