On Writer’s Block and Responding to the Joker comments

Dear readers,

Happy Indian summer, everybody! Even if you’ve already headed back to school, or are working an eight-to-five, there’s a dreamlike haze to August, a feeling as though there’s still one or two chances to make good on the hedonistic plans you had for summer, and a suspension of crushing drudgery until the days get shorter and you have to go to those special clinics where the lights are “full spectrum.”

Personally, I’ve found it impossible to blog anything this August, at least until now. Partly that’s because of the goofy comments on my Batman post (exceptions: Daniel Roberts, va, Bill, tomemos). People, you can do better. Both here and at the Valve I’ve had people quoting at me some eighties comic wherein the Joker was declared “super-sane,” and it just makes me want to scream. Just because he’s an interesting villain and we’re interested in subverting normality doesn’t mean we can genially overlook the murders he’s committing. That’s overwrought, theoretical analysis obscuring basic facts, and it’s the most common way criticism shipwrecks.

When Heath Ledger died, he left behind him a small body of exceptional work, much of which will survive as classic (above all Batman and Brokeback Mountain). That is a wonderful thing to have achieved, though I am sorry he died so young. Since I did not know him personally, although I think we did party once at this club at like four in the morning but who can really remember because that night was CRAZY, that is as much as I can say about his death. It seems unlikely to me that a man who could become so many different characters was really driven over an edge by playing the Joker, any more than playing a gay character made him gay. Perhaps the reason that the idea of Ledger getting sucked into the movie is so compelling is that we get to express our anxieties about the ways we ourselves are saturated by films and imitate them.

The politics of the movie are determinedly centrist. It could be cause for liberal alarm that Batman is a self-directed vigilante, but unlike most Dirty Harrys, he has two friendly old concerned dads keeping him in check. In the next movie Jack Nicholson is slated to play his third dad and golf caddy. Between Batman’s spy system and Morgan Freeman’s concern about his spy system, you get the same sort of inconclusive, inoffensive political ping-pong delivered everyday by CNN and the New York Times.

The pathos of the film is that we want to root for the Joker, but we can’t: we understand the principle he represents, and feel in our bones the need for liberation and chaos and detonating the status quo, but people cannot die as part of that process. They cannot be turned from followers into victims — that doesn’t liberate them. So we are caught between hero and villain, hating the city itself and its systems of power…the proud, Gothic high rises of a city whose name has become part and parcel with Batman, “Baltimore.”

I highly recommend Daniel’s post, va’s fascinating comment, and Steven’s final moment where he announces that the sexual fantasies in Fellini movies are entirely realizable in real life. To which I say, if that’s not a good starting premise for a verité blog, nothing is. Certainly better than attacking the culture of teenyboppers, who are only out to “shake it” to savage primal rhythms before driving to “make out point” (their term for movie theaters) and who don’t think long attention spans are “groovy.” Have these kids even heard Vivaldi? That’s some “kickin” glissando, man!

Finally, a post that I wrote a fair while ago called “Zizek the Embarrassment” got quoted in The Nation, and The Nation refused to attribute it. It really got me down. Here’s a magazine that I’ve been reading since high school — that fills every corner of my parents’ house in neat, outraged piles — refusing to let any sunlight filter down to the netroots. I’m not a purist about this medium. Blogging doesn’t have to be cut off from the mainstream media. But unless it’s their blog, that’s how they want it. So these posts are for the questions that don’t have any answers, and for the grits when there ain’t enough eggs to cook, and for the hoods of the world misunderstood. Greenzo out.