Joker director Todd Phillips says ‘woke culture’ has ruined comedy

Phillips and Phoenix have both defended Joker from accusations that it glorifies extreme violence

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 02 October 2019 10:05 BST
Joker - Trailer 2

Joker director Todd Phillips has claimed he quit comedy because “woke culture” has ruined it.

Before he took on the film portraying the origins of Batman’s nemesis, Phillips was best-known for his Hangover trilogy starring Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis, as well as films including Old School and War Dogs.

Speaking to Vanity Fair in a profile of Joker star Joaquin Phoenix for the magazine’s November issue, Phillips said comedy directors were being put off by a heightened sensitivity in popular culture.

“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture,” he said. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore – I’ll tell you why, because all the f***ing funny guys are like, f*** this s**t, because I don’t want to offend you.”

“It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter,” he continued. “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’s what comedies, in general, all have in common – is they’re irreverent.

“So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but f*** comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.”

Phillips, Phoenix, and Joker’s distributor Warner Bros have defended the film from accusations of glorifying violence.

A recent report by Deadline said that undercover police will be stationed along with uniformed officers at screenings in New York, to address concerns around potential violent situations.

Phoenix previously walked out of an interview with The Telegraph after being asked about the potential impact of the violence in the film, only to return shortly after and say he hadn’t thought about the issue.

Responding to the criticism in the Vanity Fair interview, he said he had to determine whether he could bring complexity and humanity to an evil character.

“It’s so easy for us to – we want the simple answers, we want to vilify people,” he said. “It allows us to feel good if we can identify that as evil. ‘Well, I’m not racist ‘cause I don’t have a Confederate flag or go with this protest.’ It allows us to feel that way, but that’s not healthy because we’re not really examining our inherent racism that most white people have, certainly. Or whatever it may be. Whatever issues you may have. It’s too easy for us and I felt like, yeah, we should explore this villain. This malevolent person.”

He added: “I think that we are capable as an audience to see both of those things simultaneously and experience them and value them.

Read our review of Joker here. The full interview with Phoenix can be found here.

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