Phoebe Bridgers Should Write a Joker Screenplay Starring Meg Ryan
This isn’t a joke because it isn’t funny.
I got high honors on my screenwriting thesis by dissecting the nature of who gives a fuck the next Joker reboot should star Meg Ryan and be written by Phoebe Bridgers. You can read this like I’m joking but by the end you’ll become a terrorist for this idea or dm me on this site telling me to eat shit and die of shit worms. I’m serious.
An important thing to recognize about Todd Phillips' Joker (2019) was that it was essentially a middle schooler rapping about shooting up the classroom while the other kids had to debate whether or not to take this seriously or just eat their Bosco Sticks—with the important difference of collecting a billion dollars, two Oscars, and scaring the living fuck out of the media into believing it would provoke violence and class warfare. As you’re aware, it did not.
Joker was of, by, and for Reddit truthers who’d spent the past hundred and twelve years (I’m naming Taft the first) shaking their fist at the sky and cowering when it thundered back. While Scorsese, Fincher, and Boyle were ridiculing self-pitying white patriarchs in Taxi Driver (1976), Fight Club (1999), and Trainspotting (1996), the white male targets of these movies infamously found their fictional sadboi-poppets to showcase their own fictional struggles. An obvious and unfortunate result was that Trojan Horses are meant to surprise Trojans as they sleep, not be surrounded and worshipped day-and-night until the soldiers inside suffocate. Todd Phillips made his own bullshit rinkydink Horse with nothing inside because he thought Travis Bickle and Tyler Durden were freedom fighters; they were idiots; they were literally fucking morons; that was literally what their movies were about. Joker didn’t do shit because you can’t radicalize a group already redpilled into self-aggrandizing nihilism and stagnation; breaking through to revolution requires momentum; you need to find yourself a flexible group far from radicalization, grab them by their horns, and charge them headfirst into the wall in order to actually have the inertia to break it down; you need the neolibs; you NEED the neolibs.
Neoliberalism, for those who’ve been in love in a healthy way, is an ideological clusterfuck popularized by Reagan and Thatcher and continued by just about every Western leader since. Just like how Nixon stopped saying the N-word and therefore racism ended, neoliberalism stopped open far-right advocacy and therefore fascism ended. You’ve seen it as deregulation of Wall Street and corporations, dismantling of infrastructure—but also as girlboss and identity politics, the military and prison industrial complexes—every kind of centrist “individual liberties” argument that boiled down to “individuals” meaning folks with money and “liberties” meaning permission to skullfuck the poor and middle classes into an authoritarian capitalist hellscape. Neoliberals obviously aren’t open Trumpist advocates for policing Black people into prison slavery, throwing coups whenever Bolivia wants more than hugs for their lithium, or erecting statues of Taft (fuck Taft) out of the femurs of welfare recipients—because they’re instead using the Bill Clinton-patented buddy system of maintaining rebellious distance from Reagan while still able to hold his hand.
Those folks are who you need to woo with a Joker movie. Not Reagan himself, he’s busy getting fucked by bats, but the Facebook hype squad who thought Joe Biden was gonna let immigrant children out of camps, who thought Hillary Clinton was gonna even look in Wall Street’s direction other than to offer camaraderie, and who thought Barack Obama was a hero of peace despite 90% of his drone strike victims not even being their fucking intended targets. These believers aren’t stupid, but victims of powerful misinformation campaigns. They’re good people. They’re not your enemies. As a matter of fact, if collectivist theory recognizes that combined numbers overwhelm hierarchical superpowers, they’re not just not your enemies, but vital converts to actually fighting for human equality.
So, forgetting the Joker bit for a sec, how would one help them realize their wonderful potentials?
Option 1: Kill All of Them
It gets points for style, but it won’t work well because then you’ve actually got less numbers than you could’ve had if they’d been 1) alive and 2) not your enemy, so maybe let’s get off this train a stop early. Violence is technically ideologically anti-leftist unless you’re doing so as an equitable and equal counter to rightist violence, which means until the neolibs themselves start shooting up libraries and community gardens, which they won’t, please don’t hurt them.
Option 2: Be Mean to Them
This is a good start. Bullying gets people thinking, except when it also always doesn’t and this is a fantastically stupid fucking idea. When you attack somebody, they attack back unless you refer back to Option 1 (John Nash has entered the arena). The greatest plague within internet leftism is self-assigned intellectual supremacy; it’s turning neolibs off from the whole “we should not be fucking morons about societal basics” by calling neolibs fucking morons. It’s not just gatekeeping, but doing a horrendously shitty job selling what’s behind the gate. Being seemingly not hateful to people with earnest questions is how rightwing hate groups like QAnon got your aunt to believe that Mike Pence was replaced by a mute butterfly or some beautiful hogshit like that. Remember that you once didn’t know everything and you somehow still don’t. Share what you do know, always confront it, and listen to new ideas regardless.
Option 2.1: Be Nice to Them
This is a better start. It’ll certainly convert a whole lot more people, help people not dig their feet in the sand and turn things into a rhetoric pissing contest, but it’s also an insanely dangerous absolute: for example, asking Nazis on a trajectory to “just kind of not” is how genocides happen. Putting up a ferocious and tangible defense against inequality certainly helps stall rightist outreach campaigns, but forcing boogeymen to live in the dark is putting them where they live most comfortably and where they can easily access children. Becoming the violent warriors for the most disenfranchised has made many semi-disenfranchised (everyone who can’t wipe their ass with corporate welfare notes) believe angry advocates for human equality are just as much of bullies as neo-Nazis saying six million wasn’t enough. It isn’t enough to rant about how insane this false equivalency is and how much it’s literal neo-Nazi advocacy, as this just keeps getting successfully flipped into rhetoric on how leftists are intellectual supremacists. Filmic Trojan Horses didn’t radicalize Redditors because the good ones (not Joker) didn’t want them radicalized, but ridiculed. Successfully radicalizing art needs to not only have collectivist fury for its target, but comradery with its audience.
Option 3: Beg Phoebe Bridgers to Write a Joker Screenplay Starring Meg Ryan
Feel that cringe in your shoulders? Feel it every time you’ve seen that guy put fucking balloon letters on walls instead of typing? Neolibs see it and feel inspiration, not cringe, and you gotta learn their language, their “struggle,” and their battle cries if you wanna rally them into actually helping get kids out of camps, get Wall Street cockblocked, and let Yemeni children become Yemeni adults.
The Joker’s been a symbol of “chaotic evil” for as long as people have thought chaotic evil was a real thing—“chaotic” necessitates an unpredictable ending and “evil” necessitates planned self-benefit at the expense of others—it’s the same paradox as “intentionally failing,” just mirrored. It’s why the Joker’s been so exciting as a character on screen: he can’t exist. For Phillips to ground the Joker by removing the “evil” and justifying flailing chaotic actions would’ve been a great screenplay if Phillips had been good at writing. Instead, the blueprint remains open of taking chaos as an entity and giving it an empathetic if not responsible collective call to arms. The Joker’s a perfect anarchic protagonist that’s just never been used to advocate for actual anarchism. (“Anarchism,” for those who watch SNL as it airs, isn’t an umbrellaed championing of dog-eat-dog chaos but rather a popularizing shortening of anarcho-communism specifically, promoting consensual and voluntary societies rather than authoritarian working-class-skullfucking or libertarian being-polite-hosts-to-measles.)
Enter Meg Ryan: a white woman turning the big 6-0 in November. She’s one of the most beloved human beings in pop culture history: unproblematic, charming as a spell, and will attract neolibs to a theater like children to USB nicotine. Making an anarchist manifesto the next Meg Ryan vehicle’s the only sure-fire way to get blue checkmarks to spread the word about it. If you honestly wrote a movie where a sixty year-old white woman—who herself is the epitome of clean, safe, pure, white, woman, sugar, flour—is radicalized into bombing some coal plants and cop cars, you can get all the white women in the audience to build a pipe bomb on their way home. It’d be the “I Want You!” poster of actually fighting for people’s freedoms. And because Meg Ryan’s been on a deserted fucking island or something for the past twenty years—plus the Joker’s becoming Oscarbait because our simulation is broken—there’s a solid 80-20 chance she’ll be able to get in front of a mic and tell twenty million Americans live-on-air to tar and feather their local oil tycoon.
Now’s also a great time to recognize that Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter who makes music to get in an accident to and is not Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who made Fleabag. Obviously the latter has once-in-a-generation talent in screenwriting, but the magic of convincing the former to do it is that Bridgers is a beloved, outspoken anti-capitalist who writes things like—
“When a machine keeps me alive and I’m losing all my hair, I hope you kiss my rotten head and pull the plug.”
“Someday I'm gonna live in your house up on the hill, and when your skinhead neighbor goes missing, I'll plant a garden in the yard.”
“I want to live at The Holiday Inn where somebody else makes the bed. We'll watch TV while the lights on the street put all the stars to death… [skipping a line or two] Fuck the cops.”
—set to gentle guitars and nurturing melodies. She slips the moonshine in with a spoonful of Pedialyte. Want somebody to write a screenplay that’s beautiful, haunting, empathetic, and the whole time you don’t even realize it’s anarchist as fuck? Give Bridgers like a fifteen-minute crash course on formatting, a secluded cabin in the woods full of beer and Gushers (I don’t know what she eats), and let her make the movie happen.
And while it’s obvious why the Joker needs to be a white woman (neolibs and dog-whistles), the reason the writer’s one also is because Fred Hampton was killed in his 20s, MLK his 30s, but Emma Goldman had a stroke at 70. Even if James Baldwin and Angela Davis avoided assassinations, Hoover still had his finger on the trigger the whole time. Let’s just not ask a Black writer to hop into the Eagle’s nest if we know the Eagle doesn’t eat white women.
Most importantly, stealing the Joker from white patriarchs is vital, if for no other reason than to fuck up their birthdays. The core of equity is to topple what’s been hoarded by the privileged for generations, then redistribute that in order to rehabilitate our society back on a path towards equality: it’s not enough to explain that through a new character, or turn an existing female villain into an empathetic anti-hero, but to show it directly by skinning the Joker alive and wearing him. Explain that this commodity doesn’t belong to them anymore. Show the world how easy it is.
I’m not bullshitting with this idea. Marx got a whole portion of the globe to fumblefuck their carkeys over to Lenin in only 23 pages (which you should know by now is something Marx overwhelmingly warned against and whoopty doo, you accidentally got Leninism all over your communism); a motivated screenwriter can do better in 90 pages. Honestly, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, you beat out the whole Communist Manifesto in about a half-second of screentime—what the fuck are we even waiting for? That’s why Eisenstein and Vertov came red all over the film stock: nobody wanted to read Marx in the 1900s. Nobody wants to read Marx even more in the 2000s. The last book most people willingly read was The Rainbow Fish and if we’re being frank, it was fucking Marx. The next rip-out-the-seats-&-riot-in-the-streets is gonna be caused by something exciting and commercially accessible—not 23 pages of thesaurus porn, not blog posts—but a dumb/not dumb movie about a literal fucking Batman villain written to unite the centrists into actually helping.