Credit for what I’m about to share in this post goes to two people who noticed it first: A Twitter user called Dataracer and YouTuber Jeremy who hosts a channel called The Quartering mostly focused on the intersection of progressive politics and video gaming. Yesterday, Dataracer highlighted a tweet by a comics editor named Heather Antos. To be clear, I’m not interested in criticizing Antos so much as pointing to her as an example of what seems like a much broader trend on Twitter.
As you can see, Antos hasn’t written much herself about this tweet. She’s boosting a claim made by someone named Rachel Miller who has a problem with the forthcoming Joker movie. Specifically, Miller doesn’t like the idea of making the Joker sympathetic and doesn’t want to be around “any of the lonely white boys who relate to it.”
Why the Joker movie is problematic. Rachel Miller nails it. pic.twitter.com/vTHlVOBHCY
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 5, 2019
As you can see, tens of thousands of people have agreed with Miller and Antos about this. In case it wasn’t clear how Antos herself feels, she also added this reference to Aurora shooter James Holmes:
It was not that long ago when a socially isolated disgruntled white man who felt "wronged" by society quite literally dressed up as the Joker and shot up a movie theater in Colorado.
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 6, 2019
So far there’s nothing particularly unusual about this. Lots of people have been criticizing the new Joker movie (which they haven’t seen) on similar grounds. What is odd Antos doing so is that she works in the comics industry. And can you guess who one of her favorite characters is? If you guessed Joker, you guessed right. Just a few years ago she was posting Joker memes:
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 20, 2013
And talking about her joker keychain:
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 8, 2013
And saying she had an obsession with the Joker:
@TheOtherMarioC I second that….except, a 5'10" Blonde with an odd obsession with the Joker….
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) July 23, 2014
And of course, drawing the Joker:
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) January 27, 2014
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) March 10, 2014
There more, but you get the point. Joker was one of her favorite characters as recently as 2014. By 2016 she was beginning to express some reservations about the character from the perspective of an abusive relationship survivor:
As someone who has survived an abusive relationship, seeing all of these "I'd be Harley Quinn to the Joker any day" posts make me sick.
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) August 7, 2016
And now three years later DC is putting out a Joker movie with a top actor and Antos thinks it’s just too problematic. She got woke.
I think you can argue that some of this seems to happen to people as they grow older. Remember when George Lucas decided that Greedo should shoot first so Han Solo wasn’t problematic? Remember when Steven Spielberg digitally replaced the shotguns in ET with walkie talkies?
So some of this seems to happen as we get older, but I think there’s an argument to be made that Twitter changes people by rewarding them for preaching the party line. I mean, that tweet up top has 52k likes! That’s a football stadium full of people who are reinforcing that this was the right thing to say. No one was doing that back when Heather Antos was talking about loving the Joker. Back then she was lucky to get 5 likes.
The saying “Get woke, go broke” may be true for large corporations with a lot to lose, but for regular people on Twitter the opposite is true. This clip by Jeremy at the Quartering makes the point that Twitter seems designed to reinforce exactly this kind of group-think. Any tendency toward wokeness gets rewarded, so over time people who enjoy the social media likes tend to preach to the choir. There’s not much social media success to be had in being a woman who likes the Joker. But there’s social media gold to be mined in being a woman who finds the Joker problematic.