Repeated failure: Time, dressage and thingness in Joker (2019)

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This paper explores the relationship of history and comedy in Joker (2019) through a comedy theory of broken thingness and queer theory of failure – investigating the interplay of the film’s use of comic timing and signifiers of historical time in its diegesis. I argue that Joker uses its black humour to probe a disjointed affective relationship to masculine dressage, and the repeating crises of a city coded as 1970s New York. While arguably courting the ironising nihilisms of the alt-right, multiple points of disruption undercut a protagonist who is framed more as ‘lucky fool’ than ‘canny trickster’. Repeated comic and diachronic failure, I argue, exposes the ambivalent thingness of postwar urban masculinity – critically, derivatively, problematically and foolishly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-53
Number of pages13
JournalNew Review of Film and Television Studies
Issue number1
Early online date7 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2021


  • failure
  • thingness
  • dressage
  • Joker
  • Halberstram
  • Bergson


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