Exploits Feature

No Laughing Matter

This is a reprint of a feature story from Issue #20 of Exploits, our collaborative cultural diary in magazine form. If you like what you see, buy it now for $2, or subscribe to never miss an issue (note: Exploits is always free for subscribers of Unwinnable Monthly).


I saw Joker opening night, but I waited ‘til the 9:20 showing. “It’s safer that way,” I explained to my mom. “If there was going to be a mass shooting, it would’ve happened at 7:00.”

So the joke went.

“Be sure you drop some 4Chan dogwhistles,” Roy warned me. “Make the shooters think you lurk.”

I laughed out loud. In my throat, not my chest. That was one day prior.

As a rule, my usual arthouse theater is deserted after 8:30. That’s when I typically go. I like the dark, the empty rooms. My screening wouldn’t be hit by incel terrorists. There would only be one trans girl there, watching it ironically in a hoodie.

They wouldn’t think to kill me.

Not only me, at least.

I wouldn’t be a statement.


To me, Joker is like a theatrically released omen. It’s a weird, troubling clusterfuck of a movie – topical, nihilistic and luridly violent. It’s part Taxi Driver rip, part collage of newspaper clippings. Police brutality, riots. Concealed weapons. Shootings. Robert De Niro as the Joker’s father figure.

It’s all as subtle as Keith Richards playing Jack Sparrow’s dad. In a nightmare, a cis man holds a gun to my head and paints the drywall behind me red.


“Great soundtrack,” someone said to me in a comic shop a week later. “All scratch cellos. Sounds like John Cale getting pushed down a staircase.”

John Cale co-founded the Velvet Underground in the 60s. He’s a classically trained violist, and he made the analog electro-drone textures in songs like Venus in Furs. Andy Warhol also made him, along with the rest of the Velvets.

And Warhol also made the Superstars famous – random people he decided were celebrities. I say random, but they were mostly famous, old-school transsexuals like Candy Darling and Ultra Violet.

See my byline?

That’s who I named myself after.


I’d be comfortable calling Warhol a chaser. I’d also be comfortable calling Todd Phillips tasteless. But there is something to be said for a photographer of unusual people.

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