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Illustration by JR Fleming

Sometimes, an ad can be a perfect distillation of the nightmare in which we live. Earlier this year, Burger King tried to “start a conversation” about mental health and encouraged its viewers to #feelyourway, which, coming from a fast food company, seemed like a good way to sell depressed people hamburgers. In 2017, Pepsi’s “Live for Now” campaign had Kendall Jenner solve racism with complimentary cans of Pepsi. In 2005, GE put sexy coal miners to the tune of “16 Tons,” a song lamenting the coal industry’s exploitation of workers.

“The Gift That Gives Back,” a Peloton ad featuring a perfectly fit woman learning to love the burden of being gifted exercise equipment isn’t quite like the others. Peloton did not try to cash in on civil strife or mental illness, nor did they try to appropriate art that likens its industry to the stealer of souls, Satan. Instead, they tried to make our confession-obsessed society look good, even romantic. …


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Illustration by JR Fleming

If Todd Phillips’s Joker has proven one thing, it’s that the most important film of 2019 is Network.

Joker is ambitious. That’s not just because it indulges in long shots of Joaquin Phoenix cry-laughing, but because it tries to condense some truth about our cultural moment into a little over two hours. The film has left many people divided: some say it promotes violence, while others call it a distillation of our ugly zeitgeist. But what is it actually trying to say, and why am I trying to dredge up a 30-year-old film?

The primary message of Joker seems to explore the concept of recognition. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles with mental illness and feels invisible to the world. His social worker doesn’t listen to him, and then budget cuts preclude the possibility that any social worker will ever listen to him. Cut off from social services, Arthur’s worst crimes begin once he is left invisible to the world. The most attention he ever receives generally comes in the form of bullying. He dreams of being recognized by his comedy idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). When he finally meets his idol, he fittingly says, “you don’t notice me,” before eventually shooting him. …


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Last May, YouTube deemed a Wisecrack video “not suitable for most advertisers” for violating its “hateful content policy.” The video was about Hitler. Specifically, how he evolved as a symbol of evil, and what limitations this one-size-fits-all analogy has in politics. Many of us in the office wondered: “Does YouTube think we’re anti-Semites?”

The question was somewhat amusing, since the video was researched, written, directed, and narrated by four Jewish members of the Wisecrack team (myself included). But that amusement was short-lived, and what followed was a Kafkaesque journey into the administrative machine of YouTube. …


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Illustration by JR Fleming

He’s our go-to historical analogy. Has something been lost as a result?

By Alec Opperman and Jeanette Moreland

That Adolf Hitler is a focal point for political rhetoric is taken for granted in the United States. There’s an internet law about it, and drawing stubby mustaches on pictures of the president has been an American pastime since at least George W. Bush. Whether any of these comparisons are apt or misguided is beside the point. Hitler is a favorite talking point for pundits of all political persuasions, and the question we’re here to ask is: why?

Hitler’s image, or rather, the hatred of that image, has become more than just a guiding force in politics.

About

Alec Opperman

Managing Editor at Wisecrack. Writes about philosophy, media and culture.

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