Categories: Culture

Boots Riley Critiques ‘Joker:’ “These Superhero Movies are Cop Movies”

Rapper and filmmaker Boots Riley gave his thoughts about Joker and other superhero movies.

Since its release in October, Joker has become one of the most talked-about movies in the country. Rapper and filmmaker Boots Riley has never been one to bite his tongue. Over the past year, he has critiqued movies like Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Now Riley has entered the Joker discourse.

READ: The Role Black People Play in the World of Joker

Riley appeared at the SFFILM Awards events in San Francisco recently. Riley was there to present The Farewell director Lulu Wang with the Kanbar Award for Storytelling. While there, Indie Wire was able to briefly talk with Riley. The site asked him about Joker. While Riley praised the performances — specifically Joaquin Phoenix who he said he wanted to work with — the director had problems with the storytelling aspects, saying:

…it wasn’t flipping the superhero story on its head; it was doing the same exact thing that they all do, which is ‘rebellion is crazy.’ That’s what they told you, that these people are rebelling and they have no real reason to.

READ: Boots Riley Signed a Deal for His Next Film Project

Boots went on to say that he sees similar issues with most superhero movies — calling them “cop movies” — and made the connection between Joker and The Dark Knight Rises:

That’s the same thing that The Dark Knight [Rises] tried to tell us. You know, The Dark Knight [Rises], they made it more like Occupy after Occupy happened because they wanted to make this statement…these superhero movies are cop movies,” and that cop narratives say “that those in poverty are there because they made the wrong choices, that the impoverished are in poverty because of their own mistakes and their own shortcomings, and it has nothing to do with the system.

Riley went on to say:

The Joker movie reinforces that by telling you, not only are these folks there because of who they are, [but that] the poor folks are stupid and when they rebel, it’s because they’re angry, and actually, rich people had nothing to do with them being poor. In actuality, those that are rich got rich off of exploiting the workers.

Last year, Riley made his debut as a director with the critically acclaimed Sorry to Bother You. He is currently working on a follow-up film, It would be cool if that follow up film was a superhero movie.

H/T: Shadow and Act Source: Indie Wire

Dimas Sanfiorenzo

Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes in coverage centered around music, pop culture, and politics. Email:

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Dimas Sanfiorenzo
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