Jason Ruiz, associate professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, is an expert in American TV shows and films, with current research on  depictions of Pablo Escobar in TV and film. 

He says: 

We are living in the age of the movie and TV antihero, from Tony Soprano and Walter White to Pablo Escobar, who’s everywhere right now.  The shift in focus from Batman, a hero, to Joker, the ultimate antihero, in the franchise is telling. The fact that the movie won the Venice film festival had critics howling, but it already seems to be tapping into the zeitgeist. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood featured some truly gruesome violence, but Tarantino is (falsely) characterized as an arthouse director, so the movie got a pass.  The question is whether ultraviolence for the masses still makes sense, when America is sick and tired of mass shootings and gun violence.  

There’s an interesting wrinkle to all of this: Joaquin Phoenix’s bad behavior on the set.  Although audiences are eager to see antiheroes on the screen, they can be less forgiving when they find out that an actor is a pain behind the scenes.  It will be interesting to see how the film fares with all of the bad press surrounding a star who is, in a sense, a Hollywood antihero himself. 

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