As people around the world hit the theatres to check out the film Joker, critics and audience members alike are questioning whether its dark premise and aggressive presentation can actually be “dangerous” for people to see.
What is the movie about?
The Warner Bros. film, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role and directed by Todd Phillips, is the origin story of the “loner” character. The Joker character, otherwise known as Arthur Fleck, is described as “a clown-for-hire by day” who “aspires to be a stand-up comic at night.” This gritty character suffered a troubled upbringing and deals with mental illness, while he is caught in a cycle between “reality and madness.”
The film has already reached record-breaking numbers at the box office in its opening weekend. It’s estimated that Joker grossed US$93.5 million in ticket sales in North America and US$140.5 million from 73 international markets.
Why people are concerned
Last month, the Landmark Theatre chain in the U.S. said it will ban audience members from wearing costumes, painted faces or masks during screenings of the film over concerns from family members of the 2012 mass shooting during a Batman film in Colorado.
Some have compared the character to the “incel” group, the subculture that Toronto van attacker Alek Minassian belonged to, using it as a kind of justification for his violent actions.
Screenings at a theatre in Huntington Beach, California have already been cancelled after a “credible” threat was reported to police, which required the presence of officers in the area.
Phoenix also walked out of interview in September after The Telegraph’s film critic Robbie Collin asked the actor if the film “might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results?”
“Why?” he said. “Why would you…? No, no,” the Joker star said before he left the room.
On Sept. 24, Warner Bros. released a statement about the potential impacts of this film on victims and families who have experienced gun violence.
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” the company said. “Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues.”
“Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
What people are saying
Some film reviewers have said the move goes too far and it’s too dark, which could have a dangerous impact of audiences.
“As made clear through horrific events over the last several years, we can’t afford to be cavalier about marginalized individuals on the fringe. They need help, not a character portrait, and they most certainly don’t need their actions rationalized or justified,” Global News journalist Chris Jancelewicz wrote.
Others have said that Joker cannot and should not be blamed for real-life violence.
“I know that that anger doesn’t always have a place to land, but it can’t land on movies. If anything the media debate of it is trying to provoke something awful to happen,” comedian and actor Marc Maron said on his podcast WTF with Marc Maron.
“Movies don’t cause this, and I don’t see how blaming movies is going to help anything. I don’t think that movies are to blame for mentally unstable people taking action in a criminal, violent way.”
Audience members have also taken to social media to discuss the film.
Everyone is entitled to enjoy what they enjoy, but let’s please not mistake Joker for art. It’s white boy revenge porn. Confirmed by every word uttered by its director. If that’s what you’re into, totes cool. But a spade is a spade no matter its disguises.— Amy Berg (@bergopolis) October 8, 2019
#singletweetreview— Comicstorian (@Comicstorian) October 8, 2019
First loved this movie & attempts to spin the Jokers origin into something you cant help but care for & feel horrified at the same time.
Second, this is not an movie for everyone. It's a brutal movie that is anything but a Superhero movie. pic.twitter.com/oNGuNscpud
I really did liked #Joker a lot. Not really comic book accuracy it’s based on. Probably an artsy film with great performance from Phoenix and a haunting score from Hildur Guðnadóttir.— Mike Clews (@Sinsterman96) October 4, 2019
The film was disturbing and creepy watching it all throughout. Not for the faint of heart. pic.twitter.com/tYahS1YcrT
The controversy over #Joker is utterly ridiculous, it’s an R rated movie about the Joker who in all of the comics is typically psychotic. What are people surprised about?🙄 I enjoyed it buts its basically a tame version of Taxi Driver/King Of Comedy. What’s the panic 🤔 pic.twitter.com/P5rUXeGc5k— James Rai (@jamesrai100) October 4, 2019
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