“Joker,” the new movie focused on the titular Batman villain, premiers in theaters Oct. 4 and is already mired in controversy.
The film has been praised by many for its quality and panned by many for its message. This swirling mass of blame and negativity will surely affect the movie’s box office pull, but there shouldn’t be any controversy over the film at all. Movies don’t cause violence.
The fateful “Dark Knight Rises” mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, happened almost seven and a half years ago, and the effects of that awful tragedy are still being felt today. A crazed lunatic who believed he was the real-life embodiment of the titular Batman villain took the lives of twelve innocent people during a screening of the “Dark Knight Rises” in the summer of 2012. Family members of those killed in the massacre have written a letter to Warner Bros. with concerns about the film which have led to “Joker” no longer playing in the theater in Aurora.
This makes perfect sense. There is no reason to add salt into the wounds of these people by playing this film in that theater, and those wanting to see the film should be fine with the extended drive to another theater to view the movie.
The family members of the victims deserve to be heard and considered in this issue. However, associating the fictional character with real-life violent acts is a slippery slope. A lunatic with access to firearms believing he is a comic book villain should not lead society to try change movies. Instead look into the correlations between firearm usage, mental illness and mass shootings.
John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan to get attention from Jodie Foster because he became obsessed with her character from “Taxi Driver.” This incident shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that “Taxi Driver” is a dangerous film that has the power to influence violent behavior; rather, it should show that controlling people’s reactions to a film is impossible.
The movie has come under fire for romanticizing the violent incel culture and justifying male violence which has come up in interviews of the star Juoqian Phoenix and director Todd Phillips.
The Joker is a character that has been a part of American TV and film since 1966 and has evolved over time, becoming less cartoony and more gritty in recent adaptation, much like Batman himself. This is not the first time he has been the main character of a film either, with “Batman: The Killing Joke” focusing mostly on the lunatic clown.
The Joker having a muddy backstory has been somewhat of a staple in recent years, and the attempt of “Joker” to ground the villain in a more realistic story should by no means be interpreted as a stamp of approval from the filmmakers on this kind of behavior. The film aims to give a reason why the Joker is the way he is, not encourage that his transformation is justified.
Society can’t react in anger and fear because of threats of violence over a film. Labeling a form of entertainment as dangerous and citing it as the main culprit in encouraging and promoting violence draw attention away from searching for actual causes of violence.
Actual studies into mental health and the correlation between that and violence should be studied in order to prevent tragedies like the shooting in Aurora.
“Pulp Fiction,” “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas” all feature main characters with downright evil motives and lengthy criminal rap sheets and they have not been pegged with encouraging organized crime and murder, and “Joker” should not be regarded any differently.