The ‘Joker’ and violence

With the release of Todd Phillips’ Joker film just one week away, many are concerned about the impact that the movie will have.

Warner Bros. is gearing up to release Joker, but there is already a lot of controversy surrounding the film. A concern among a small group is that the film will incite violence because of its subject matter, saying that it is fuel to the fire in a climate where shootings are driven by anger and hatred, yet others say that the backlash is completely unwarranted because the media doesn’t always influence viewers.

To better understand who the Joker is exactly, we look to Alan Moore’s 1988 Batman: The Killing Joke. In it, we learn that Joker was a failed comedian who took a heist job in order to help pay for his family when job after job continues to fall through.

When the job fails miserably and Batman intervenes, the man who would be Joker escapes the building through a chemical sewage tunnel which bleaches his hair and skin and stains his lips.

In the case of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, it appears to be more of a mental breaking point than a chemical alteration. It’s the decision that Phoenix’s Joker makes; to just give up on trying and succumb to those dark thoughts to cause chaos and torment that worries people.

We return to the fact that the media is not always responsible for the deeds of individuals, which is something that comes up in mainstream news every so often. To say Joker influences someone to commit a crime, but leave out something like John Wick is teetering dangerously close to cherry-picking.

The Wick movies are incredibly violent and hyper-stylized to make everything look cooler. On the other side of the argument, Wick is portrayed as more of a protagonist and is only violent in retaliation to those who come at him.

Quentin Tarantino recently released Once Upon A Time In Hollywood which features an alternate version of history at the end of the film, where instead of breaking into the home of Sharon Tate, the Manson gang break into Rick Dalton’s house (Leonardo DiCaprio) and end up getting into a scuffle with Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and the entire interaction is played out as a comedy.

Admittedly, I laughed while watching the movie in theatres, but upon further reflection, this is taking a real-world scenario where a woman was murdered (brutally) in her home and turning it into a stylized action sequence.

Warner Bros. and Todd Phillips have both made it clear that Joker does not go out of its way to idolize the character or make him appear as a good guy. The Joker, in any form, is never a good guy. You may understand the point he makes (Heath Ledger’s Joker gives a compelling argument about order and chaos in The Dark Knight) but at the end of the day – it comes down to understanding right, wrong, reality and fiction.

To get an idea of what some people felt about the movie, I spoke to some Humber College students in the halls to find out their thoughts on the issue.

I first spoke with Alessandro Sartorelli who told me he doesn’t “think a movie could incite violence. It depends on how people see it, and what is the background of who is watching.”

When asked if he believes Joker differentiates from other films like John Wick or one by Quentin Tarantino, where the violence is stylized and made to look enjoyable and exciting, Alessandro explained “No – we have lots of other very violent movies, much more violent, and we can see violence on the news every day.”

I also spoke with Tye Wilhelm who believes that “It’s a case-by-case basis. I think if they [a viewer] were going to be violent, it would’ve happened with or without the Joker movie.”

Going back through the history of the Joker, I’ve noticed that this never became a large concern until we decided to see what exactly made the Joker who he is. In the animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood, we see the gruesome flashback to when The Joker murders Robin by beating him with a crowbar.

The official classification for that movie is PG-13 and somehow considered okay to view? It seems to me that the backlash against the movie is more of a result of time in which it’s releasing as opposed to the content of the movie itself.

In saying that however, we cannot and must not disregard real world issues like misogyny, racism and hatred as a whole. It is important to recognize depression and suicide in those around us and offer assistance, and if you yourself are having negative thoughts, you can always reach out and speak to someone.

You can follow this link for more information on who to reach out to.

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