If you have access to social media or happen to know someone who incessantly complains about everything, then you’ve probably heard claims saying the upcoming Joker movie will inspire violence in the real world. To me, it’s kind of weird because many of those same people said in the past that movies, video games and music aren’t responsible for anyone’s actions, yet they’re now saying something to the contrary out of the other side of their mouth.
It was just recently that the DC film’s star, Joaquin Phoenix, walked out of an interview when asked if his portrayal would influence potential moviegoers to commit unspeakable acts. Similarly, director Todd Phillips was confronted with this inquiry while sitting down with the Associated Press, and answered with the following:
“I mean, I think that Aurora is obviously a horrible, horrible situation, but even that is not something you blame on the movie. Quite frankly, if you do your own research about Aurora, that gentleman wasn’t even going in as Joker. That was misreported. His hair was dyed red, he was having, obviously, a mental breakdown. There’s something horrifying about it, but it wasn’t related to it outside of the fact that it happened at a movie theater.
But this is not the thing that the movie is trying to represent. The movie still takes place in a fictional world. It can have real-world implications, opinions, but it’s a fictional character in a fictional world that’s been around for 80 years. The one that bugs me more is the toxic white male thing when you go, ‘Oh, I just saw John Wick 3.’ He’s a white male who kills 300 people and everybody’s laughing and hooting and hollering. Why does this movie get held to different standards? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”
First addressing the Aurora tragedy that saw a deranged shooter kill people at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises back in 2012, I must back up what Phillips said. Major news stations sensationalized the tragedy by linking the killer to the Clown Prince of Crime, even saying things like “he dyed his hair red to look like the Joker.” I mean, had these people even seen the Joker’s actual hair color?
But yeah, I can see what Phillips means when he’s talking about double standards. There are various other flicks out there with higher body counts, yet they aren’t targeted in the same way. Though I think John Wick is no more responsible for real world violence than Joker, I can understand his point.
When it comes down to it, Joker in no way paints its title character as a hero, nor does it champion his actions. He’s merely the center of the tale, similar to what you’d see in its influences like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. Hey, you wouldn’t watch American Psycho and come away saying Patrick Bateman was a hero, now would you? The same is true here.
If we’re to apply the same ill-thought logic to media as a whole, then we might as well stop making art – period. The Joker himself has existed for 79 years, and we haven’t had an actual problem yet. It’s like saying Halloween movies shouldn’t be developed any longer because someone may emulate Michael Myers. There will always exist those who identify with fictional villains – or, worse yet, real world figures like Adolph Hitler – but that doesn’t mean a troubled minority should ruin it for the rest of us.
Joker arrives in theaters on October 4th.