The Toxic End of The Joker

You must be wondering, why is The Joker facing that much backlash?

The Purge Mask that was popularized as a costume during Halloween. Source: Giphy.com and Amazon.com

The Joker started as a movie explaining the life story of this devious villain before the Batman movies. But due to extreme violence present in the movie, specifically the use of guns, many critics addressed how this brutality could encourage future shootings. The outrage from this movie is similar to The Purge (2013) epidemic, where people started to wear the movie’s iconic masks during Halloween. The Joker contrarily faced outrage when it hit theatres; many accused the movie to encourage an excess amount of violence and hatred.

The US military issued warnings of a potential shooting in a theatre screening The Joker. Before it’s release in theatres, authorities urged citizens to identify escape routes and for them to be ready to run, hide or fight. Authorities feared that this movie would lead to real-world violence such as the Crazy Clown Sightings in 2016, which were reports of people disguised as clowns running around town with a weapon threatening people in the middle of the night.

People dressed up as clowns intimidating people at night became a huge issue in 2016, especially in the US. Source: Slate.com

There is an established fear within US citizens because it reminds them of the 2012 Aurora Colorado shooting inside a Century 16 movie theatre screening The Dark Knight Rises, which is the movie franchise that the Joker stars in with Batman. This event caused people to negatively speak upon The Joker before it even came out.

So, why is The Joker facing that much backlash? Well, to start it off the movie is based around a mentally ill young man named Arthur Fleck who lives in Gotham City. He aspires to be a comedian but the reality is he dresses up as a clown for comical purposes.

Fleck takes care of his ill mother, which suggests he typically experiences an unadventurous life. He tries being part of the world around him but rather experiences isolation, and this descends him to transform into a criminal mastermind known as the Joker. The uprise of the Joker causes chaos in Gotham City as huge fires break out and civil violence occurs.

A famous scene/gesture from The Joker that has been widely used in memes.
Source: GamesRadar.com

Some audience members were angered at the fact a character initially rejected by society evolved into a well-known figure in Gotham City for his malicious actions. Time Magazine film critic Stephanie Zacharek noted the film of being “aggressive and possibly irresponsible” as director Todd Phillips was “overly sympathetic” towards “young white men who wish to act out on their violent impulses”. This act of violence is seen when Fleck was initially attacked by three drunk Wall-Street men on his subway ride home and furthers to brutally kill them on impulse. As viewers see this underdog anti-hero rise in a society that previously isolated him, this behavior could encourage people to do the same in their community.

Arthur Fleck seen in his clown makeup forcing a smile on his face, which is an iconic gesture from the Joker. Source: TheBoar.com

This violent behavior is seen in mass shootings like Aurora, Colorado, where families of the victims wrote a letter to Warner Brothers concerned that the release of The Joker would possibly encourage a future shooting. The families called out this 5 billion dollar entertainment company to use their massive platform to help “build safer communities with fewer guns”. According to Texas police, there has been a possible event of a shooting when they found “disturbing and specific chatter on the dark web” targeting an unknown movie theater that would premiere The Joker. This has caused movie theaters to take extra safety measures to prevent violent shootings from happening such as the “Landmark theatres, which operates more than 50 movie venues in the US,” to ban moviegoers from wearing costumes, face paint and/or masks that would resemble the Joker during the film.

The Joker facing this backlash is understandable because the violence ensued in this movie does worry people that it would encourage others to act on violent impulses. And acting on these impulses brings an excessive amount of violence that isn’t needed in this world. The reaction from this movie was even predicted by its director who said that The Joker “is not a movie for everybody” which reveals that there would be people who see the real message of the movie while others would insinuate that the movie spreads violence within a community. 

A well-known phrase that is told by the Joker throughout the movie.
Source: TheGuardian.com

This opinion can be also heard at SAS when I asked some students what their opinion was regarding brutal violence being shown in the movie. Senior, Ian Cambel said, “Certainly there were violent scenes such as Arthur killing Murray Franklin [the television personality character] on live TV and later on citizens congratulating him on his evil acts, this could be interpreted as encouraging violence. I don’t believe that the movie was meant to spread this message but it could be misinterpreted by many.” In conclusion, the outrage of the movie was predicted, even by the director himself, yet we all have our interpretations regarding the message of this movie. But safety precautions taken by citizens and theatres would help prevent a possible future shooting.

Author: Mitali Singh

Mitali Singh is currently a senior at Singapore American School and this is her second year reporting for The Eye. Living all 17 years of her life in Singapore, she tries not to spend her time debating whether to binge-watch TV shows or watching past vine compilations (rip vine). Rather she would spend her time towards her passion to write and tell stories of others, which she is excited to continue this year by producing more sophisticated content. So, if you have any interesting stories from your life or even vines you would like to share, she can be contacted at singh772234@sas.edu.sg.

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