Sorry ‘Joker’ Haters, Violence In Movies Is Nothing New
When Chase and I got out of our showing of 'Joker' it was well after midnight Sunday morning. As we left the theater discussing what we had just seen, two uniformed and armed Cedar Rapids police officers were there to greet us. Chase asked me why there were cops here. I told him that some people think that the new 'Joker' movie will incite violence. Why would they think that he asked?
The movie 'Joker' enjoyed rave reviews early on. It was screened at film festivals. It won awards. It received standing ovations! But then, around two weeks before it's release in the U.S., a strange thing happened. Some members of the media thought the movie glorified violence. And in this gun-happy, mass shooting world we live in, their words, not mine, a movie like this wasn't just unnecessary. It was dangerous. Now I will confirm that 'Joker' does have it's violent moments, especially in the last 30 minutes or so. But it doesn't glorify violence.
The movie's protagonist, Arthur Fleck, portrayed by the amazing Joaquin Phoenix, is a sad man. He suffers from a mental illness. He has a disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably. He loses his job. His mother is in poor health. You are meant to feel sympathy for Arthur. But there comes a point in the movie when he makes a choice on how he deals with his troubles that draws the line. That is when your sympathy begins to turn something else. Fear? Perhaps. Loathing? A bit. This is the origin story of one of the craziest, most violent comic book vilians of all time after all. What did viewers and critics expect?
What I took away from the film was how easily some people fall through the cracks of society, many times by no fault of their own. Sometimes society itself needs to look in the mirror and take ownage of what parts we might have unwittingly played in a persons' demise. One quote from Arthur Fleck in the movie will stick with me. He scribbled in his diary, "The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to act like you don't." Indeed Arthur. Indeed.