If you’ve been tracking the negative publicity that Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ has been receiving, you know that there’s been a lot of outcry against Phoenix and the film’s director Todd Phillips for their portrayal of the violence in the film. ‘Joker’ is a non-canon portrayal of Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck and his descent into madness as a result of the pressures in his life. It has received great acclaim at the Venice Film Festival, as well as positive film reviews.
However, despite the rave attention it has been receiving, a number of groups have been attacking the film. For example, the families of the people who were shot during the premier of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in Colorado have been outspoken. A recent interviewer from The Telegraph offended Phoenix with his accusations. Also, various reviewers have issued open or implied accusations of impropriety. All this seems rather insincere to me.
Hollywood is constantly putting out movies with violence, murder, and mayhem, yet rarely does the public go after the filmmakers and actors the way they have with ‘Joker.’ This doesn’t even happen with past Batman films. For example, who can forget the magnificent portrayal of the Joker by Heath Ledger? His violence was shocking (“I’m going to make this pencil disappear!”), his domination was terrifying (“Look at me! Look! At! ME!!”), and he gleefully murdered or planned to murder hundreds of people. Yet in the end, Ledger wasn’t lambasted by the public and critics, instead he won a posthumous Oscar for his performance.
Likewise, Phillips is perplexed by the disparity. At a recent screening, he explained that his intent was to remove the veneer and excitement of the comic book villain and deliver the audience a character study of a descent into homicidal madness. He noted:
“That’s the surprising thing to me. I thought, isn’t that a good thing, to put real-world implications on violence? Isn’t it a good thing to take away the cartoon element about violence that we’ve become so immune to? I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it’s irresponsible. Because, to me, it’s very responsible to make it feel real and make it have weight and implications.”
Video games don’t make us kill people, movie villains don’t make us think that being a psychopath is funny or acceptable, and just because we enjoy watching movies with violence doesn’t mean our society is on the brink of destruction. Go see Joker, enjoy it, and appreciate it for the art that it is!