Where do I begin?
That’s right, does watching this movie make you want to shoot people on the streets and cause chaos? No. That would be dumb.
Since the dawn of time, people have been projecting the problems of the world onto art. It’s easy for us to blame external factors for our own deficits. Take the current resurgence of the “Video games cause violence” argument. Yes, for the brief moment that you are playing a video game, it causes an adrenaline rush. But, so does everything else if you enjoy it.
A friend of mine and I were talking about Joker (2019), he’s not much of a movie person, he thought the movie was good, yet it was wrong that it piggybacked off of a big tragedy. I didn’t know what tragedy he was talking about (since people outside America don’t care about American news, unless it’s politics), so I looked into it. The big tragedy that people have been using as ammunition against this film, was the Aurora theater shooting. While I reach out condolences towards the people that were affected by this tragedy, I think there’s a lot of contradictory information on the motivation behind the shooting itself. A lot of periodicals say that the guy (I know his name, don’t want to use it) said that “He was the Joker”, other periodicals either mention otherwise or nothing at all. Trying to figure out “the truth” led me down a dark rabbit hole, which included reading the shooter’s journal. Suffice to say, I was disturbed. But, among the disturbing details, emerged a different story. That of someone crying out for help, but being denied said help. Much like Joaquin Phoenix’s character, “Arthur Fleck”.
Before I move on with this, let me make it clear that I don’t share the shooter’s beliefs or condone his actions. In this age of surface level analysis and instantaneous reactions, one can never be too careful. In addition to this, the Journal had everything planned out to the T. Yet, nowhere was there a mention of the guy wanting to embody “The Joker”. The movie was picked because it was popular. No other reason.
If anything, Joker (2019) adds to this conversation. It presents a story that us, as people, are willing to look away from. The movie is about mental health.
Normally, my eyes would roll to the back of my skull 15 times over when I hear, “This is a story about mental health” since, almost always, it’s written by angsty, UN-subtle writers. This movie, is not like that. This movie portrays what could happen if you weren’t to seek help. I never thought I’d be quoting an advertisement for it’s depth and helpful insight, but as the Headspace app’s advertisement says, “You are more than your thoughts”.
Of course, the movie too at parts, lacks subtlety. This is clear through lines in the trailer itself like, “All I have are negative thoughts” (Hi Billie Eilish) and “I always thought my life was a tragedy. But now I know, It’s a comedy”. Then, there’s a Fight club-esque sequence that shows a character never being there, but the problem is that the moment would’ve been stronger if that montage was removed. And of course, there are the two detectives that are just, there. But, here’s why I’m ready to forgive this vs Next to Normal, this movie said something important.
It doesn’t glorify anarchic behavior. In fact, it tries to go out of it’s way to convince Joker otherwise. Robert DeNiro — a cheeky nod to King of Comedy (1983) — was among the multiple other characters along the way that tried. People tried to reform this man, they tried to convince him that not all people are evil. Yet, much like the systems that were put in place for Arthur Fleck, they too, failed.
There is still much good to live for. That is what this movie is ultimately about.
In the theater—that I watched this film for the second time in—I sat next to this row of drunken gentlemen. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take notes because they involuntarily, kept giving me wisdom on the trailers. But the movie was so demanding of attention, that it never gave them an opportunity for wisdom. Instead, on my way out, I overheard one of them say, “So I guess I should be nice to everyone I meet”. If that is not the embodiment of “Does this movie cause violence? No.” Then I don’t know what is.
I think, overall, this movie is and will be looked back on as an important movie. I say this because, It brings light to multiple narratives and issues in our world today. It demands a conversation. Which, a lot of good art does. On my whiteboard itself, I have tons of ideas sprawled out. Some of these ideas range from talking about “Life is comedy”, which parallels ideas from Jean Renoir’s “Rules of the game” (1939) to a reading of the film that depicts the Batman mythos as nothing but psychotic delusions. So I guess my question to you now is, If I were to go into these ideas would you read it? or would you watch it? or both?
What did you think about the film? Do you think it’s right to make the assumption that this movie causes violence? Why? Why not? Discuss.