Director Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which hit theaters on Oct. 4, has sparked widespread controversy over whether the movie’s dark thematic material glorifies the all-too-real realities of mass shootings and violence that has become a pressing issue in American society over the past decade.
This stand-alone origin story of the famed villainous character Joker, played by Joaquin Phoenix, depicts a man named Arthur Fleck slowly losing his grip on sanity after being brutalized multiple times by the crumbling society around him. The movie depicts several instances of mass violence, specifically gun violence, and these acts of terror are portrayed as Fleck being “noticed” for the first time by the world around him.
“For my whole life, I didn’t know if I even really existed, but I do. And people are starting to notice,” said Phoenix, in the widely-viewed Joker movie trailer.
Many critics have voiced their concern that such a way of portraying horrific acts of violence will inspire more “lone wolf” attacks similar to those seen all too often over the past decade. After all, the profile is similar – more often than not, individuals who inflict such violence on communities were previously known to be outcasts, often behaving in antisocial manners and staying on the margins of society before ending up on national headlines. Some believe an origin story such as the one in Joker glorifies mass violence, making Fleck out to be more of a hero than a villain committing, as well as provoking, heinous acts.
As a result of these concerns, a heavy police presence was commonplace in theaters during the Oct. 4 premiere. Even the U.S. military was warned of possible “mass shootings” and was placed on high alert. Several theaters chose to opt out of screening the film, including the Aurora, Colorado theater where a mass shooting took place at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012.
Locally, Monterey Bay Area theaters are screening the movie, including the Century Marina and XD Theater many students from California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) frequent – though the “Joker” film poster is not featured on the outside wall displaying which movies are being screened.
Many CSUMB students still wish to see the movie, though many are waiting until the movie has been in theaters for a few weeks before attending to play it safe. Others believe the controversy is making more out of the movie than is necessary.
“I’m open to seeing it. I think a lot of movies glorify such topics, but this one is just getting more attention,” said sophomore Gabby Hattori.