This is the first installment of what we hope to be an exciting column here at Palabras. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
As the title of the article states, I haven’t seen Joker (2019). Will I see it? Maybe. I’m not particularly fond of going to theaters; it is being shown near me, and I am a big Joaquin Phoenix fan, so I’ll undoubtedly see it—eventually.
I haven’t seen the actual film, what I have seen is a never-ending barrage of news articles telling me why I shouldn’t see it. What a dangerous film it is. The things it is going to encourage through its portrayal of an outcast being mistreated by society. I hear all these things which seem to ring the same arguments we’ve heard against every form of media.
Why don’t we examine the controversies of that past? There are quite a few films that raised a huge amount of outrage not just at their release but at the very conceptualization. Kubrick has Lolita (1960) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) under his belt. One of these films would be pulled from theaters because of the threats that were being sent to the director. Which one do you suppose it was? The one that follows a college professor’s quest to attain the love of a sixteen-year-old by marrying her mother, or the allegory for why free will is so important to even the most depraved individual. You guessed it! The one with more on-screen violence was the one that supposedly inspired several copycat crimes across the world.
Let’s face it, subject matter aside, Lolita was pretty inoffensive with what they showed, whereas A Clockwork Orange is much more unrelenting and in your face with what is happening. We jump ahead further in time; you’ve got American Psycho having an adaptation made in 2000. This movie was protested before it was even really made simply because of the extremely controversial novel of the same name. Eleven years later, we would have We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), which would show us the perspective of a mother whose son turns out to be a school shooter.
All of these movies were protested and demonstrated against by the media for their content matter in the same way that the Joker is in the present day. These movies are put up on this controversial pedestal and we’re usually told not to watch them but why? Each movie listed above uses violence and controversial nature as a way to push a message of sorts. They are controversial with a point, whether or not you agree with the point is irrelevant. Slashers were treated the same way in their beginning years, but it seems that whenever a slasher comes around now, the critics generally either don’t care or describe it as mindless fun in some sense.
Let’s talk about a movie with a message that also used horribly awful scenes that no one seems to remember, and I never heard the slightest bit of controversy about even though it was nominated for Camera d’Or at Cannes. The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (2005) not only does a terrible job of portraying its message, but it also features drug abuse, intense violence, and rape, all at the hands of essentially high school students. I never heard anyone blame it for anything, is it because it was indie? Well, one of the movies mentioned earlier was also indie but caught lots of flack for it. Is it because it’s intended to be shocking and hard to watch? Again, aren’t most of the movies listed here?
The point is, that while there are movies out there that do show horribly depraved things, the films themselves are not responsible for the real-world actions of the watchers. The directors and writers have explicitly stated that the characters in these movies are not in any way idols but does that deter the media from their usual prowl of trying to blame fictional worlds for the real-world violence that occurs in everyday life.
So why do it then? What do they hope to gain? Well, it works as a great scapegoat. It gives the horrible world around us, reason. They only want to try to pin the blame on something that won’t otherwise blowback on them or us as a society. While I know “we live in a society” is a huge meme surrounding Joker (2019), shouldn’t it be a conversation we’re ready to have? When someone does go on some sort of mass killing, and the media immediately tries to attribute it to some movie he saw or some game that he played, why don’t we question their character? I’m more interested to know the history of the person who would commit such crimes since there is usually more than enough red flags to warrant some kind of check-up but then how will we be able to blame movies, music, and video games? We don’t want to be held accountable for our actions and the things that we could have done to stop a tragedy from occurring.
I’m sure Joker (2019) is a phenomenal movie or maybe it sucks, either way, go see and form your own opinion instead of letting these news outlets try to tell you how you should think and feel about a film just because of its content.