What’s up with Joker?

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Joshua Ramirez Joshua Ramirez / ILLUSTRATION

Director Todd Phillips presents his take on the most notorious villain in comic book history in his newest film Joker. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, the character is placed in the fictional Gotham City, which is a parallel of 1970s New York. The movie tackles themes such as class warfare and mental illness. The movie is well shot, perfectly acted, and is overall a well made film. However, if this is the case, why has this movie caused so much trouble?

Currently, there is a divide about the Joker. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has a 69 percent rating by critics, and an 89 percent by critics reviews. When asked, senior at FLC Isiah Charity said about the movie, “I thought the movie was great, despite the somewhat weak ending.” So what’s the issue?

FLC Senior Hilario Rodrigez says “because it’s main focus is minorities and majorities, whether the mentally ill are treated evenly or the poor are.” 

That right there sums up most of it. The movie clearly takes inspiration from 1970s New York. According to “The Disaster Center,” violent crimes such as rape and murder, had increased by the thousands from the previous decade, and the Joker film embraces these cruel facts. You see a man traverse through the slums of Gotham, which are as much of a character as the main character is. In addition to this, during the 1970s, the mentally ill were extremely mistreated. According to “The History of Inhumane Mental Health Treatments,” many institutions were shut down. This is actually an event that happens in the movie.

Throughout the movie, we are asked to sympathize with a man who embraces his insanities and is rewarded by the chaos he himself creates. However this movie never tries to justify the horrible actions he indulges in. It’s very disturbing, however it knows what it’s doing. It willingly chooses to make your skin crawl. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that this might not translate well with audiences. 

Aside from the previously mentioned themes that can come off as unceasing, there’s much more to the controversy. In 2012, the infamous mass shooting committed by James Holmes took the lives of twelve innocent people. The shooting took place at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and the killer famously said “I am the Joker,” while committing this heinous crime. The families of the victims of this shooting even sent director Todd Phillips letters regarding the filmIndeed there has been time to heal since the shooting, but especially with the themes of mental illness and the fact that it’s still in the same decade of the shooting, it’s no wonder there’s been a negative reaction. As a matter of fact, according to ScreenGeek, cosplaying was actually banned for certain theater chains.

Many fans feel that this is controversy is simply undeserved. To paraphrase both Hilario Rodriguez and Isiah Charity, once you step away from the news and the media, the film is nothing less than spectacular.

Despite everything that’s been discussed, behind the disturbing movie, hold a beautiful film made by talented people that makes its viewers question the world they reside in. Rather than playing with your heart, the movie decides to play with the viewer’s brain.


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