Why Reviews of Joker Should Be Taken Seriously

Todd Philipps’ new film Joker hit theaters across the United States on October 4th, and  was heavily anticipated by comic buffs and DC fans worldwide. Since its release, the movie has received a significant amount of criticism, including an FBI investigation. 

But why is this film so controversial? One of the more general criticisms of the movie was that  Arthur Fleck’s origin story creates sympathy and justifies his violence. Furthermore, it seems Joker has given rise to something sinister on the Internet,  particularly with its popularity with “involuntary celibates,” or “incels” or “involuntary celibates.” Incels are an online community group with a reputation for being misogynistic,. claiming that women are systematically denying them sex or a romantic relationship, which implies that women owe them these things. Incels also are more likely to hold extremist views such as white nationalism. Many feared that incels, who see themselves as being sidelined by society, would connect with the Joker character in the same way: with violence. 

Although an FBI investigation rendered the movie harmless, audiences were cautious while viewing it. Police were present at the New York Film Festival movie premiere, and those present at the Colorado theater shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises made a public statement saying that the film is too sympathetic to violent acts. 

With many mass shootings over the past year motivated by white nationalism, it is no wonder this movie struck fear in the hearts of many people. People are seeing the pattern that too often arises: the shooter is painted as a troubled lone wolf and sympathized with because of his supposed difficult past. 

Joker seems to do exactly that: Arthur Fleck is continuously bullied and beat up, which ultimately motivated him  to commit mass violence. 

It is uncertain whether the film is a criticism or a reinforcement of the troubled past narrative, but nonetheless its presence amidst current events is undoubtedly concerning.