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On the 14th of October, I made my way to see Joker, the film that has been engulfed in controversy and criticism that started before it was even released. From an increase of security at screenings because of the 2012 Aurora shooting said to be inspired by the infamous Clown Prince of Crime, to the debates on whether it would be wise to bring in someone to fill in Heath Ledger’s legendary shoes (because we all saw the absolute train wreck that was Jared Leto’s Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad). Was it going to be a glorification of violence? Or was it going to be a cinematic masterpiece with an Oscar-worthy performance from Joaquin Phoenix? Based on all the reviews and critiques I’d read, the reception of the film stood at two extremes: audience members either loved it or absolutely hated it. Going into the theater, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was determined to see the movie with an open mind and to come to my own conclusions.


First, and most importantly, Joker is not an action movie. It would be obvious to assume that it would be a spectacle following in the footsteps of all heroes’ and villains’ origin stories produced by DC. Unlike the typical comic book movie, there was no hyperreal action and drama. This movie was just extremely raw and stunning. After seeing the movie, I was speechless. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t put my feelings into words. 


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The movie is centered around Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man, living on the brink of poverty with his aging and ill mother. It takes place in Gotham, a city that is, in fact, fictional, but is a very accurate representation of the modern world. It is a city where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The lower class is forgotten and deemed irresponsible for letting themselves fall into such an economic situation. To get by, Arthur works as a clown, whose manager dispatches him to different locations (i.e to advertise on the side of a street or visit a children’s hospital). You immediately feel for Arthur, who aspires to be a stand-up comedian but is often met with harsh and cruel responses. Him being an outcast is accentuated by the brutal treatment he receives from strangers. To make the situation worse, Arthur has a condition that makes him laugh uncontrollably when he’s feeling his worst. 


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Watching Joker, my heart shattered as Arthur fell into insanity because of the situations society put him in. The conflicted and gut-wrenching feelings I experienced when Arthur turned into the Joker and committed the most heinous crimes was inexplicable. While you want Arthur to thrive, to achieve his dreams and get what he truly deserves, you are also horrified at how the Joker chooses to take action. 

Though the film does touch upon the Joker’s origins, and the DC universe, it paints a much bigger and telling picture. It very realistically portrays how mental health is perceived by society in even the most “advanced” places, it shows the class inequalities present all over the world, and it sheds light on how society and its pressures affect individuals. 


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While there is a considerable amount of violence in Joker, I do not agree with the comments that it would be an inspiration for mass murderers. The Joker has been a violent character since his portrayal in comic books. Heath Ledger’s Joker was just as violent. If this movie shouldn’t be screened out of the fear of it inspiring violence, why were movies like Saw, The Purge, John Wick, and Human Centipede allowed to be shown to audiences? The number of violent films that have been released is already too high to count, so why are critics pinning this down on Joker?


Two weeks after seeing the film, I am still shaken by how real it was. I was talking to a friend today who told me that, at one point while watching the film, she had to “pull back for a second and remember – that’s acting!”. Phoenix’s performance was riveting. For someone interested in visuals, the cinematography is absolutely stunning.


Photo via Instagram


I encourage all you readers to go see the film and come to your own conclusions. After all, not everyone’s taste is the same. If you do see the film, whether it’s in theaters, or once it’s released on the likes of Netflix, remember: this film is more than just a superhero or comic book movie. It is centered around experiences that millions across the world encounter every single day.

Freelance Photographer, Blogger, Digital Artist.
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