The verdict is out. With a 90% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the largest October box office opening ever ($93.5 million to be exact), "Joker" is, without a doubt, a success.
Weeks before the movie's release, we were told that Joker was so dangerous that the FBI was monitoring shooting threats ahead of the movie's opening. Sarah Hagi wrote in a column for the Globe and Mail: "Joker is the antihero the alienated and angry have been waiting for, and that's precisely the problem. I yawn at the idea of another story in which white men are offered a sort of understanding for their violence."
The Joker is "catnip for Batman's toxic masculinity fandom" headlines another site. You'd have to be living under a rock to not notice that the majority of media was completely united against this movie in every way.
But Why Only This Joker?
But wait... wasn't there another Joker not long ago? Have we already forgotten about Jared Leto in Suicide Squad? Okay, I definitely have, but still... it wasn't THAT long ago. And yet, there wasn't any moral outrage then (aside from the fans, since the movie didn't live up to expectations).
It was heavily rumored back in 2012 that the Aurora shooter was inspired by the Joker to commit the mass shooting that took 12 innocent lives. Vanity Fair squashed those rumors. "It never happened," said George Brauchler, the Colorado district attorney that prosecuted Holmes. However, the rumor was fueled - and continues to be fueled - by the media. And that's a pattern that oddly continues with this film.
I mean, from a cinematic standpoint, it's quite an experience. One critic wrote that it's "a movie that borders on genius - repellent, dark, terrifying, disgusting, brilliant and unforgettable." Joaquin Phoenix's acting was Oscar-worthy, and everyone I've seen on social media has been obsessing over it. Certainly not "the most disappointing film of the year" by anyone's standards.
The hate from most of the media is real, but is it really just because the Joker is a white guy who kills people? If so, why didn't we hear outrage over John Wick or any of the other white guys killing people in films all year? I thought about that as Rambo was in the theater next to me, shooting guys onscreen with his crossbow. So why in the world do they hate this Joker so much?
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
Who Created the Joker?
Arthur Fleck, the man behind the Joker, is a sad, messed up man. He lives with his abusive mother and is constantly bullied. Fleck works as a clown but hopes to one day be a comedian and meet his idol, a TV talk show host played by Robert De Niro. His life is full of abuse and humiliation until two things change - he gets off his medication and gets a gun.
His life is full of abuse and humiliation until two things change - he gets off his medication and gets a gun.
After being beaten by three drunk Wall Street types on a subway, Fleck pulls out his gun and shoots them all. Immediately, his story is picked up by the media. The Joker didn't kill the men because they were rich Wall Street types, but because they bullied him. However, the media narrative gives another story, which starts an uprising against the rich. Instead of calling him a murderer, the media calls him a "hero" who stands up to the rich and powerful. We see people reading newspapers with the Joker on the front page. People everywhere start an uprising wearing his mask while holding "Resist" and "Eat the Rich" signs.
The media narrative gives another story, which starts an uprising against the rich.
If the signs that the protesters hold up sound familiar, it's because they are. The slogans are used by actual groups like Antifa and Occupy Wall Street. Meanwhile, in the movie, the clown-masked people follow this mass murderer as their hero. A hero who became famous, thanks to the media, for doing something horrible.
Joker doesn't glorify violence or make it attractive in the way that "John Wick" might (not hating, the movies are a lot of fun and Keanu Reeves can do no wrong). This movie makes it clear that the Joker isn't a hero by any means. But the real villain of the film is the media, the media which gives a loner all the attention he ever wanted (after, of course, he kills a few people). You see, the media in Joker don't just create the monster, they feed the monster. And that is why the media doesn't want you to see it.