Did Joker go too far? The controversy that slammed the film

The Joker came out on October 4, and is now the highest-grossing rated-R movie, with around 900 million dollars. But with that title, came major controversy against the film. Joker was slammed with statements against the movie being too violent and making light of mental health and bullying. Also, viewers are complaining about the inclusion of a song, written by a convicted child predator. Warning, if you haven’t seen the film, possible spoilers ahead. 

(Photo by IMDb)

Those that have seen the film, are aware of the disturbing violence throughout the movie. Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a party clown that eventually falls into murder and madness. At one point in the film, Arthur murders three Wall Street men on a subway train, with a gun given to him by a coworker. Later on in the film, he ends up brutally killing an ex-coworker and suffocating his own mother. He then publicly murders Murray Franklin, a late-night talk show host on live television. This isn’t your regular Batman movie, this shows the true darkness of his arch nemesis.

Arthur Fleck deals with mental health issues in the entire movie. The film hints at him hallucinating throughout the movie. Eventually, he ends up in Arkham Asylum after his insane murder spree. So because of the character having mental illness that cause him to become the clown prince of crime, critics and viewers think the movie “makes light” of mental health. People are also worried that a possible shooting could occur, in connection to the movie. This is because of a Colorado theater shooting seven years ago.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix)- photo by GQ Middle East

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Rumors spread saying Holmes dressed up as the Joker during his attack. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison. Now because the shooting was during a Batman movie, viewers are concerned that Joker will “inspire” mental health victims to act out. The U.S Military even sent out warnings about possible shootings at Joker screenings. Theaters took action and set up precautions to possible tragedies. Some theaters banned cosplay of the Joker, and anyone dressed up like a clown. Warner Brothers released a statement saying “neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero”.

This was not end of the issues against the film. According to some viewers, this movie highlights bullying, and the effect it has on people. Because one of the reasons why Arthur becomes the Joker is revenge. He murders those who have wronged him. He kills the Wall Street men because they were beating him up on the subway, his mother’s murder was because she abused him and lied to him his entire life. And the murder of Murray Franklin occurred because he made fun of him on his late-night show. Now parents are concerned that kids and teens that have been bullied, could be affected by the film. Many sources and reports warn parents that this movie is not for kids.

Joker’s soundtrack can make your stomach turn, especially in the dark scenes. But one song caught the attention of some viewers, “Rock and Roll Pt. 2”. This is an iconic song by Gary Glitter, who was very famous in the 1970s and 1980s. This song and many others by Glitter, have been featured in other films and tv shows. 

(photo by Spotify)

Even though his name sounds fun and innocent, he has a very dark history. Glitter is a convicted child predator, who is serving a 16-year sentence since 2015. He is convicted of assaulting girls under the age of 13, and many other things. Viewers of Joker are slamming the movie and Todd Philips, the director, for including the song. The song is only in the film for 30 seconds, while Arthur Fleck dances on a staircase, dressed as the clown. It was confirmed that Glitter is not getting paid royalties for his song. Rumors have spread saying that when Joker gets released on DVD and digital, the song may be removed. 

The controversy that Joker was hit with is, in my opinion, understandable but also ridiculous. I saw the film opening day, and I can agree it is violent. The visuals and effects are dark and gory, but that’s why the movie is rated R. The film is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language, and brief sexual images. It fits all of those descriptions so if you are sensitive to gory and violent movies, then don’t see the movie.

I have mixed feelings about the mental health and bullying aspect. Yes, the movie does include strong themes of bullying and mental illness. That’s what the movie is mainly about because It’s a origin story film about a villain. Fleck doesn’t become the Joker for no reason, if so the movie would not make any sense. But that doesn’t cause violence in the real world. People cause violence in the real world. Those who interpret the movie in the wrong way can end up acting out. Now when it comes to teens and kids that have been bullied, there is also an easy solution. If your a parent with a child that is sensitive, or has been bullied, then don’t allow them to see the movie. If you are concerned that your son or daughter could act out after the film, then don’t show them the movie. Make sure that your child is mature enough before seeing the film.  If not, then don’t allow them to watch Joker until they understand this was just a film.

The inclusion of “Rock and Roll Pt. 2” does not bother me whatsoever. The song is in the film for about thirty seconds. Also, it’s just a song. It’s not like the song mentioned any negative themes or hinted towards the crimes Glitter has committed. It’s a song that has a beat and few lyrics. He also not getting paid so I do not see why there is an issue.

Joker is still in theaters for fans to love, and parents to get upset about. The controversy sees to be calming down, but it could affect the future. Phoenix has stated he would return to the character for a sequel. The question is, will the negative comments restrict a Joker 2? While fans are begging for a return of Phoenix, he is making fake posters for a sequel, and sending them to Todd Philips. He photoshopped Joker into classic films including Rosemarys Baby and Raging Bull. They aren’t very realistic, but Philips could be inspired to take it to production.

Ethan Webber is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class, and a member of the The Quill.