I have yet to watch the new Joker movie. Not because I don’t want to. I just haven’t had the time to go to the cinema lately. I do actually plan to watch it sometime this week because I have been hearing some good things about it. Just not from a lot of critics. The new Joker film is another example of the critics and general audiences not agreeing. It’s not getting an overwhelming difference of opinion like maybe Venom or Rambo: Last Blood. But I do find it shocking that this happened to Joker as early reviews for the movie were extremely positive. It was just recently, when the film started showing to the mass audience, that critics have been giving a negative viewpoint on the film.
Now, I’m not a staunch defender of either side as I understand the points of view of critics and general audiences. However, is it just me or are a good number of the negative reviews for this movie hinged on the idea that Todd Philips frame Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the Joker, is portrayed as a sympathetic character? Not all bad reviews follow this line of thinking but there are some who say the movie is bad because the “bad guy” is shown to be the hero. These reviewers would like to mention that some sick people may want to emulate Arthur Fleck’s journey into madness and this may lead to future problems.
I do get their point and that, yes, there is a danger that the actions of a crazy but charismatic character on the big screen may be copied by other people in real life. This is nothing new. It does seem like we live in crazy times and there are more and more people who do crazy things to act like their favorite characters. I mean, I still remember some of the idiotic things some Rick and Morty fans did when McDonalds run out of Szechuan Sauce.
However, just because entertainment can influence the smallest of the population to doing some insane acts, does it mean that our forms of entertainment, be it movies, television, cartoons, anime, toys or video games, should be reeled in and removed of disagreeable content? I don’t think so. And I don’t think you would want to live in a world where these forms of entertainment censor themselves because they fear that they might offend or influence people negatively.
Now, I’m not saying movies, television, comics, video games and what not should go all crazy and just showing us really gross stuff all the time. What I’m saying is that there is always going to be room for all kinds of fun entertaining scenarios. However, what I don’t want to happen in the future is that all forms of entertainment is sanitized because of fear of a public backlash of pushing the envelope or that, well, evil things can seem appealing.
This seems like the direction a lot of people want entertainment to go. They want to see the good guy be as likable and charismatic as possible while the bad guy is just some evil guy that needs to be taken out. We actually already went through something like this before. This led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority.
Now, I can’t really talk about the Comics Code Authority but the basic gist is that some groups didn’t like those picture books for children showing youngins certain images so comics had to self-regulate themselves by following some rules, like good has to always prevail at the end and the police are always good people that you should trust. Things like that.
Now, I think that these groups’ hearts were in the right place. However, you can imagine that writing for comics were extremely kid-friendly and there wasn’t much leeway for sympathetic villains at this time. After all, bad guys had to be bad so you wouldn’t root for them in any way, right? This was the norm of comics and, thanks to my mom who had the foresight to keep some of her comic books from when she was growing up, I was raised on stories like Superman growing super-long hair thanks to red kryptonite and Batman donning a pink costume to keep his secret identity a secret… It made more sense in the comic?
Of course, as the years passed, the Comics Code Authority did lax their rules so that more risque ideas and stories could be told in comics. Eventually, the Comics Code Authority became a relic of the past as I don’t know if any company still uses it. I haven’t seen that logo on any new comics, anyway. Even Archie comics doesn’t have the Comics Code Authority brand!
Even so, I do think that the Comics Code Authority was a major misstep in the grand scheme of things. While it did help comics overcome a major hurdle, that is, advocates who say violent images warp children’s brains, it stifled creativity for a long time. Some stories couldn’t be told and writers and artists were simply not allowed to push the envelope in a way for the industry to grow creatively.
This is what I see is happening again but the stakes do seem higher. We have some people and groups who are afraid that a movie like Joker, who shows a sympathetic villain, will inspire people to go on a mass shooting spree.
Are these fears unwarranted? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Even I’m not sure as, like I said earlier, we live in crazy times and there is that possibility that someone not right in the head can be encouraged to mimic Arthur Fleck’s brand of insanity. But I do agree with Joaquin Phoenix, the man who played Joker/Arthur Fleck in the movie, when he said that it’s not the movie company’s role to educate the audience what is right and wrong. It’s their responsibility to give us something entertaining.
On the bright side, ever since Joker was released in theaters, I haven’t seen anything on the news saying that the film may have inspired some violent acts. At least, as of this writing, anyway. I do hope that nothing bad does happen and then someone tries to link it to the film or any other movie, television show, video game or comic book.
I do understand the concern but I don’t think it’s also right to expect everything to be sanitized for public consumption because something might happen. I do want to see stories that can make me feel exhilarating action, heartwarming tales and sappy love stories. I also want to be challenged by complex themes and tales where we don’t get a happy ending. I may not like everything and I might even feel disgusted at times. But I want them to try to do keep on doing something different.
Let entertainment be entertaining.
Do you think the negative reviews for Joker are fair? Let me know in the comments section below!