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“Joker”: Work of fiction or incel fantasy? (contains spoilers)

BY MARK FREITAS & ALVIN KWESIGA

The Joker,” Todd Phillips’ latest movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, is raising questions about artistic choices and the acceptable way to build sympathy for a villainous icon.

Film reviewer Jamie Rebanal said, “If there were any particularly troubling moments to me, the inclusion of a Gary Glitter needle drop was one – mainly because of Glitter’s recent conviction for child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography, though I understand why thematically it makes sense to be played in the scene where it was.”  

The Joker movie had controversy preceding its release, surrounding how the character was portrayed in the film. Viewers who saw the movie say that the tone and subject matter isn’t representative to real life.

Eliza Buckingham said, “It is a fictional movie, based on a character, and people are taking it way too seriously. Yes, it is violent, and implies that if you are violent to others, you may start a movement or become famous from it, but I hope that the audience would recognize that this is immoral and wrong, and it will not occur in real life. You can compare this to 13 reasons why, and the controversy around that.”

Pierce Morrison-Thompson said, “It’s not that violent as people make it out to be. It’s just a very intense movie. Deadpool was more violent.” In a small sample survey on Instagram asking if the Joker deserves the controversy it is getting, 75% said no while 25% said yes. Meanwhile, on Twitter, answering the same question, 83% said no and 17% yes.

For 80 years the Joker has been a fan favourite in the DC universe, although the Todd Phillips’ interpretation has stirred controversy after being accused of glorifying “incels” at a time when violence from people who self-identify as such is seen is a threat.

An “incel,” or involuntary celibate, refers to a self-identified member of a community of men, now growing in North America according to a 2018 study by the Institute of Family Studies. Their movement advocates their belief that men deserve sex, which is perceived as an embodiment of rape culture in Western society.

“It’s about their proprietary violence, that they think they have some sort of inborn inherent right and privilege to access women and women’s bodies and so that is the bit that animates them,” said Barbara Perry, a criminologist specializing in hate crime at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. People who self-identify as incels have committed atrocities in the name of their beliefs, with the most salient example being when 10 people were killed and 16 injured in the Toronto van attack.

Families of victims killed in an attack in Aurora Colorado at the Century 16 movie theatre were also upset at the Joker. Back in 2012, James Holmes set off tear gas and started firing into the audience. Twelve people were killed while 70 others were injured during the midnight-release screening of The Dark Knight Returns. Holmes was caught minutes later in his car, and in a police interview told officers that he was the Joker. The Century 16 movie theatre is not showing Phillips’ film.

The Joker made his first appearance in the Batman comic issue number one on April 25th, 1940.The character has been portrayed by many great actors on screen from the original Joker, Caesar Romero, to the legend Jack Nicholson, to Mark Hamill, with Heath Ledger having the most infamous incarnation of the character on the big screen.

Chris “Sinj” Burke, a Joker enthusiast who shares his pictures on Instagram, says has been a fan of the character for as long as he can remember and gets hired to play the Joker.

Photo /Instagram: @imthatjokerguy

In response to the controversy, Burke said, “I suspect that many people, even if warned, were still in some way expecting a superhero film a la Marvel films. This movie does play with your uneasiness while watching someone’s life seemingly crumble around him and there is a very surface-level reading of this film that really leads you down the wrong path.” However, Burke, who’s seen the film multiple times, also said, “I like the idea overall that this is just another story, or origin story.”

Rebanal said, “I left the film feeling like there was still a whole lot more ground to cover, because I wouldn’t call it irresponsible, but it still feels unclear in regard to what Todd Phillips was trying to say overall.”

Mark Freitas
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Mark Freitas
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