Joaquin Phoenix masterfully takes on the Joker

What sparked the backlash and why you should make the time for it

Joker hit theatres this week with a mountain of backlash as many see it as, what people are now calling,  “white terrorism”. None of that is true, due to the film being just a well-crafted film that depicts a world that doesn’t make an effort to help those in need will lead to chaos. The issue that people have with it is that it advertises it as needed, which isn’t the case.

Joker revolves around the D.C. Comics villain and how he was brought to the infamous character he became. The film shows Arthur, a pay-by-the-gig clown who, after being beaten down physically and mentally, snaps at those around him, causing a social movement in the process.

The controversy around Joker was started as the press got the news that a group of family members of the 2012 Aurora mass shooting victims had signed a letter to Warner Bros concerning themes being addressed in the film. The letter didn’t demand WB cancel the film nor did it call for a boycott, but urged the film studio to donate to advocacy groups for victims of gun violence and “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform” according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR). This brought criticism towards the film, claiming it idolized a character that shot others with no remorse.

Vice wrote an article speaking on the aftermath of an interview with Joaquin Phoenix, who walked out for a moment after being asked whether the film glamourized a shooter to mass audiences. The article goes on to imply “It’s a central part of countless reviews of the movie, which has folks worried that “lonely white boys” with a capacity for violence might relate to Phillips’s almost loving portrayal of a character who resembles an incel with a murderous streak. The most concerning prospect isn’t just that viewers might identify with Phoenix’s Joker; it’s that they might want to imitate him.” However, what the article doesn’t mention is how Taxi Driver, an almost identical movie plot-wise, had the same controversy around it with no follow-through on its conclusion.

Joker blends itself into a world that is almost our own but never tries to be a reality due to this comic book setting. If the film had taken place in downtown Detroit in 1984 with real politicians of the era, then played out exactly as it had, then there would be a case that the picture was trying to sell a mass murder as a role model. But the film takes part in Gotham, a city known by 6-year-olds as the city Batman protects, which gives it the liberty to portray a realistic origin of one of the best-known villains of all time. The setting is engrossing as a place that needs repair yet is retro, leaving it alluring to viewers.

Joaquin Phoenix didn’t need to speak on the matter right away not due to his “lack of awareness towards the sensitivity of the matter” because his character doesn’t emulate what the media is portraying his character to be. He isn’t some “lonely white boy” more so than he is a trauma survivor who tries to do everything he can not crack. He attends his meetings, he goes out and tries to pursue an artistic dream but fails to do to the nature of the business/his own nerves. Nowhere does he blame one specific group of people, rather, he just enjoys revelling in his madness.

Speaking on the matter, the actor carries this entire movie on his back and wholeheartedly deserves an Oscar for best performance by a male lead. His entire representation of this character, from the way he conveys his chronic mental disability of laughing whenever he feels high amounts of anxiety, to his dialogue that only he could read as effectively as he did. Other actors around him don’t gain as much screen time, however, they are still effective in representing the aspects of the story beautifully.

Something that has actually made me upset is the critical reaction that this film holds “no substance” and I believe I know why that critic is being used. The story doesn’t hold any character to empathize with, therefore there isn’t anyone ideology to cling to. Though I persist this as intentional due to the constant questioning of the reality of societal aspects in general. If people wouldn’t attempt to thrive on the mistreatment of others, those abused by the system will seek retribution. In the film, it takes a far more negative, violent turn than should be ascertained. However, like Robert DeNero’s catchphrase “that’s life”.

Joker isn’t just a great comic book movie, its a genius movie in many respects. From its symbolism, acting, directing, to even the soundtrack. And what started as media outlets claiming the film holds too much dangerous material to them stating it to be hollow or empty is what truly is funny. But for those interested in something that will keep viewers talking long after the credits finish, this is my call to action: Go watch  it.