The film Joker has not come out yet but based on early reviews there are already some people calling it a film that does not belong in theaters. Especially in a year when gun violence has been in the news so often that it has sparked a debate about gun laws that continues to this day. What does this have to do with the Joker? Well the film is an origin story for the Joker that chronicles his dissent into madness, and as all Batman fans know, Joker is a psychopath who revels in violence and has no remorse for the human life he takes away (He even shot and killed Jason Todd, the second Robin after Dick Grayson, in the comics). So a movie that features someone like that in a lead role could potentially appear tone-deaf in the current national climate and some argue that it may even inspire psychopaths to copy and seek inspiration from Joker’s behavior. A lot of people are sighting the incident in the Aurora theater where someone shot theatergoers in a clown wig during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises as evidence that it is not outside the realm of possibility.
I get where the movie’s critics are coming from (even the ones who haven’t seen the movie yet) but I fear that this anti-Joker debate is misguided. If the movie didn’t get made, the gun violence would not end. Calling a movie dangerous just comes off like a lazy protest against violence that accomplishes nothing, except making the protesters feel good about themselves. Similar to the protests against violent video games when people call those dangerous. People just want a scapegoat when they feel powerless. And it’s easy to blame movies and video games because those are things that we have power over.
Obviously people can’t make movies about whatever they want. Some movie ideas are too inappropriate. But if we can’t even make movies about mentally deranged people without people worrying about them being romanticized, we are reaching a level of fascism that I am ready to protest. Especially since it’s unfair to put the responsibility on filmmakers to stop something that politicians are supposed to be the ones stopping.
It reminds me of that thing people say after terrorist attacks: If we stand around living in fear of another attack, the terrorists win. The best way to fight back is to have fun and live your life like everything is normal. What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we really want to live in fear of movies? Especially when the motivation behind violence is so vast it’s virtually impossible to stop? Joker is the least of our problems, and demonizing it is the least of our responsibilities.