During Batman’s appearances in film and television, the Joker has remained prominent and interpreted by numerous actors, including Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto and most recently Joaquin Phoenix. With the exception of the 2019 film, every film featuring the Batman character has been held back of his violent tendencies by film ratings and television restrictions. Now with Joker appearing in his own solo movie, as well as an R-rating, there are concerns about the film’s depiction of violence that has ignited controversy.
The infamous comic book supervillain has always appeared alongside Batman, however, he has never appeared in his own film before. Joker has given us a reason why he commits crimes, but in the trailers, it shows the character in a sympathetic and to an extent a heroic tone, which some have interpreted to glorifying violence.
The Joker is widely known for his psychotic, homicidal criminal acts and obsession to create chaos at every turn, which made him a formidable enemy for Batman. When he appears on either the silver screen or television, his crimes are destructive but are not as graphic. However it has since been confirmed by the MPAA, that the film consists of graphic violence and bloody images, with one scene in the trailer has the title character engaging in committing assault and being the source of several scenes depicting riots. This leads some people to believe that the film could inspire real-world violence and moviegoers to cause public disturbances during screenings, which is why law enforcement is taking action to prevent any such action.
As the movie’s release date drew closer, the controversy over the film’s subject matter and potential repercussions grew. National law enforcement agencies have stepped in to assist movie theaters. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have warned law enforcement about potential threats based on online posts according to an article written by CNN reporter Faith Karimi. On the local level there are police officers who are taking extra steps to ensure screenings go peacefully, NYPD officers will go undercover during movie screening to cite out any disturbances according to an article by Washington Post reporter Steven Zeitchik. Over the past two weeks, movie theatres have pulled the film entirely, including the Century 16 theatre in Aurora, Colorado, which was the site of a mass shooting in 2012 during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Although police and law enforcement are taking necessary precautions, it does not seem to stop moviegoers from seeing the movie, but some do admit that the disturbing content in the movie has left them unsettled. This is due to the cultural relevance of the character. “It was haunting. It was really, really good.” said a moviegoer from a Pineville AMC. Given the audience’s critical reception and box office returns of over two-hundred million dollars in its opening weekend, Joker is poised to become a blockbuster despite concerns, proving that the character will continue to be a cultural icon for generations of comic book enthusiasts.