DC's Joker movie will chronicle the story of how Batman's greatest villain came to be, and how his malevolent madness stirs chaos in the streets of Gotham City. However, Joker's chaos effect seems to be spreading beyond the film itself, as there's growing controversy over what kind of message the movie is sending.
According to some critics who have seen the movie early, Joker runs the risk of being perceived as glorification of what one angry and disturbed loner is able to accomplish. That kind of message is severely ill-timed, as continued strings of mass shootings and other real-life acts of terrorism have sparked widespread discussion about what kind of violent men there are lurking in the societal underbelly.
Debate over whether Joker turns that kind of archetype into a heroic figure (intentionally or not), is already provoking some impassioned arguments online - a full month before the film even hits theaters. Here's what Variety had to say regarding the quickly-mounting controversy over Joker:
"Joker,” a very R-rated look at the early days of Batman’s main antagonist, was the darling of the Venice Film Festival, capturing rave reviews and an eight-minute (we timed it!) standing ovation. But the film also inspired controversy. Some critics and social media commentators worried that “Joker” sympathizes with a homicidal loner at a time when America and the rest of the world are plagued by gun violence. That all but guarantees that “Joker” will be a topic of fierce debate at Toronto, where it will screen again, as critics and audiences grapple over the questions of whether it’s a brilliant piece of art or a danger to society. If the filmmakers are able to address those fears, “Joker” could be the rare comic-book movie that also becomes a certified Oscar contender..."
It seems that while Warner Bros. overcame the risk of making a Joker origin film, they next have to get over the cultural hurdle of negative PR regarding the film's message. So while Joker is currently projected for a $100 million opening weekend, it remains to be seen if the film's bleak tone and questionable thematic messages chase away a larger mainstream audience. Then again, any film labeled "controversial" - which also has a buzzed-about Joker performance in it - is bound to intrigue just as many mainstream moviegoers as it repels.
As for the discussion surrounding Joker's controversy? Scroll below to see what kind of views and opinions are currently circulating around social media:
Off-late, there has been a lot of controversy around Joaquin Phoenix's Joker. Some say, this glamorization of a negative role is not good for the society. What do you think? Will you be watching Joker when it releases in October?— Tarun Vaid (@weirdlywired) September 4, 2019
This fan isn't making any assumptions about what the fandom is feeling about Joker, he's getting the word direct from the people!
It’s weird. I know there’s a Joker movie culture war discourse but even in my too online lifestyle, I have not seen any details on the controversy. It’s like hearing a the muffled sound of a fart in the next room.— flabbergasted (comedy boxing aficionado) (@observeaddict) September 4, 2019
A lot of fans are hearing there's a discussion about the Joker controversy - without actually seeing the discussion itself taking place. And there could be a good reason why...
All this #Joker stuff reminds me of First Man flag controversy that everyone had an opinion on despite only 100 people actually having seen the movie— Chris Sylvia @ TIFF (@sylvioso) September 1, 2019
As this fan rightly points out, all of this "controversy" is pretty much relegated to the very small circle of critics who have actually seen Joker. So how big is it really?
The controversy surrounding the Joker movie is way overblown.— Millie Kentner (@hpxhatecraft) August 30, 2019
The Joker has always been a likable psychopath with homicidal tendencies. Always. That’s what makes him such a compelling character.
A pretty common point of contention to viewers angry about Joker's message is that - to put it simply - this is and always has been The Joker. If the film is stirring the pot in real life society, is that not a major accomplishment by director Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix?
the joker isn’t even out yet and the debates are already here! ugh king of controversy pic.twitter.com/wjc3FJBKiF— magneto did nothing wrong (@90sloveinterest) September 2, 2019
Like we just said: This is Joker. This is the entire point. And the character's reputation clearly precedes him.
Damn, the more Controversy surrounds this Joker film.. the more I'm interested in seeing it.. Well Done DC! Lol Now some ppl are accusing the film for promoting Inceldom/violence towards women??? Tf?! I def gotta see this film now— Dr. GamerGuyd (@GamerGuyd7Aces) September 4, 2019
Ironically, by trying to ward people of from coming to see Joker, these critics may in fact be luring more viewers in.
This whole Joker movie controversy going on talking about “it will trigger mass shootings and incite violence” is the biggest load of hot garbage i’ve ever heard 😂. It’s a fictional movie...with a fictional story....about a fictional comic book character.— Tony Martinez (@_tonysuave) August 31, 2019
It is important to routinely remind ourselves that this is a film about a comic book villain who started off as a ridiculous mad clown caricature. It's not a real life threat.
Upcoming DC movies include Joker on October 4th, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2on December 16, 2022.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.