Despite having yet to land in theaters officially, Joker has been surrounded by a number of controversies, though director Todd Phillips points out that he feels the depictions of violence in the film are handled responsibly, as their macabre nature conveys their horrifying realities to the audience. While the R-rated comic book adaptations Deadpool and Deadpool 2 feature gruesome depictions of chaos and death, they are conveyed in a more cartoonish manner, with Joker's more disturbing tone seemingly altering audience perception of the sequences. In the months leading up to the film's debut, some critics have expressed concern over the embrace of violence of this nature and how it could impact viewers.
"Isn't it a good thing to put real-world implications on violence?" Phillips shared with the audience after the New York Film Festival Joker screening, per Yahoo!. "Isn't that a good thing to take away the cartoon element of violence that we've become so immune to? So I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it seems irresponsible because to me it seems actually very responsible to make it feel real and make it that weight."
Pop culture has been depicting all manner of violence for centuries, with little evidence to support that violent movies, TV shows, books, or video games inspire real-life violence in audiences. A major turning point came from the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, with politicians and policymakers claiming the students who carried out the attacks did so because of their interest in violent movies and heavy metal.
What makes Joker a unique case is that in 2012, a domestic terrorist entered a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and killed 12 audience members, with some reports claiming the shooter referred to himself as "The Joker," despite those reports being unconfirmed. In recent years, shootings have grown more frequent, some of which happen at movie theaters, with the character's trajectory in the film eerily mirroring the paths that led shooters to make these attacks.
"It's a complicated movie and I've said it before that I think it's okay that's it's complicated," Phillips shared. "I didn't imagine the level of discourse that it's reached in the world honestly. I think it's interesting. I think it's okay that it sparks conversations and there are debates around it. The film is the statement and it's great to talk about it but it's much more helpful if you've seen it."
Joker lands in theaters Friday.
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