When Joker premiered in August at the Toronto International Film Festival it was met with cheers as a modern masterpiece and an 8-minute standing ovation. The radical new take on the famous DC Comics villain, an homage to the style of Martin Scorsese films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, is supposed to be one of the year’s best films.
Unfortunately, the past month has brought a great deal of controversy and woke anxiety about how the film is going to be received culturally. Many in the film press immediately began pontificating that the movie could become a source of incel/far-right violence during its opening weekend.
The film’s star Joaquin Phoenix was asked directly about the film’s controversial content and walked out of an interview to ask his producers how he should answer the question.
— Complex (@Complex) September 23, 2019
The antagonism between Warner Brothers and the film press is at a point where they announced that they’ve disinvited the interview press from the movie’s red carpet premiere.
“Our red carpet is comprised of photographers only,” a studio spokesperson told Variety, “a lot has been said about ‘Joker,’ and we just feel it’s time for people to see the film.”
The film press aren’t the only ones worried about violence at Joker screenings. The Army sent out internal memos in early September warning soldiers attending the movie that incel violence was possible.
As reported by Daily Wire,
In a memo sent on September 18 and confirmed by U.S. Army officials on Tuesday, service members were informed about threats on social media about a mass shooting at a “Joker” screening. While the memo states that at the time there were “no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October,” a separate memo sent Monday by senior officials of the U.S. Army’s criminal investigation division cited “credible” intelligence of such a threat gathered by Texas law enforcement.
The term ‘Incel’ refers to an online community known as “involuntary celibates.” It’s a group largely comprised of young men who struggle to connect with women. They’ve developed an underground culture that divides human social/sexual interaction into a strict hierarchy which they believe they’ve been wrongly imposed.
The culture is self perpetuating enough that members can develop a deeply self loathing complex to the point where some of them lash out at women. This has been the case with several individuals who have gone on killing sprees who shall go unnamed as to avoid giving them further attention.
While the threats may prove to be little more than deep web internet chatter or bait to make the media freak out, some fear there is cause for concern that someone is going to attempt a copycat shooting of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting at the movie theater where a man dressed up as the Joker character and shot multiple people.
Given the prevalence of Joker/Clown-themed memes on the fringe right and the Incel community, it’s not impossible that something like that could happen again with such a topical movie but the recent egging on and persistent fears amongst progressive critics that the movie is actively feeding “dangerous” culture narratives seems to be creating a feedback loop.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) September 27, 2019
Why the Joker movie is problematic. Rachel Miller nails it. pic.twitter.com/vTHlVOBHCY
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) September 5, 2019
All too frequently the media fails to take their own culpability into question when horrific shootings happen. The discussion devolves into gun control demands and mental health debates. Mass shooters want attention. When the media plasters a mass shooter’s name all over the headlines it brings them the attention they want.
As stated by the National Center for Health and Research,
Studies indicate that the more media attention a shooter gets, the more likely the event will inspire a future mass shooter. For example, a 2015 study found that after a mass shooting, there was an increased chance of another one occurring in the next 13 days. A 2017 study found that media coverage of a mass shooting may increase the frequency and lethality of future shootings for much longer than two weeks.
When Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Forbes, Vulture, Gizmodo, Comic Book Resources, MSN, Fox News, ABC, CBS and every major news source repeats “Will Joker cause violence?”, you’re amplifying an idea that one person may decide to act on.
If something happens and God forbid someone gets hurt, it won’t be the fault of Todd Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix and Warner Brothers just as it wasn’t Christopher Nolan or The Dark Knight Rises‘ fault in 2012.
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