Under the Hood

‘Joker’ Movie Controversy: Can Society Drive You Crazy Like In Joaquin Phoenix’s Latest Film?

"Joker" did not fail to get the public’s attention. The Joaquin Phoenix-led movie already made $234 million worldwide, the largest opening for Warner Bros. in 2019.

The film also broke the record held by Sony Pictures' "Venom," which made $80 million last October. “Joker” is now the highest-grossing opening in the history of October in North America, reaching $93.5 million, CNN reported.

With the high numbers comes a growing controversy. Over the weekend, critics claimed that the public has been reacting to the movie as expected -- it triggered fear of violence. 

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security in the past week issued a report about a number of threats to moviegoers coming out online on the opening day of “Joker.” Authorities said there were social media posts about mass shootings in theaters, which prompted increased security levels. 

Extra layers of security were placed in California, Florida and New York. In Tennessee, officials banned moviegoers from wearing costumes at a drive-in theater during the screening of “Joker.”

Director Todd Phillips said prior to the film’s release that he hoped to inspire discussions about guns, violence and the treatment of people with mental illness. However, critics said “Joker” may have a different effect since it could inspire violence. 

The film shares the story of Arthur Fleck, a wannabe comedian, with mental illness and bad luck, who turns into a murderous clown due to his condition and problems with the community. But it delivers the same idea that has long been carried by the Joker in other live and animated films.

It is that every person needs only one push to insanity. The Joker is made with the idea that people are just “one bad day” away from being monsters.

“The latest film looks at how he’s pushed over the edge by delusion, shame and violence,” Stephen Kent, of the Washington Examiner, said in an article. “This Joker, Arthur Fleck, goes from viewing his existence as a tragedy to a twisted comedy with no purpose but to point out the absurdity of life itself. Fleck embraces nihilism, and he wants everyone to give it a try.”

The Joker And The Society

The life of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker may also be occurring in real life society. In his book, “The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think Live and Love,” author and psychotherapist Mel Schwartz details the impact of “intensely competitive culture” that demands achievement and success. 

“Our lives often become visionless and passionless,” he wrote. “Our pursuit of happiness and well-being has become terribly misdirected. The demands of our intensely and neurotically driven culture strain our emotional and psychological balance well beyond its comfort zone.”

Like the Joker, some people experience isolation and disconnection due to the cultural paradigm. This increases the risk of depression in people. 

Schwartz said social systems have become “dysfunctional.” The industry and stigma force people to try to fit in and meet modern standards. 

“People suffer and experience pain,” he wrote. “A society that produces such staggering rates of depression is dysfunctional. Our culture has created this epidemic.”

Crowd In the book, “The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think Live and Love,” author and psychotherapist Mel Schwartz details the impact of “intensely competitive culture” that demands achievement and success. Pixabay

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