By Editor-In-Chief Gabriella Barthe
With reports of the Joker movie being a possible source for incel violence in the weeks leading up to its release, movie goers have been conflicted about seeing the film.
Fears of a repeat of the September 20, 2012 theatre mass shooting at a screening of “The Dark Knight” in Aurora, Colorado, has fueled many of these responses.
In response to media reports, the US Military issued warnings to troops about possible Incel Violence and shooters at Joker screenings which only lead to heightening concerns for citizens. Though since its release on October 4, 2019 there seem to be no reports of incidents at all.
Restrictions have been placed on the way viewers can dress while attending screenings of Joker. No face paint or costumes of any manner can be worn for the safety and comfort of all guests and bag checks were happening at the door even at the AMC in Dartmouth near the UMass Dartmouth campus.
There is no way to tell if incidents were stopped by heightened concerns and stricter conditions at theatres, or if there were no plans to begin with, but there was a definite impact on viewers’ experiences.
Many felt more on edge knowing the level of restrictions held. Though, theatres have been implementing these changes for some time now. Notably, costumes and makeup were banned at screenings of IT: Chapter II for the September 6, 2019 release at the same AMC.
Despite these restrictions already having been in place, the heightened media coverage surrounding the film has brought more attention not only to these policies, but the character of the Joker himself.
As a controversial character since his inception, Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of Arthur Fleck becoming a crazed killer was sure to draw attention. Many have voiced concerns that the character being represented as a mentally-ill individual who progresses into a murderer would inspire real-world offenders.
These concerns have since been attributed to a population often referred to as “incels” or involuntary celibates who live their lives much like Arthur Fleck throughout the film. Fleck, as a grown adult, lives with his mother – going as far as to share a bed with and bathe her – is pining after his female neighbor and is beat up while at work and ultimately loses his job.
Blow after blow sets the character on the road to shooting the first of his victims: three rich students who were harassing a woman alone on a train. After drawing attention due to his involuntary laughter – something he expresses as an involuntary health issue throughout the film – Fleck is attacked. During this fight Fleck fires his gun killing two men and then flagging down the third before running away.
At this point in the film, Fleck does not show pride in his action of killing the individuals. Though, there is an interesting reasoning for his turn of heart that seems to have gone unnoticed: Fleck becomes proud of his actions after realizing it has garnered attention for him.
After the release of the death of these three boys in the media, news headlines and talk shows seem to be continually discussing the ‘killer clown’ still at large. Bruce Wayne’s father, who is running for mayor, had made a comment prior to the film starting about the poor in the town being clowns which lead many to believe this killing was a political statement. The rhetoric in the news immediately became about Wayne’s campaign, the politics surrounding the death, and led many to protest.
With the constant conversation about the murder committed, and the narrative shifting to talks of politics, the ‘killer clown’ was starting to be seen as a political symbol and had been the only lasting moments of attention Fleck is shown throughout the film’s run time.
Everywhere Fleck went, the clown could be found and he grew strength from the attention, and that attention garnered supporters for a stance he never had. By creating a political narrative around the situation, the media created a protest and in turn gave Fleck the platform and confidence to continue on as Joker.
Ultimately, the film highlights an issue about how news gives a platform to those it seeks to warn about and ironically, the real world jumped into a situation that could have done just the same.