With All Due Respect, Joker Must Be Seen

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hey there, hero!

This video was a tough one for me to shoot.

I had conflicting feelings about even bringing this up.

The letter written by the group of Aurora Colorado residents to Warner Bros, condemning the release of Joker, the movie about the DC Comics arch-villain, needs to be addressed.

With sensitivity.

Here’s my attempt at that.

Hope this helps!

David

Responses

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  1. I probably will wait to see Joker when it streams.
    Mostly because Nicholson is my Joker off choice for film… But I certainly didn’t rush or after the film to buy an acid squirting lapel flower.
    Art needs to be expressed, not suppressed.
    (and Hamill is my cartoon Joker, of course)

  2. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this commentary, I think it’s so important to reflect on this. It starts me thinking – I do agree storytelling matters and should reflect life. But there have been times in history when storytelling is used for propaganda, which i think we’d all agree *is* harmful. How does society decide when storytelling is crossing that line?

  3. Glory is in the eye of the beholder. The Joker is a psychopath. I can not imagine that this movie would attempt to justify him, let alone glorify him or glorify violence.

    If it were so, that mere presentation of (insert whatever vice, affliction or deed one is decrying here) somehow translates into a paean to evil, then we could not have movies like Schindler’s List, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, as well as fantasy like Joker, Batman, Superman (can you really be against Truth, Justice and the American Way?) and on and on anon.

    And if we close down movies can books be far behind? We could start with the graphic novels (comic books) from which this movie sprang as a sort of kindling for the harder to burn paperbacks and hard covers. Oh, I know; Let’s start with Fahrenheit 451.

  4. Cultures tell stories as a means to communicate themes and provide a foundation for discussion of important ideas, both good and bad. I haven’t seen “Joker” yet, but there’s a similar thematic treatment in the third season of Marvel’s Daredevil series. The character that will become Bullseye has a life that leads him to give in to his nascent psychopathy. It is at times a sympathetic character. But this doesn’t mean his malevolent acts are presented as anything other than evil.

    1. An excellent example – that character required some really creative writing to properly tell the tale. The same happened in the last season of “Jessica Jones”. I think part of working through the grief of random violence in our society today and trying to decide what truly is the proper moral high ground has become woven into mainstream storytelling with more complexity. Neither glorifies the bad guy, but both work through some difficult topics that we as a society should explore, to better figure out how to identify a potentially dangerous situation before something happens.

  5. I agree with your position regarding no censorship. I agree it is a difficult line to walk regarding those effected by the theater shooting. I agree that what drives people to violence is the culmination of a lifetime of negative experiences and you can’t simply blame such violence on movies, TV, video games, comic books, etc. I feel you handled this well. Thanks for the video David.

  6. On the same page regarding censorship. When it comes to content that is disturbing to specific audiences, I feel that’s where our humanity comes in. Social media at its best is a conduit of community. In the mire of negativity also lies rapidly delivered information and feedback. If a movie comes out with upsetting content, reviews have undoubtedly been posted publicly and more audience feedback will be out there after the release. I’d like to share a reassuring (to me) example that this made me think of. Early reviews of the film Hereditary warned that the movie was deeply upsetting without spoiling it. Upon watching it and needing to recover for weeks, I was extremely motivated to warn a specific friend of mine to absolutely avoid it. Anyone whose child was killed or lost a child close to them because of a violent death should know this movie graphically conveys that. Just a cursory search on Twitter showed multiple, thoughtful and considerate posts warning sensitive viewers about that content. The movie JUST came out. Facebook was the same and had the added benefit of being more personalized, tagging specific people. She already knew. This is an age where, at our best, we’re using social media to care for each other.

  7. This is a tough situation.
    I agree that violent topics, in the many ways we absorb stories, need to be expressed. Content providers have to be sensitive to subjects that people are against/horrified by, but the stories still need to be told, not censored.
    Thanks again for providing a platform to discuss these kind of things that touch on our lives.

  8. I agree with much of what you say …it is not respectful (imo) of the memories of those lost to terrible tragedies to try and erase their experiences from storytelling. Stories about the holocaust, slavery, wars, pandemics, etc. must and should be told. Many of these atrocities have been interpreted in great works of fictionalized film accounts (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Life is Beautiful”, “Longtime Companion”) that have helped us further understand the human experience. The fact that the “jumpers” of 9/11 have been almost entirely expunged from all storytelling (fiction and nonfiction) of the events of that horror is insensitive and provides a false narrative to what the experience of terrorism might be.

    That said, while I believe that storytellers have a right to share their work in films, books, etc. I also value the right to self-censorship. Having lost several relatives to drug abuse, I avoid any film that shows comedic or cavalier accounts of drug abuse because I find it extremely insensitive. I will not, however, say that a movie should be banned or a book should be burned just because it hits my personal triggers.

    I can’t imagine that a fictionalized version of a psychopath that glorifies or glamorizes the character would be of value, but to demand that it be withheld is to deny others the right to express their opinions and creates a line in the sand that cannot be defined or enforced with any kind of fairness.

  9. I have a lot to say on this, but I’ll keep it short.

    Specifically to this film and the victims of the Aurora Colorado shooting: my heart goes out to the people who endured that horror. I am disappointed that some apparently don’t understand that the shooter was not only severely mentally ill, but had premeditated this attack with a great deal of preparation. Which movie was going to be playing was likely only minimally related to his determination to do horrible violence, and the content of that movie had no relation to his actions (meaning, he was not re-enacting a scene from it or previous Batman films).

    Which brings me to the second point relevant to the Dark Knight film and the Aurora, Colorado shooting: the character of Batman has for most of his existence been anti-gun and anti-killing. Everything he does is driven by reliving the trauma of a violent crime and remaining determined not to take a life. For heroes against villains, look to the prior film’s theme which, unlike the film that was being shown during the shooting, actually does contain the Joker character: the Joker’s cynicism about human nature is undone when people under duress do the right thing, and Batman is able to stop him while refusing to resort to murderous violence. It’s hard to object to the content of a film you haven’t seen (the coming Joker movie) when the decades of backstory leading up to it reinforce the message you want to send.

    My last point is something I don’t tell many people because it could cost me friendships. I own guns, I know how to use them, and I keep them safe. I have a Concealed Carry permit. I know many people who do. I play video games, and quite a lot of them. I know many people who do. I read banned books and I watch television shows and movies, some of which contain violent themes.

    A large number of functioning adults are out there, just like me, and they don’t pose a threat to the world. A large number of writers and artists and performers are out there, just like me, and their ideas don’t pose a threat to the world.

    Declaring those who do not agree with us as a threat, or declaring ideas as a threat, and reacting with fear, condemnation, anger, or censorship–that in itself is a threat to the world.