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.
Here’s my attempt at that.
Hope this helps!
Raw YouTube Captioning
hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and this one is gonna be a tough one
I’ve thought long and hard about this
before actually making this video but I
think it’s something that we need to
talk about it’s something that needs to
be discussed and it’s not no-brainer
because there are feelings involved and
there’s pain involved and there’s death
involved there’s a new movie coming out
it’s called Joker starring Joaquin
Phoenix and it’s the origin story of one
of the most iconic villains in the DC
Universe and how that villain came to be
and it cuts a little bit close to the
bone the plot cuts a little bit close to
the bone as one might understand for a
group of people in particular and
probably more than just that group of
people but this group of people decided
to act and that’s the group of people
that were affected by the shooting in
the movie theater a couple years ago in
Aurora Colorado they actually wrote a
letter to Warner Brothers saying you
shouldn’t be releasing a movie like this
it glorifies violence you should be
working against gun violence not
promoting it and I can’t imagine the
pain that these people feel still to
this day I’ve never been through an
issue like that I I don’t claim to
understand how deep that pain can be but
I I can imagine that it’s it’s not an
easy thing to live with at the same time
I feel it’s worth having a discussion
about so that we don’t go too far with
this argument the idea that Warner
Brothers shouldn’t tell a story
shouldn’t release a film because of how
it effects a group of people is
something that I think goes too far and
again I’m trying to be as sensitive
about this as I can and I want to know
what you think so when I’m done sort of
talking about this I think you know I’d
like you to comment on it
the video we have had this discussion
many many many times and people who are
in favor of gun control are often the
same kind of people who argue with very
conservative sometimes religious
oriented Family Values claiming
politicians and spokespeople about video
games and television shows and novels
you know people who incite this kind of
violence who engage in this kind of
violence have literally millions of
influences that lead them to that
unfortunate number one rule and we
talked about people in their menus and
the the rule that they go with is always
the one that is number one on the list
the idea that storytellers should be
held back from telling age-old stories
of heroes vs. villains good versus evil
violence versus safety victims versus
perpetrators when you think about the
primetime schedules on NBC ABC CBS HBO I
mean you know the the cable channels the
idea that what they wrote in the letter
you know that’s applicable if it’s
applicable to the Joker movie it’s
applicable to all storytelling all
production and that’s where I kind of
part ways and again I again I can’t I
can’t tell you how hard this is for me
to talk about because I don’t want
anybody thinking I’m saying to the
people who suffered with this in Aurora
get over it it doesn’t matter your
thoughts your feelings don’t matter
because they do I just feel as though
writing a letter asking a studio to not
release a film not tell a story to
assume that the film glorifies violence
rather than illustrates violence
vanquished or violence that
evil and the good that is around that
sometimes the bad guys win sometimes the
good guys win not going to see the movie
on their part I completely understand
but trying to stop others from seeing it
or from that story being told is a very
slippery slope and as I say those words
again I’m I’m very cognizant that I’m
not someone who understands or
appreciates how much pain these people
have been through what I do understand
is them wanting to do something them
wanting to make a change in the real
world and I guess what I want to remind
people is movies and television and
books they’re not the real world they
can influence us along with all the
other things that influence us to do
good things to do bad things and
everything in between
again this is a tough one for me as a
performing artist I rail against anybody
saying anything that comes remotely
close to censorship or to book burning
or story you know tamping suppression
even people who have a really good
personal font and reason to do so and
just want to make life better
this isn’t how to do it I don’t think
just my opinion and again I’m trying
I’ve said it enough I’d like to know
what you have to say please in the
comments below let me know what you
think and certainly if you think I’ve
been insensitive in some way you know
tell me I hope I haven’t I I need to do
better about tough things like this but
I’d like to know what you think so in
the comments below let me know what you
think about this whole thing about the
movie I’m so looking forward to seeing
it it’s gotten rave reviews it
won awards in film festivals obviously
I’m a comic book fan and at the same
time I feel very very strongly about
both wanting to comfort and help victims
of that violence and ensure that
storytellers have no limits on what
they’re allowed to say and what they’re
able to illustrate both good and bad so
comments below please tell me what you
think I really appreciate it
I’m David H Lawrence the seventeenth and
I will talk to you tomorrow.
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
I agree with you on this very tough topic David. Thanks for addressing it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very well said, Trenton! I absolutely agree.
Thanks Natalie ^_^