In the weeks leading up to the Joker’s October 4th release date, Director Todd Phillips and Lead Actor, Joaquin Phoenix, have found themselves in hot water with the morality police. According to Phillips, Joker is “about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world.” However, its critics in the media have insinuated that Joker will trigger gun violence, and have been quick to connect the movie to recent mass shootings.
Such connections are based on pure, conspiratorial nonsense. As Marlow Stern writes, the idea that Joker will trigger actual violence “has little basis in scientific fact. Psychologists have been studying the link between violent media and real-world violence for decades, and the results have been inconclusive. In a June 2017 memo, however, the American Psychological Association (APA) cautioned media outlets against claiming that violent media influences real-world criminal acts.”
The anti-scientific nature of such fear-mongering is reminiscent of attempts by right-wingers to attribute increases in violence to video games–an idea that some of these same critics undoubtedly scoffed about. The absurdity of their reckless complaints grows even more apparent under the light that Joker ultimately just gives us the backstory of a deranged clown who fights against a billionaire in a bat suit.
Still more worrisome, however, is the fashion in which these activists seek to further their baseless agenda. Many have already tried to pressure Phoenix and Phillips to “use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.” Rather than just letting a movie entertain, these ideologues take offense to Joker leaving the gun rights debate unaddressed.
Even Warner Bros. Studio has been dragged into the all-important conversation about gun violence, responding, “At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
These critics are misguided in their overbearing desire to insert their distorted sense of morality into our everyday lives. We should already be able to determine our morals and values for ourselves based on what we have learned from our parents, our education, our churches, and our communities. While it is true that not everyone has had the privilege of living in a stable home or receiving a good education, the idea that a movie is going to be what transforms someone from an upright citizen into a cold-blooded killer strikes me as utterly ridiculous.
As Joaquin Phoenix told IGN, “I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality!”
Phoenix is correct. Americans don’t need Hollywood and DC—two of the most scandal-ridden places in the country—to teach us what is right and wrong.
Politicizing entertainment and blowing trivial things out of proportion, as the media is prone to do, only serves to make everyone more miserable. I believe our country would be a better, kinder place if only such critics would realize that Americans are more than capable of thinking for ourselves.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.