Does the JOKER Movie Incite Real Violence?
By Dr. Tom Synder, Editor
JOKER, the new movie starring Joaquin Phoenix about the origins of Batman’s arch-nemesis, has received criticism from some shooting victims and critics for the movie’s gun violence.
In response to these criticisms, Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio distributing the movie, and the movie’s director, Todd Phillips, have said the movie is not an endorsement of gun violence, nor do they consider the Joker to be a hero.
Phillips told the press his movie doesn’t excuse Joker’s behavior, adding, “The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world. I think people can handle that message.”
However, after watching and reviewing the movie, MOVIEGUIDE® doesn’t quite buy what the studio and the movie’s director are selling.
In the movie, a troubled man named Arthur, who was apparently abused as a child by his mother’s boyfriend, works as a clown and moonlights as a mediocre standup community. Arthur gets beaten up by some teenage thugs one day but fights back one night against three rich white men on the subway who also try to beat him up and ends up shooting them down in cold blood. Arthur actually chases down the third man to kill him rather than letting him go.
The mysterious clown killer becomes a symbol of rebellion for leftist protestors who hate rich and powerful people, whom the protestors blame for their problems. Eventually, Arthur is pushed over the edge and goes on a violent rampage against the people who’ve done him wrong, including the rich and powerful.
While the movie doesn’t exactly endorse the Joker’s murderous solution to his problems, it does endorse the Joker’s hatred of rich and powerful people that develops during the story and that becomes a big reason for Joker’s rampage of revenge. In fact, like the three rich men on the subway, the movie also depicts Batman’s wealthy father, Thomas Wayne, as a rich jerk who looks down on both the poor and the average citizen in Gotham.
Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® can see how some deranged person or some antifas extremist might take this JOKER movie and try to enact some kind of violent revenge against society, against rich people or against a personal enemy. By endorsing the Joker’s politically correct anger against rich and powerful people, the JOKER movie does indeed endorse the kind of political or non-political anger that may actually incite and cause real violence.
As many scientific studies about the effects of media violence on children, teenagers and adults have shown, the vast majority of viewers won’t go around copying the violence they see in JOKER, but a few viewers might indeed do that. In fact, many recent mass shooters have been addicted to watching media violence or playing ultraviolent video games. Some of them have even admitted they decided to go on their violent rampage because they wanted to emulate other mass shooters they’ve heard about on television news programs.
Two new double-blind studies at Ohio State University, one on movies conducted in 2017 and a follow-up study on video games conducted in 2019, show that watching characters use guns in movies and video games can encourage children to use guns. In the 2017 study, 104 children aged 8-12 were tested in pairs who knew each other. Some of the children watched a 20-minute clip of a PG movie with guns. They handled the gun significantly longer and pulled the trigger three more times than the children who were shown the movie clip without the guns. “One boy pointed the real gun out the laboratory window at people in the street,” said Dr. Brad Bushman, Professor of Communications and Psychology at Ohio State University.
The powerful decision-makers in our mass media, and the powerful decision makers in government would do well to consider these facts when discussing and handling the problem of gun violence in society, including the depiction of gun violence in our movies, television programs and video games.
They should also consider the destruction of the American family, including the lack of fathers in a home, and the ongoing onslaught against America’s Christian civilization, which have also been linked to the modern criminal violence that continues to plague society.
Sources: Variety, 09/24/19 and 10/02/19, and Psychology Today, 07/31/19.