Could Joker inspire violence?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The Joker is one of the most iconic comic book villains, who is known for his insanity, his cruel jokes and brutal violence.
The villain, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is back on the big screen in a dark and gritty origins story, showing his descent into madness and his penchant for murder.
Some critics warn that, in an era of mass shootings and incels, the movie could inspire real-life violence.
However, others say that this is a "tired argument" with little evidence.
The New York Post's Sara Stewart says it is "reasonable to ask if Joker will inspire would-be killers".
She asks what would happen if the comic book homicidal maniac would become a hero.
Stewart says that we live in unique times - an era of mass shootings and "incel" becoming a household term.
She explains: "As of September 1, the United States had seen 283 mass shootings this year, nearly all perpetrated by angry young men, with social isolation and impotent rage common factors."
She accuses Joaquin Phoenix, the actor who plays the Joker, and director Todd Phillips of "living in a cinematic bubble". Phoenix walked out of an interview when asked whether it would inspire violence, and Phillips has defended the use of it in the film.
Stewart concludes: "The people behind Joker should, at least, release a public statement acknowledging that [the world is getting crazier] - and pointing out, because maybe it needs to actually be said, that their subject is not a role model."
However, Jarryd Bartle argues that the Joker movie will not promote incel violence.
In an opinion piece for 10 daily, an Australian news website, he calls the criticism a "tired argument".
Bartle argues: "Concerns about media violence inspiring real-life terror have been around since the invention of media.
"Whether it’s conservative concern about the impact of ‘video nasties’ or first-person shooters, or more progressive media criticisms about perceived misogynist/racist characters or the valorisation of sexual violence.
"Whilst such analyses often get papers off shelves and website clicks, attempts to establish causal links (whether directly or indirectly) between vile, violent media depiction and criminality are murky."
He adds that studies into the effects of violence in movies om real life have "a number of methodological limitations", and the evidence has been mixed.
Joker is a standalone origin story about the famous DC Comics villain, the Joker. In this incarnation, the character is Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a failed stand-up comedian struggling to cope with life in Gotham. Driven to insanity, he turns to crime.
The official synopsis reads: "A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night... but finds the joke always seems to be on him.
"Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study."
Joker was released in cinemas on Friday. The R-rated movie made $13.3 million in Thursday night previews in the US - a new record for an October release, according to Deadline.
By Friday, the film earned $39.8 million at the box office - and it is predicted that it will make $94 million in just three days. It is also heading to a worldwide opening between $188 million to $194 million.
Rotten Tomatoes, the film review aggregation site, gives Joker a 69 per cent rating from nearly 400 reviews. It also has an audience score of 91 per cent.
The critics consensus reads: "Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star - and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema."