By: Kayla Hunt, Columnist
The debate of whether violence displayed in the media, such as movies, music, and videogames incite real-world violence has been in the public eye for a long time.
On Oct. 4th, the film “Joker” was released and has received mixed reviews from audiences. “Joker” is placed in Gotham City and is about how a mentally-ill comedian is disregarded by society and portrays his downward spiral that brings him face to face with his alter-ego: the Joker.
The film contains violence, disturbing behavior and language, which has caused an uproar among critics and viewers.
Scott Feinberg, a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, tweeted: “JOKER is very well made and Joaquin Phoenix is incredible – yes, Oscar worthy – but I must say that the film is also deeply disturbing and, I fear, could incite real-world problems. Gun violence, mental illness and random senseless killings don’t play like they used to at the movies.”
Other critics viewed the movie as a continuation of what previous Batman movies have strived to accomplish.
“A grim, shallow, distractingly derivative homage to 1970s movies at their grittiest, ‘Joker’ continues the dubious darker-is-deeper tradition that Christoper Nolan helped codify with his ‘Batman’ films,” wrote Ann Hornaday in her review of the Joker in The Washington Post.
In response to the critical acclaims, director Todd Phillips said that the movie should be celebrated for its desire to have a conversation about violence, as opposed to being criticized for it. Phillips said that while the movie is complicated, that should be viewed as a good thing.
According to the CNN article, “‘Joker’ is the latest case of commerce masquerading as art,” senior writer Brian Lowry contends that it is arrogant to use that defense for disturbing films such as “Joker.” Lowry explains that no individual would be able to resonate with the message that is disseminated in the film.
“Falling back on the “Hey, it’s art” defense also ignores why people felt uncomfortable – namely, past associations that particularly pertain to this franchise, including the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Col.,” wrote Lowry.
Lowry also discusses in his article how media has been blamed for violence, and how senseless killings haven’t been heavily portrayed in media in light of the frequent mass shootings. He feels as though sometimes that argument has been used to divert attention from other causes of violence such as guns. However, he also believes that creators should not use the defense of “it is art” to cover up the senseless work that they do produce because it doesn’t help the cause.
Art can be complicated and messy, but if it lacks any social value and disturbs a large audience, should it still be considered art? While the answer to that question may be up in the air for now, we certainly shouldn’t dismiss the concerns and feelings of a broad audience just because it is art.
I think that producers should be more cautious of how violence is portrayed in films, especially in light of the increase in mass shootings that have occurred in recent years. My brother works at a movie theater and he recounts individuals leaving the theater mid-showing because they said the graphics in Joker were too much for them. I think that because so many felt disturbed by the film, there should be some kind of acknowledgement for that, instead of just saying that art is complicated. I don’t think that because it is unlikely that any individual would actually emulate what was shown in the Joker that the violence should be disregarded; art is expected to be resonated with and emulated. I think there should be consideration of a large audience’s emotional disturbance during a time where violence is a very sensitive issue.