Watching “Joker” Scared Me

“The Joker” starring Joaquin Phoenix, which premiered October 4th, tells the origin story of the Clown Prince of Crime.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

“The Joker” starring Joaquin Phoenix, which premiered October 4th, tells the origin story of the Clown Prince of Crime.

Ashley Ortega, Editor-in-Chief

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Detective Comics, or DC Comics, is known for being a dark movie franchise, but we haven’t really seen that side of the company since the Dark Knight trilogy. “Joker,” which premiered October 4th, was DC’s return to the dark side.

Directed by Todd Phillips, “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, tells the story of how the Joker came to be the infamous villain we know today. Usually, when I watch movies I use it as an escape from my everyday life, but when I watched “Joker” I got a bit  scared especially because of the movie’s message.

After the last couple fails from DC, many were expecting “Joker” to flop as well, but it completely surprised the audience. For the week ending Nov. 21, “Joker” domestically has made $323 million and earned the title of the highest-grossing R-rated film ever.

What surprised many viewers was just how dark the movie got. “I thought it was painfully true, but it was a little too much,” said senior Natalie Flores.

“Joker” delved into topics that are greatly affecting society today. It showed: mental illness, abuse, politics, and a city on the verge of collapse.

”High schoolers need to be in the conversation with mental illness and crime because they deal with it everyday. It’s not something just adults are dealing with,” said Godinez Fundamental High School Counselor Michelle Holguin.

Many reviewers argued that the movie was a bit too gruesome and disturbing. While this view is understandable due to numerous graphic scenes of murder and abuse, those scenes were used to convey a bigger picture. The movie’s ultimate goal was to show the Joker and the severity of his mental illness. But also, the reality of what happens when someone already dealing with enough gets pushed to the edge.

“It depends on how it (mental illness) is portrayed but it can affect people who watch it,” added Holguin.

The problem movie reviewers had with this depiction is that while many people go to the movies to escape from reality, they don’t go to have that same reality forced on them. Joker’s story serves as a hard pill to swallow with the current climate. 

The film was a little too gruesome at times. So much so that I got paranoid that someone was going to come in and shoot the up our theater.

Senior, Matthew Batres disagrees, “I did not think the movie was too much because it was classified as a rated R movie.” Batres understands why people think it was too much. “I think people are not used to seeing so much violence or a version of Joker that was as violent as he was compared to the other depictions of him,” said Batres.

The other depictions include Mark Hamill in “Batman: The Animated Series” and Heath Ledger’s version in “The Dark Knight.”

This view served as a reason why people decided to wait to see the film in theaters. In an article by Vox writer, Alex Abad-Santos said,  “Joker’s studio Warner Bros. and family members of those killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting have been in conversation over the possible danger the movie poses to moviegoers.” 

The mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado occurred at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight.”

The movie’s message is seen as dangerous because while it portrays a terrible villain, it also portrays a chaotic hero to those in Gotham city. He was seen as a hero because the people of Gotham were being oppressed by the rich, and the Joker fought that oppression by killing. 

This created the idea that the actions of the Joker can be an influence, especially in light of all the shootings this year.  Abad-Santos worries, ”that one person who may be out there – and who knows if it is just one – who is on the edge, who is wanting to be a mass shooter, may be encouraged by this movie.”

I do believe that “Joker” was a great film because it shows topics that are so necessary for people to see and talk about today. Also, the performance by Joaquin Phoenix especially makes the film extremely chilling.

But one month later, “Joker” still haunts me with that laugh.