‘Joker’ #1 in The Box Office Raises Controversy

Xochitl Marin

Todd Phillip’s latest film, Joker, debuted October 4th, giving a new face to the insane, iconic DC Universe villain the Joker.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker’s newest persona, the film made approximately $96 million nationwide and $152.2 million worldwide during its opening weekend according to Box Office Mojo. Almost 2 weeks after it’s been in theaters, Joker still remains #1 in the box office, despite several other movie premiers, with an outstanding $55 million dollars according to The New York Times.                                                                                                                                  The movie serves as the origin story to the character Arthur Fleck’s alter ego, The Joker. Arthur Fleck is a struggling standup comedian who deals with mental issues, is isolated and seemingly ignored by Gotham City’s society of crime and hardship. The only strong connection he is shown to have is with his equally mentally-struggled mother. Throughout the film, before the birth of his alter ego, Fleck’s many struggles to find the connection and acceptance he seeks lead up to his breaking point which preludes to the birth of the infamous fictional villain known today.

Although Joker’s debut was outstanding, it did spark controversy and concerns. According to The New York Times, many critics voiced their worries that the film would paint a sympathetic picture on societal issues today, specifically mass shooters.

During the film, before Phoenix’s character fully converts into the Joker, he did a phenomenal job portraying the pain Arthur Fleck goes through and essentially feels due to being hurt, picked on and disregarded by multiple characters in the film. There were moments during the scenes in which I felt a lump forming in my throat and tears beginning to build up. In those moments, I would sympathize with the character because of the way society would, in my opinion, treat him poorly for no apparent reason. It would force me to think of the world we live in today where we see others hurting one another. Whether it’s through verbal, mental, emotional or physical abuse. Abuse that can be seen happening to Arthur throughout the film.

“He is that good at humanizing characters who are hard to love. But I also just recoiled from this character and I was completely repelled by it too,” said Justin Chang on the Los Angeles Times podcast “The Reel”, when talking about Joker. Chang’s words couldn’t possibly better phrase my feelings toward Joaquin Phoenix’s character. Regardless of the fact that I felt sympathy towards Arthur Fleck due to the mistreatment he faces, that sympathy suddenly disappeared as if it were never there once he slowly transforms into the demented murderer that the film is named after.

After watching the movie,  Joker doesn’t serve as a tool that creates a sympathized image of mass shooters, rather I feel like it can serve as a learning tool to show aspects in the society we live in and push us to help people who are going through similar struggles like the film’s main character. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance helps those who found the struggles relatable to better themselves and us as a society that should be more empathetic and humane to one another.

Rated R, Joker targets a mature audience of lovers of comics, crime, and drama alike. I can confidently say that the movie is worth 122 minutes of your life. The acting is absolutely beautiful and not one moment will go by without you feeling one emotion or another. Without a doubt, Joaquin Phoenix has made this film one of my all-time favorites and hopefully, he does the same for you!