October 4, 2019
Opinions

You Shouldn't See 'Joker' This Weekend (Opinion)

Director Todd Phillips' Joker arrives in theaters Friday with plenty of controversies stirred by Phillips himself, along with the risk of an active shooter in some locations. Is a movie worth the price of admission when that is a factor?

I won't see Joker. Not this weekend. Not ever. 

Even without the active shooter warnings possible at unspecified locations screening the film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Batman's most famous villain, DC and Warner Bros. latest entry into their comic book movie canon is problematic at best... incendiary and dangerous at worse. It all brings up valuable questions in the long-standing debate about the responsibility of filmmakers to an audience and for what their films may or may not incite within them.

It's a movie that, when it's not recreating the themes and plots of Taxi Driver and King of Comedy (and perhaps missing the cautionary tale aspects of them), is chronicling the fall of a very disturbed, aspiring comedian/citizen of Gotham City -- who suffers from a tick that makes him laugh inappropriately -- as he ascends to infamy by way of crime, terror, and homicide. The movie tries to give sympathy to this anti-arc, this person shunned by society in a way that violently turns him against it. Because people didn't find his jokes as funny or as worthy of their applause and attention as he felt or believed they should. Sympathy for a guy whose ultimate coping skill is to put a gun in his hand and fire in the name of self-righteous anarchy. 

This is dangerous. Is it dangerous on purpose? 

There is an ongoing cycle of 'taking offense' in our culture. Someone is offended by one thing, then another group or person is offended by the offense taken and they feel trapped by the initial offense. We get a backlash, then a backlash of a backlash and then we all soon have whiplash. And it seems to just go on and on with name-calling. 

Do Joker and Todd Phillips HAVE a message they are trying to impart? Or is the message just the chaos?

To combat some criticism instead of facing it people often employ straw man arguments and false equivalencies. It's not a stretch to suggest this is part of what's going on when Phillips' suggests "woke culture" is the reason he left the comedy world to make Joker. In recent interviews, Phillips comes off as someone that doesn't like that people are asking certain questions about his movie. These feel like the kinds of questions that would be core to the conception of the project in the first place. 

Questions like "why make a movie about a murderous criminal that endeavors the spotlight after feeling his attempt to earn it fell short?" "Who is this movie for?" "Should we really make a movie that, to a degree, both celebrates and decries what Joker does in light of the Colorado shooting?" 

There are debates about how much violence in entertainment connects to violence in real life. This movie does a little more than just depict violence, it depicts it in a manner and fashion that sets it apart. On purpose? By accident? Do we hold the filmmakers responsible for the messaging? 

It's all part of a larger discussion. 

But there is another big problem. 

Children like Batman and Joker. They like comic books. These are, historically, things for kids. And despite the film's R-rating, children will want to see Joker on screen this way. Because they may see their parents excited about it. Because adults like the Joker, too. And those parents may take their kids to the movies, and, well, we don't need to paint that whole picture. 

And it is a shame that the situation exists. For some audiences, the thought of parents taking kids to see this is ridiculous. It'll happen though. It doesn't mean we should all be deprived of the movie as a result, but it is something to consider when the movie is conceived of... maybe? Warner Bros. has not had any merchandising associated with the film so on some level they obviously get it. 

And let's also be clear; people will see the movie in droves, it's spurring the conversation. It's winning awards. But we propose it's worth considering the reasons why. There is an excellent review of the film on Deadspin that places the movie squarely in the context of today. The review suggests that the movie, on a quality level, is middling and barely merits this level of discussion. It suggests the movie is just pushing buttons to push them, almost by accident, and without having any lasting purpose or reason to do so. 

Todd Phillips' comments about woke culture and the inability to be effective in comedy due to it spurred the comedy community to discuss, at length all over twitter, if such a thing was true. 

A recent Twitter thread by user POC_Culture summarizes the reactions and criticism leading up to the release of Joker -- and Todd Phillips' complaints about problematic "woke culture":

 

 

This person is spot-on. We are at a point where a problematic director who damns the very Writers Guild he is a member of is upset because people are upset by his, on the surface, problematic choices. It's ok to have this discussion right? It would be nice to have the filmmaker join the discussion more actively.

Joker also exists because of IP (Intellectual property). It's safe to say this movie only gets made if you pitch it as "and it stars the Joker in a way we've never seen before." That's troubling for the aforementioned reasons. Imagine what it would be like if this movie wasn't built around The Joker, but was more like Taxi Driver. Does it still work? Do people still want to see it? Forgetting that it would be much, much harder to fund. 

The Master The Joker Mashup
Credit: WB
Joker isn't John Wick. Video game movies and their source material don't inspire shootings the way certain pundits and politicians would like you to think they do. We're also not saying, the violence on screen is in and of itself a problem. 

What may fuel the potential for another Aurora-level shooting or a very contested thread on social media, is the way this type of subject matter is seemingly glorified despite its problematic nature. The way Phillips dismisses people's criticisms of it doesn't feel responsible. 

One would think Phillips would enjoy that he's started a conversation.

To quote Aaron Sorkin, everyone has the right to speak. But not everyone has the right to the microphone.

Or, in Phillips' case, the right to invalidate others' concerns and thoughts and feelings simply because he is unable or unwilling to understand, respect, or accept them.

I personally, do not wish to validate the worldview with my money at the box office. In my opinion, there are better ways to spend my cash and time.  

Joker is both an arsonist and a fireman in a whole new kind of fire and it's hard to tell if there is a good reason or any reason behind it. It seems plausible that some men do indeed, just want to watch the world burn.     

Your Comment

116 Comments

F;ck this article and the writer.

October 5, 2019 at 11:29AM

4
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Wait a sec... So this article begins "I won't see Joker. Not ever."

But in a Sept. 24 Collider article, "11 Best Joaquin Phoenix Performances, Ranked," the author, one Phil Pirrello, ranks Joker as #2 and lavishes praise on Phoenix's performance:

"Phoenix goes to deep, dark, nightmare-fueled places to portray Fleck’s descent into madness; there’s no emotional experience or pain Phoenix won’t explore as Fleck arcs from wannabe comic to deadly criminal. And while the movie’s hero worship of a violent murderer is problematic in this year of 2019 (do we really need a movie that roots for and laments this type of deranged anti-hero?), attention must be paid to Phoenix’s intense commitment to the material. Like Ledger before him, he gives each scene the exact amount of whatever it needs, resulting in the second time the role of Joker has given the comic book movie genre its greatest performance."

So... uh... what's up?

October 5, 2019 at 11:40AM, Edited October 5, 11:44AM

16
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Josh
112

Gotta love those double standards Phil Pirrello... Thanks for bringing that up Sean.

October 6, 2019 at 4:10AM

2
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Demetris
117

Wanna hear a joke?

This article.
HA HA HA HA

October 5, 2019 at 12:28PM

3
Reply

Wanna hear a joke?

This article.
HA HA HA HA

October 5, 2019 at 12:31PM

2
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Dude, don't be such a snowflake!

October 5, 2019 at 1:30PM

2
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Is all of journalism dead? When did it happen? 1994?
This article reads like an angry twitter post, not critical analysis.

While I think the entirety of the hysteria around JOKER is a fabrication of progressive catladies with nothing better to do (and the "official warnings" are brought to you by the same government that spent considerable taxpayer dollars investigating a phony report about bed-wetting), I'm willing to assist our author here and provide an example of what a legitimate counterpoint argument would consist of.
If JOKER is a terribly misguided tale about mental health that leads viewers to the wrong conclusions and potentially provokes some to adopt a similarly violent stance in dealing with their own difficult lives, then a thoughtful critic might want to suggest a film with similar themes and characters which turns out rather differently. To that end, I would recommend Buffalo '66 by Vincent Gallo. The "protagonist" in that film has been almost completely overwhelmed by the near-total ruination of his life. He commits himself to enacting bloody vengeance against someone responsible. In the end, he evaluates what positives DO remain in his pitiful existence, and he chooses to focus on those rather than turning to violence. It's obviously a dramatically different film, but someone on the lunatic fringe of the media could attempt to make a reasonable case that it should be viewed first, before anyone considers watching JOKER.

I just draw pictures. Surely a professional writer could whip up a decent article like that. Right?

(Btw, JOKER is fantastic. Everyone and their kids should see it twice.)

October 5, 2019 at 1:38PM

4
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Matthew Stephens
storyboards
381

Opinion: You are an idiot.

October 5, 2019 at 1:54PM

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Madara
writer/director
287

Best way to form an opinion about a movie is to never see it.

October 5, 2019 at 2:01PM

6
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"[W]ithout anyone trying to hear one another['s] message."

also

"I won't see Joker."

October 5, 2019 at 2:02PM

2
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Jon Kline
Director of Photography
113

This film is really good.

October 5, 2019 at 6:15PM, Edited October 5, 6:15PM

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James Manson
Photographer
263

Just gonna leave this quote right here...

'Whether it is on Film Twitter or not, for a director as revered and learned as Scorsese to judge the majority of a studio's output that he hasn't seen as not being of value to the medium he and those he is critiquing have dedicated their careers to is... it's not a good look. At best.'

October 5, 2019 at 6:31PM

3
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I was going to wait until Monday but just because you posted this article I am going to see it this weekend

October 5, 2019 at 6:51PM

4
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I absolutely agree with this article, this film is deeply flawed. He shot the TV host in the head because host doesn't think his joke is funny, which, as a plot of the script, is fine. but, but, the tone of the film ultimately celebrates and glorified his killing, it's very troubling.

October 6, 2019 at 12:21AM

0
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Sam
88

The movie is about a psychotic killer named Joker? Did you not get the memo? SMDH

October 6, 2019 at 1:51AM

4
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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
491

I can't take No Film School seriously anymore. After No Film School's notoriously bad and amateur review of the BMPCC6K and now this useless article about an incredible piece of cinema, No Film School is just a disappointment. I saw Joker last night and, like everyone else who actually saw it, I loved it. Go see it. It's brilliant and honest and evokes compassion for people who struggle with mental illness. This writer should be ashamed of himself for writing this before even seeing it.

October 6, 2019 at 12:22AM

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Gavin Leighton
DP and Editor
16

Well... we know who's political ox was gored now.

October 6, 2019 at 1:25AM

5
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Robert W.
213

This is a terrible article...WTF?! Movie was incredible btw. So glad i went.

October 6, 2019 at 1:50AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
491

Please watch "Amateur" instead of "Joker" a real piece of art...

October 6, 2019 at 2:26AM

1
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Demetris
117

So... You haven't seen it, you will never see it, and we should take your opinion with some sort of weight?

I literally can't take a single thing you say seriously, because in your own words, you will never see the film.

So how do you know what it does and does not do? Are you just looking at some people's opinions and then formulating your own based on that?

It is hilarious to me that not only is true journalism dead in the world, but you decided to one up that and kill opinion pieces too. Because if you don't watch it, you don't get an opinion on what the movie is trying to convey.

October 6, 2019 at 5:40AM

2
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Kyler
11

The person who wrote this article is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.

October 6, 2019 at 9:46AM

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Daniel
16

OP... you are a f'ing moron... what a f'ing waste of bits this article is.

Im going to go watch it twice to compensate for you not going.

October 6, 2019 at 1:19PM

2
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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
995

Fuck you No Film School, you guys are a bunch of Social Justice Warrior Snowflake liberal pussies with no balls. The reason this movie is so heavily criticized is because it's ORIGINAL and isn't afraid of offending people it also takes aim at the problem America is facing with the radical left wing communists parasites who are pushing their stupid woke and cancel culture on to everyone and taking the fun out of everything because you have no thick skin and are offended by everything. If you don't want to watch joker go watch your stupid marvel sjw propaganda bullshit films made for 5 year olds. You guys along with liberal multi-billion dollar mainstream fake news should go fuck yourselves. Todd Phillip's is a hero for exposing you liberal pussies.

October 6, 2019 at 1:44PM

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Let's remove all R rated movies. You never know if a child will get their hands on it!

October 6, 2019 at 4:43PM

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Did you really just write a three page oped criticizing a film you have no intention of watching?

Sorry. Can't take anything you say seriously, especially when you start griping that the filmmakers don't want to have an open dialog about the film whilst simultaneously making it clear you don't want to have an open dialog, either. If you did, you'd have at least watched the film so you could talk about it from a position of actually knowing what the content of the film is.

It really bothers me when people try to speak from a position of authority when they don't even bother doing the due diligence first. I'm all for having open conversation, but that's impossible if one half of the conversation is being held by someone with both an agenda and a lack of understanding of the subject being discussed.

October 6, 2019 at 10:24PM

3
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Great MOvie

October 7, 2019 at 12:10AM

2
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Betty Cox
Senior News Editor
74

What a movie.. Awesome. https://www.talktowendys.website/

October 7, 2019 at 12:32AM, Edited October 7, 12:36AM

2
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JUNK !!!

October 7, 2019 at 1:18AM

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JUNK !!!

October 7, 2019 at 1:22AM

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Many people think that Joker is the film which must be forbidden. Cause it may boost lots of acts of violence and anarchy. But personally I find this movie masterpiece. If you don't wanna be impacted by this film, just skip it.

October 7, 2019 at 6:02AM

1
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Andreas Hochwagen
Associate Professor at New York University
47

This article has nothing to do on this website,
I guess I'll stop reading NFS from now on because of this.
It's place should maybe be on a teenagers blog...
the introduction is: "I won't see Joker... Ever" the guy hasn't even seen the film. But even if he had, this text would still leave me without words...

October 7, 2019 at 9:40AM

2
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Phil, you wrote this garbage, and then had the nerve to write today's article about Scorsese, telling him to chill? Dude, you are a joke - and quite possibly an unrealized troll.

October 7, 2019 at 10:11AM, Edited October 7, 10:13AM

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Jeremy Dulac
Director/Cinematographer/Editor
159

NFS has devolved into a dumpster fire of regurgitated articles, flawed opinions masquerading as woke revelations, and a truly unusable forum, on account of its bot activity. This blog—yes, blog—is a travesty.

October 7, 2019 at 10:56AM

1
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Elias Hardt
Director / 3D Graphics
98

I saw Joker yesterday. It's an intense, well-crafted character study. When screened at film festivals it was called a "masterpiece." I'm not 100% sure it is a "masterpiece," but what I AM 100% sure of is all the people spewing this narrative of this movie being something that "glorifies" violence and encourages "incels" to commit mass shootings. Comments like "may fuel the potential for another Aurora-level shooting" only reveals the dishonesty and ignorance of the critic and says NOTHING honest about the movie. Stop it, you vapid snowflakes. Just stop it.

October 7, 2019 at 12:21PM

1
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Mongo The Clown
International Star
6

This is pathetic. You're inciting sensationalism.

October 7, 2019 at 12:32PM

1
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Oh FFS. Next time watch the movie you're bad mouthing, dummy.

October 7, 2019 at 1:17PM

1
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This piece was very confusing and concerning. There doesn't seem to be a point to the argument other than rambling dismissiveness?? I stopped going to ScreenRant for this reason, please don't let another film site stoop to shitty opinion articles with clickbait titles.

October 8, 2019 at 6:28AM

1
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Cameron Geiser
filmmaker wannabe
13

Well your write up failed, haven't seen it yet. Going to see it tomorrow.

October 8, 2019 at 10:13AM

1
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Darren Orange
Director/Producer
233

a very provocative film, I advise you to watch only adequate people))

October 8, 2019 at 12:32PM

1
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I saw it, good movie

October 8, 2019 at 3:48PM

1
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This is such an ignorant take. The silver lining here is that this article serves as an example of obtuse prejudice, which presents the only real danger surrounding the film.

I can't wait to see your next deep dive on something you have no actual knowledge of.

October 8, 2019 at 4:37PM

2
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Rick Caplan
Writer/Producer/Director
145

How do I dislike this piece of shit review?

October 8, 2019 at 10:43PM

2
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The shrill hysterics are an embarrassment to NFS.

October 10, 2019 at 2:42PM

2
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Michael P Ellis
President, Result Films Inc
248

Ingest fecal material and expire.

October 10, 2019 at 3:30PM

1
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Marc Strong
Producer
194

The only reason there would be shootings at it, is because you live in america and americans and stupid enough to do those things so dont listen to this website its not the movie thats the problem its americans love of guns that fucks everything up, not joker.

October 11, 2019 at 2:14AM

0
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Alex
1

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