Source: Warner Bros. Studios
Before Todd Phillip’s “Joker” was even released, the internet was up in arms about it inciting violence by making the audience sympathize with the extremely vindictive main character, Arther Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). However, the tone has shifted to many enjoying the film, as the audience score currently sits at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Initially, concerns were brought forward by many, including the US Military, that screenings of the movie could be a potential target for mass shooting. Bella Terra theatre in Huntington Beach was even closed at around 4 p.m. after police received a sizable threat against the “Joker” screenings. The main concern has been surrounding the well-known internet personality, termed “incels.”
The term incel is a self-identifying term used by men (and sometimes women) who are “involuntarily celibate,” as they wish to be sexually active but cannot find anyone willing to be sexually active with them. They blame this on their outward appearances and all women’s perceived shallowness. Some of these incels turn to violence as a means of coping, i.e., Elliot Rodger’s infamous shooting at the USC campus on May 23, 2014.
The film’s main character shares many traits with the stereotypical members of this internet group, like physical deformities, loner tendencies, not adequately treated mental illness, and the desire for romantic contact but the inability to achieve it. This has led to the assumption that this film will somehow inspire incels and other disgruntled loners to take up arms against a society that has “wronged” them in some way.
Although the film does portray a character that shares a lot of traits with incels, the message of the film is unclear. It seems to want to be sending some sort of Fight Club anti-establishment message, but Arthur Fleck even states in the movie that he is not a political person. He kills because it is funny to him, similar to how the multiple groups who beat him up thought it was funny.