New Joker film leads to equal levels of enthusiasm and concern prior to its release

Josh McCormack
Arts & Features
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The release of Warner Brothers’ new film Joker sparks controversy among UNC Asheville students for its publicized portrayals of violence at the hands of an angry white male lead character. 
Junior Logan Patterson is interested in seeing the film at some point, but in the privacy of her own home.
“I plan on seeing the movie, but I don’t know if I want to see the movie in theaters,” Patterson said. “I don’t know what group of people I’m going to be seeing it with and I just don’t want to be putting myself through that.”
Patterson also worries that the film will be a call to action for involuntary celibates or “incels,” members of an online subculture who find women to be cruel and define themselves as unable to find a romantic partner due to this cruelty.
 “I’m really scared that these people are going to look at a character like the Joker and his loneliness and identify with it and want to do the same awful things he does.”
Carter Pennell, a UNCA sophomore, understands those concerns but says the movie should be viewed on its own artistic merits rather than as a part of a controversy.
“I feel like people have been fearful of the incitement of violence from movies in the past,” Pennell said. “Movies like A Clockwork Orange or Do the Right Thing have been criticized for the same thing. I would like to believe that people know the difference between a movie and real life. It’s a really fine line, but I don’t think you should have to feel guilty for wanting to see a movie where a character loses his mind.”
Meghan Houston, a fellow UNCA student, is more on the side of Pennell, but goes as far as to say the controversy is a bit ridiculous.
“In my personal opinion I think the anger around the movie is stupid,” Houston said. “I think people who want to see Joker are going to take away what they want to take away from it and if incels are going to use this as a call to arms, there’s nothing that really can be done about that. I really don’t think it should affect how people watch the movie. As a movie in itself, I don’t believe it was made to incite anything.”
Houston went on to explain how the filmmakers should react if the film does incite violence.
“I don’t think the filmmakers should be held responsible,” Houston said. “I think they should acknowledge that they played a role in it, but full responsibility shouldn’t be on them if that wasn’t their intention.”
Pennell agrees, saying that the film is subjective.
“They made the movie they wanted to make and it’s not on them if people misinterpret it,” Pennell said “I know Joaquin Phoenix walked out of an interview when the subject of real world violence was brought up, but I don’t think it’s their responsibility to even address it.”
The interview Pennell brings up is from The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, wherein Collin asked if the movie might “perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results.”
According to Collin, Phoenix walked out of the interview and returned after about an hour to finish.
Joker’s director, Todd Phillips, has also come under fire in recent weeks due to comments he has made about online critics sharing concerns of the film.
In an interview with TheWrap on Sept. 20, Phillips stated that the criticism comes from radical liberals and that the far-left can be just as bad as the far-right when it suits their agenda.
Patterson feels that comments such as these just makes it harder to separate the film from its controversy.
“That’s a little cringey,” Patterson said. “It makes me feel like even if he’s trying not to rile up an incel audience, he’s at least trying to get a rise out of someone. But I suppose if I watch it, I’d just have to separate the film from the filmmaker.”
Patterson continued to explain how much of the media she enjoys is made by artists who she finds unappealing.
“I like Kill Bill, but I really don’t like Quentin Tarantino,” Patterson said. “I like reading books that were written a long time ago, but I’m aware that a lot of them were anti-semitic or racist and stuff. So, there is a way to watch the movie and try to push back some of the less appealing things Phillips has recently said.”
Pennell still supports the film and its filmmakers, but also feels that Phillips should step down and let the film speak for itself.
“I think he should just stick with the reality that he made a film that he’s probably proud of with a great actor and I think he should just trust in that,” Pennell said. “Just don’t make comments. Just let the people see the movie.”