Maybe it’s ironic that I am writing this in the month dedicated to all things dark and scary. It could be that my thoughts turned to this topic based on the fact that Halloween is so beloved in this country. Or maybe, its because I don’t understand the attraction people have to being scared. In my mind, a fascination with darkness is no joke. In fact, I wish I could comprehend why so many are drawn to it.
The main purpose for this particular article is the recent release of the new Joker movie. It has been called the darkest portrayal of the fictional murderous clown to date. So far, it has set box office records and both critics and moviegoers alike are talking about Oscar worthy acting.
Hollywood pushes limits of acceptable violence
Hardly a week goes by without a media report of a mass shooting somewhere in the country. Several theaters, both here and abroad, reported that moviegoers walked out in protest of the film’s violent content. Many fans said that the movie triggered anxiety and fears. One theater in California was forced to close after receiving a threat of possible violence during the showing.
In today’s climate of shootings and other mass killings, a movie that glamorizes utterly senseless killings may be going too far. Metal health experts worry that the film sends a negative message about mental illness in general.
Three previous versions of Joker
The first widely popular movie portrayal of the cartoon villain starred Jack Nicholson. His performance fleshed out the 2-dimensional bad guy. This roguish character had a penchant for one-liners that helped lighten up the dark tones of the despicable villain. Overall, while the Joker is indeed a bad guy, the Nicholson version was a creepy, murderous nemesis that didn’t give one an overall case of the creeps.
The next version of the Joker, was the centerpiece of the Dark Knight movie. This time the role was inhabited by the talented, but tortured actor, Heath Ledger. For this version, the Joker took on a truly dark and menacing quality. There was no lighthearted moments in this film. Instead, there was the sense of evil that emanated from this twisted clown that left movie viewers looking over their shoulders.
Sadly, the role seemed to take a terrible toll on Ledger, as he died from an overdose shortly after filming. The next version of Batman’s arch enemy was a lackluster appearance in the Suicide Squad. There was so little screen time for the character in this film, that audiences likely paid little notice to the actor.
The current incarnation of evil
The most recent release shows the dark history behind the formation of Joker. There is no humor and no lack of screen time to diminish the evilness of the character. The script tells how a misfit wanna-be comic goes over the edge into full-blown violent behavior. There is no waffling in whether there is a right or a wrong, the Joker is pure hatred and evil.
The actor, Joaquin Phoenix, is so immersed in his role, that there is no hint of hesitation in the vile character’s actions. While previous versions seemed to have some justification for the evil actions, this Joker revels in the pure joy of murderous intent. Darkness this extreme is no joke.
Why does darkness sell tickets?
Currently, most of the world seems to be waiting for the next mass murder. It no longer shocks or repels us when we hear of horrific violence against innocent victims. Indeed, when a crazed gunman targeted helpless elementary students, the country wept and then carried on with life. There is no attempt to downplay violence and murder. Instead, television shows and movies are in competition to up the body count, so to speak.
Movies were once our escape from the stresses of everyday life. To that end, the stories took us away from the tribulations and troubles that plague us all. Now, sadly, instead of getting lost in an exotic location or laughing at the humorous challenges of a bumbling hero, we choose to immerse ourselves in the worst aspects of humanity. However, this type of darkness is no joke and holds no entertainment value.
Our kids are getting mixed messages
Granted, the latest Joker is an R-rated movie. Critics urge parents to skip this movie, especially those with younger children. However, we still send our kids a mixed message. We caution children to avoid bad friends and dangerous situations. We preach about making good choices and try to form our children to be caring and compassionate adults. On the other hand, Joker set box-office ticket sale records for the month of October so far. How can we tell our children to play nice when we are glorifying the utter worst in human behavior?
Nothing will change in society until we change. True, there are times when a good scare can be fun. But what is fun or entertaining about watching an utter lunatic carry out the most depraved actions on screen? How can we tell ourselves it’s just a movie when similar violence is playing out in communities everywhere? We lament the need for active-shooter drills in schools while we pay good money to watch an actor blow away “pretend” victims. The fascination with darkness is no joke and isn’t funny.
The fascination with darkness isn’t funny
Some may think that it’s comical to use clowns as depraved characters. Instead, these seemingly innocent symbols of bumbling humor have a dark history of their own. One of the functions of a clown was to portray the fun of getting into mischief. This could be anything from innocent pranks to violent behaviors that caused serious harm to others. Now, clowns have truly embraced a dark side and children are learning there is one more thing to fear.
Some of the people behind the scenes of the Joker movies claim that the character is simply a manifestation of our own dark tendencies and desires. The Joker carries out the mayhem and horror that is in all of us, but is such a way that we can find entertainment in it. Am I the only one who is concerned about this theory? The more we buy into this type of glorified violence and hatred, the more we may lose our own inhibitions.
I will not accept that murder and death are entertaining. I may be old-fashioned and too rigid in my point of view, but there are enough monsters in every day life to see a need to promote big-screen evil. For me, a fascination with darkness is no joke.