How the Joker Reflects and Repels Us All

man who alleged poured a container of alcohol into his drink before the show, scared movie attenders in a New York City theater as he laughed and cheered loudly in response to scenes of murder in the recent Joker film. He was eventually removed from the theater while spitting on those who had asked him to be quiet. While this event stood out from other reports from the weekend, an article in the Associated Press outlines how many theaters prepared for the movie’s release with heightened security.

We shouldn’t be suprirsed to see a Batman related film this year, given 2019 marks the franchise’s eightieth birthday. Joker fills a gap in the Batman narrative offering a dark back story for the classic nemesis. Eager crowds flocked to the film, making movie history with the largest October release ever grossing 93.5 million dollars. But not all cinemas welcomed it to the big screen.

The theater in Aurora, Colorado, site of the 2012 mass shooting during the release of Dark Knight, did not include Joker in their weekend offerings. The convicted shooter, James Holmes, told police he was the Joker and even dyed his hair orange for his court defense. Other theaters took precautions as they released the film, in response to FBI reports of increased threats of violence nationwide. The widespread concern seen in contrast with the record sales marks an interesting cultural moment.

Glorifying the bad guys feels like a growing trend in cinematography. But there seems to be a tipping point at which the oddness, the darkness, and, if nothing else, the security concerns converge and force us to ask if it is better to stay home, or for theaters, to pass on a blockbuster, than to come face to face with that which both attracts and repels us. It forces us to face hard questions. What are we becoming?

Beyond wanting safety for ourselves and others, there’s a deeper concern that perhaps we’re letting the darkness take us further than we would like to go. Why do we find all this entertaining? How far might this go? And I would like to think most of us, deep down, want the caped crusader to swing into frame and for justice to again win the day.

Photo Credit: Conrad Veidt, actor in the film “The Man Who Laughs” whose role originally inspired the creation of the Joker character.