What Todd Philips’ “Joker” Is Really All About
Thu, April 22, 2021

What Todd Philips’ “Joker” Is Really All About

People are curious about the recently showed Joker movie /Photo by rafapress via Shutterstock


A disregard for mental health issues, violence, and somehow, capitalism. These are just some of the topics that the new Joker movie wants to discuss that it oddly does an elegant and shoddy job of it at the same time. As the reviews stream in and the crowds dwindle and disperse from theaters, what is left for us to think about “Joker?” 

It turns out, a whole heck of a lot. 


Serious but Shallow

For Peter Bradshaw of British news source The Guardian, the movie was visually and narratively arresting. All things considered, Joaquin Phoenix’s role as Arthur Fleck was exquisite and strong. It’s true that this is honestly another Joker movie we probably don’t need anymore, but it succeeded, albeit in a very confusing way. 

What Bradshaw was able to draw from the movie was its dedication to the scenery, first of all. He praised the talents of Mark Friedberg and Lawrence Sher in production design and photography respectively, though he could not say the same for the movie. Perhaps it would also be the main point of friction for anyone hoping for a nuanced film, since Bradshaw also wrote that “Joker” got a little too ambitious when it tried to tie in the story of the main protagonist, which was always up for interpretation, no matter what iteration, with anti-capitalism and the anti-rich movement. 



Okay, something like that could have worked. There is, after all, a certain anti-establishment quality to the Joker’s core as a character, but bombarding viewers with “tedious and forced material” in a movie that’s already drawing the attention of the wrong crowd was honestly less than ideal. 

All of the discourses have actually even gotten to the point where a lot of people in the industry felt like they needed to take it upon themselves to do some explaining. For instance, as reported by Tod Perry for Good, a social impact community with a mass audience, it was filmmaker Michael Moore who took up the challenge of trying to separate the controversy with the movie, which, at this point may be hard to do but not impossible. 

Some of his key takeaways were disturbingly accurate, especially given the political climate in the country. 

One such comment: “This movie is not about Trump. It’s about the America that gave us Trump—the America, which feels no need to help the outcast, the destitute. The America, where the filthy rich just get richer and filthier.” 

This is where the whole anti-capitalism storyline factors in, but the fact remains that it felt more than a little shoehorned for most people. 


The lead actor Joaquin Phoenix showcased beautiful portrayal as Arthur Fleck /Photo by Denis Makarenko via Shutterstock


Moore added that if there is any disservice that this movie had done, it would be how it encouraged its viewers to somehow grow more empathic and critical of the story-compliant violence surrounding the Joker rather than the real-world violence that is in need of serious attention. 

“People are worried this movie may be too violent for them. Really?” Moore asked, somewhat with incredulity that’s off-the-charts. “Considering everything we’re living through in real life? You allow your school to conduct “active shooter drills” with your children, permanently, emotionally damaging them as we show these little ones that this is the life we’ve created for them?” 


Too Big to Fail

At this point, the whole thing has devolved into a conflicting mess of gross success and lukewarm after-reactions. As if to say that the movie is amazing, by all means, but it is nothing but a mishandled piece that aims to lift a mirror in the face of societal hypocrisy. 

It doesn’t help that Philips himself paraded around social media with comments that were completely unnecessary about the film. In the few days before its release, the “Joker” already found itself in the middle of a discourse that’s as incredibly shallow as the execution of the film itself. 



On the days leading to the release, Philips basically went on a rant to the wrong crowd, calling out a culture that honestly did not deserve it. In his mind, the world had gone soft; he claimed that there was no more off-color content to be consumed because the wider media and the (frankly) more educated populace had traded it all for political correctness. 

Of course, that’s only half-true as more people are more aware of what casual racism does for marginalized groups at the same time that they are often inexplicably inclined to call out and cancel people for years-ago, age-appropriate immaturity just because the internet keeps track of almost everything in a person’s life. 

Toxic fans aside, the movie still proved to be a success, collecting a $93.5 million payout just from the opening, according to American news and opinion website Vox. And despite the barrage of disappointing comments on the movie’s failed marketing and subsequent over-ambitious goal, some critics still felt the need to say that the movie was not an utter disaster.