We here at Cosmopolitan are absolutely obsessed with movies, but we get that you’re a busy person and it’s hard to see all the films that are going to be “important” in any given year. In this series, Low-Key Highbrow, we’re giving you the basic gist on every one of those pictures you probably should have seen but never got around to. When your friend inevitably throws that Oscars watch party, we’re here to help you scam your way into sounding like the smartest person in the room.
The Joker movie is, if nothing else, a very polarizing film. It serves as the origin story for the Joker character, Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix), who eventually becomes the main villain in the Batman stories. Arthur works as a clown-for-hire in Gotham City, but he wants to be a comedian and becomes increasingly unhappy with the way he feels society has treated him. Eventually, he shoots and kills a few finance bros on a train after they beat him up, and a
star villain is born. The film ends with Arthur inciting a full riot in Gotham City.
The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival this past summer and won the top prize there, but the reviews were...mixed. A lot of critics were afraid the film would inspire violence. We’ll get into that more later. The movie made a killing at the box office though. Like, worldwide, it’s sitting at more than $1 billion. For reference, Green Book, last year’s Best Picture winner, made $330 million worldwide.
I saw the movie the first weekend it came out, and considering all the talk of potential violence at showings, which the military issued a warning about, sitting in the theater was really nerve-racking, which I wrote about at the time. It made it really hard to enjoy the actual movie because I was busy jumping every time someone opened the theater door. But I hate to admit it, I thought the movie was pretty good.
Now, it’s up for Best Picture at the Oscars. This movie is problematic for a lot of reasons, so if it wins, there will be a certain portion of the internet that will probably be up in arms. Here’s what you need to know about both sides.
Why people would be pumped if it won:
- For fans of comic books, Joker winning Best Picture would be a big sign that movies based on DC and Marvel properties aren’t being sidelined anymore in favor of artsy films. That argument gets a little less legit when you remember Heath Ledger already won an Oscar for playing the Joker and Black Panther was nominated for Best Picture last year, but that’s what one section of the internet will probably say.
- Of all the Best Picture nominees, my guess is that this is the one the most people saw, based on the box office numbers alone. If Joker won, it wouldn’t be one of those times where they announce Best Picture and people are like, “Uh...never heard of it.” That’s a good thing for all parties involved.
- You can say what you want about this movie, but Joaquin gave a really great performance. He’ll probably win Best Actor though, so he’ll get his moment elsewhere.
Why people would be pissed if it won:
- Let’s start with the mental health issue. The Arthur character suffers from an ambiguous mental illness that he tries to get treatment for during the film. When the city cuts funding for his treatment and he’s unable to get help, that’s when he goes on his violent spree. A lot of people were upset about that association. Not everyone who suffers from mental health issues ends up violently killing people, obviously.
- This movie has a “women” problem. There are legit only two female characters in the film, and Arthur violently kills them both. It’s not a great year for female representation in the Best Picture category as is, so to then reward a movie about a character like this, who kills the women who rebuff him, feels like we’re moving in the wrong direction.
- There were major concerns Joker would inspire violence. That didn’t end up happening (that we know of), but the theme here hits close to home in a particular way. The Arthur character seems to, intentionally or not, mirror a lot of the sentiments shared by incels (involuntary celibates) who perpetrate mass shootings: isolation, the world working against them, and the women in their lives not paying enough attention. Some would argue this film is an intentional fictional representation of that and it’s meant to shed light, but we already see this type of person on the news seemingly every time there’s a mass shooting in this country. Maybe we don’t need to see it in movie form too.
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