Do Films Like ‘Joker’ Endorse (or Even Promote) Violence?

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Do Films Like ‘Joker’ Endorse (or Even Promote) Violence?

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In creating the new film “Joker,” Warner Bros. set out to make a boundary-pushing production. The early reaction has included critical praise, but also deep unease about the film’s violence and message.

Some worry that the “violent, hyper-realistic movie is potentially dangerous — that rather than critiquing the societal failings that have given rise to America’s mass-shooter crisis, the film legitimizes such atrocities and could provoke more of them.”

Do you think a film like “Joker” can be dangerous to society?

In “‘Joker’ Movie Is a Risk, but a Calculated One, for Warner Bros.,” Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling write:

Hollywood’s latest comic book movie, “Joker,” arrives in multiplexes on Thursday night, and it has all the makings of a juggernaut.

The R-rated film, which portrays the DC Comics villain as sharing the psychological traits of real-life mass shooters, is expected to collect at least $80 million in the United States and Canada by Sunday. If the film reaches that total, it would give Warner Bros. its biggest non-sequel opening in two years. “Joker” has artistic legitimacy, having won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival last month. Its star, Joaquin Phoenix, has been singled out as a surefire Oscar nominee.

But “Joker” is also causing deep unease. Some people, including a few rank-and-file employees on the Warner Bros. lot, worry that the violent, hyper-realistic movie is potentially dangerous — that rather than critiquing the societal failings that have given rise to America’s mass-shooter crisis, the film legitimizes such atrocities and could provoke more of them.

Amid the critical praise are scorching reviews that use words like “irresponsible.” The F.B.I. has warned about ugly online chatter surrounding “Joker,” prompting the police in cities including New York and Los Angeles to step up theater security and reigniting the debate over First Amendment rights versus Hollywood accountability. Relatives and friends of those killed during the 2012 movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., sent a letter to Warner Bros. expressing disquiet over “Joker” and its empathetic depiction of the character.

Warner Bros. has gone on the defensive. “It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero,” the studio said in a statement.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Do films like “Joker” endorse (or even promote) violence? Why or why not?

  • Do movies that offer a sympathetic portrayal of violent criminals have the potential to promote violent acts in real life? Are movie studios acting irresponsibly when they fund and market a film like “Joker”? Or is the “unease” about this film, or any other Hollywood film, unfounded — because after all, it’s just art and entertainment, not real life.

  • Do you agree with the relatives and friends of those killed in the Aurora shooting that the film company should take to heart the credo, “with great power comes great responsibility” and help to “build safer communities with fewer guns”?

  • Do you ever watch violent films? What draws you to this kind of entertainment? Have you ever seen any negative effects of violent films on you or your peers?

  • Should violent entertainment — like films, television and video games — be restricted in any way?

  • Do you plan on seeing “Joker”? Why?