Here’s Why the Joaquin Phoenix ‘Joker’ Trailer Has Some People Worried

A very different type of comic book adaptation is headed to theaters very soon. And we’ve already gotten a first look. However, some are fearful of the larger message that the film may be sending. Here are some of the concerns expressed from the new Joker trailer.

Joaquin Phoenix will portray the lead in ‘Joker’

Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie
Joaquin Phoenix is seen filming a scene for ‘Joker’ in New York City. | Gotham/GC Images

Many actors have portrayed the DC Comics character the Joker: Jack Nicholson in Batman, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and, more recently, Jared Leo in Suicide Squad. Typically, Joker is simply there to be a foil for Batman or, in the case of Suicide Squad, act as the impetus for another character (Harley Quinn).

But this time, the focus is all on the clown-make-upped man himself. Joaquin Phoenix, an accomplished actor who tends to only choose character-driven, dramatic narratives, will portray Arthur Fleck, a mentally-ill comedian who starts a revolution.

A new trailer for ‘Joker’ is out now

Up until now, we’ve seen a few still images and tiny clips from The Joker, which don’t really show much other than what Phoenix will look like as the character (both with and without makeup). On Aug. 28, 2019, ahead of the movie’s Venice Film Festival debut, we finally got a trailer.

There’s a full story arc here, if a bit scattered. Arthur wants to be a comedian and make people laugh. However, he is filled with negativity, as he tells a therapist. And he doesn’t feel as though anyone truly understands him. What comes next is him embracing the darkness of his clown disguise, and somehow becoming the face of something bigger than him.

The film’s portrayal of violence is concerning

While there’s plenty of excitement surrounding Joker, there are also many others with concerns. Writer Audrey Wauchope Lieberstein writes on Twitter: “Unpopular opinion: that joker trailer looks like a love letter to kids who become mass shooters and how many awards it will win is why I’m scared of men.”

DC fanboys were quick to jump down her throat which, honestly, only proves her point. As a society, and especially in the U.S., we have become desensitized to gun violence, and when a film is sympathetic to a character who comes from the same mold as real mass shooters, aren’t we romanticizing that idea? 

Further reasons why the film could be dangerous

We’re not saying that violence in real life necessarily comes from art. After all, the notion heavily peddled by Trump and the like that video games are what has led to the influx of mass shootings is problematic. It’s more nuanced than that, it has to do with this particular portrayal.

As Lieberstein points out, making Joker a comedian actually ties him in with a group of men who have been known to take criticism of their work poorly and, in the case of the likes of Louis C.K., create a toxic work environment. It’s also worth noting that using the character’s mental illness as an excuse for his behavior is also one of Trump’s main talking points when discussing mass shooters.

When does ‘Joker’ come out in theaters?

After it premieres at Venice Film Festival on Aug. 31 and again at Sundance in Sept. 2019, Joker will be making its way to theaters everywhere. The scheduled U.S. release date is Oct. 4, 2019. So if you’re still interested, you can check the film out then. 

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