I’ll mention coronavirus in a bit, so don’t worry. First, though…
Way, way back in 2019, Todd Phillips was threatening to unleash a movie about the Joker on us. This resulted in what may be called “Joker madness.” Yes, stories started popping up everywhere about it being a dangerous movie. The United States Army warned us that Incels might latch onto the Joker, who might start shooting people over not being able to get laid.
(Never mind that the military is capable of violence of its own — it’s a Batman villain that’s going to wreak havoc on the world stage!). The Telegraph even asked Joaquin Phoenix if Joker would trigger mass shootings, which initially caused him to leave the interview.

The Joke Was On Us

Interestingly, though, there was no mass shooting. Or, if there was one at the time, it sure didn’t generate headlines. Let’s face it, though: It would have been the #1 story in America, had it actually happened. The mainstream media seemed to almost salivate at the prospect of some killer clown-inspired psychopath shooting up another movie theater, like what happened during The Dark Knight Rises premiere in Aurora, Colorado, back in 2012.

However, this movie produced no James Holmes (who, coincidentally, didn’t even dye his hair the right color to look like the Joker…the dufus). While the Aurora theater somewhat understandably didn’t show Joker, it almost sends the wrong message that they didn’t. You see, the world needs to understand something: Movies, TV shows, books, songs, etc., do not create violence by themselves. Heath Ledger didn’t try to make Holmes into a maniac. Ozzy Osbourne didn’t truly make any kids kill themselves, etc.

There’s something deeper going on when such a thing happens, and this whole moral panic was a reflection of the world surrounding films like Joker, as opposed to an all-encompassing reflection of anything in the film (which, if you asked me, sought to explain what might drive someone to violence).

How Come Joker Didn’t Drive Me Crazy?

I can personally attest to this, as I saw the movie in question twice in the theater. Neither time did I feel particularly inspired to go on a shooting rampage, or even shoot or stab a single person. In fact, the movie actually had me tear up in a few spots, which doesn’t happen every day. Why was that? Was I becoming an Incel? Probably not. I just think the movie was capable of triggering an emotional response. However, there’s a difference between that and having it completely alter me, Manchurian Candidate-style, into a maniac. If anything, the movie probably made me less likely to be violent.

Coronavirus Beats the Joker

Coronavirus has come close to shutting the world down. The movie theaters we saw Joker in have been ordered closed. As people do their social distancing thing, it seems like everybody is a potential threat, even if they don’t mean. How scary is Joker now during this pandemic? Be honest: When’s the last time the media gave that scary, scary clown man even a sideways glance? The menace has been all but forgotten. In fact, even crime in general has taken a backseat to this crisis. So many things we were urged to fear have become less significant. Joker? Pennywise? How about even something like ISIS, which actually merits fear?

These issues are largely generating crickets right now, and there’s a reason for that aside from the scope of COVID-19: The media is sensationalistic, driven by emotion, and it largely wants you to be that way, too. Don’t think things through and come up with a nuanced understanding. Something is either good or evil. That is what happened with Joker, by and large, and you can just tell it was done partly to generate clicks and ad revenue. It’s time for the media to just be honest about this.

They wanted to portray a superhero villain character study movie as something highly dangerous, as serious issues went severely underreported. Elements of our dysfunctional, often violent, global political/economic system went largely unaddressed, all to save room for fear-mongering over a fictional, homicidal clown. Way to go!

Accuse Yourself

This reminds me of something else, too: Recently I watched an old MST3K episode featuring the movie I Accuse My Parents. an abysmally lame movie where a young guy named Jimmy (Robert Lowell ) makes a series of bad decisions for which he blames his neglectful parents. The funny thing is, his parents were average, not villainous at all. Basically, Jimmy blames his descent into near-criminal Hell on his dad being distant and his mom being a lush.

Jimmy is a very gullible guy looking for a convenient excuse for his own bad choices. Well, what does that remind you of? So, society, please don’t be like Jimmy or Arthur Fleck. Instead of descending into criminality, madness or blame-game identity politics, maybe try leading by solid, positive example. You may get as many clicks on your articles, but you might have an easier time seeing at yourself in the mirror.

What do you think about Joker vs. Coronavirus? Who would win in a fight? Let us know in the comments!

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Wade Wanio is an author.

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