POL128 Politics And Film : Essay Fountain


Does the film Joker (or, the character Joker) promote or inspire acts of violence, such as mass shootings?

JOKER (Directed by Todd Phillips) (This film is playing in film theatres)

Topics portrayed: violence, supervillains, mental illness, poverty, criminality, etc.

Your essay must include a cover with your essay’s title and the following sections:

I. Introduction
II. Literature Review/Analysis
III. Conclusion
IV. Works Cited/Bibliography You should consider the following points when writing your essay:

The essay must be analytical rather than descriptive and must be organized around a clear argument (thesis statement) addressing the assignment. The discussion must be presented in the context of the issues and concepts discussed in the course (your chosen topic is, in fact, your main political theme).

Essays should offer the necessary historical background to help the reader situate your topic.



Joker is considered to be one of the most critically acclaimed film of 2019 creating a deep insights into the social strata and social prejudices infested with crime and violence. The film was directed by Todd Phillips and stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. The concept of Joker itself a very interesting character because of altering the paradigm of laugh into a scary and nefarious act (Zacharek). However, the past films on Joker specially the film ‘The Dark Knight’ marvelled the character to a next level that overshadowed the strong role of Batman played by Christian Bell. As a result of that it was obvious that showing the new Joker produced by Warner Brothers was a very challenging role for Joaquin Phoenix. The concepts and the justification of predilection towards crime was clearly reflected in the film and it intrigues the film critiques to review the theory and concepts using in the film. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to analyse and review the film Joker on the basis of violence, super villains, mental illness, poverty, criminality and most importantly the political projections.

The film Joker created a portrayal of gruesome violence because of its anti-hero parameter. There are several important aspect in the film that reveals a potential inspiration to the real-world violence. According to Kermode the film projected some sort of kinship with the ‘angry loner’ version of Joker. The director of the film Todd Philips tried at his best to restrain the violence act to a more realistic in nature not like films like Pulp Fiction. In other words, it can be stated that the film projected less bloodshed but some serious violent and gruesome scene was there that make the film fair share of blood. Marso (875) opined that disturbing scenes in films for instance showing enough bloodshed creates somewhat negative reflections among the viewer due to unjustified use of gruesome shots. However, in case of Joker violence like beatings, gunshots, stab wounds and scenes help the film to identify the harshness of life and the dreadful challenges that minor people are always witnessing in every steps of life. There is less gore in the film and it supports to portray a different characteristic of Joker that people are unaware to explore. From that point of view, it can be stated that the film definitely helps to make a good use of violence as per the story requires.

From the review of the film, Joker, it can clearly be articulated that the character of Joker played by Joaquin Phoenix was beyond the stereotype concept of super villains. In the previous DC films Joker was projected as the super-villain in Batman movies and was considered to be the nemesis of Batman. However, the film of Todd Philips tries to project Joker as more than a super-villain and creating moral and rational lashes that helped to make the character of Joker more of a humane rather than just a super-villain (Brooks). It can be argued that one of the most interesting feature of the film was to make the character of Joker as a mirror reflection of the deprived and isolated people in the society (economictimes.indiatimes.com). From that point of view, it can be stated that the role of Joker in the film of Todd Philips symbolises the resurrection of Joker in a completely fresh blend where seclusion and lack of acceptance within the society result depression and violent outcome in a subsequent fashion. Championed with the strong role play and outstanding on-screen presence of Joaquin Phoenix, the character of Joker found a new pathway towards a more sympathetic and dejected soul that needed ultimate emancipation through rage and revenge. Therefore, truly the viewers missed and will miss the super-villain pulp within the film tuned in more of a rational psychopathic tendency of Joker.


The new characteristic of Joker was supported by his mental illness and the director smartly provides justification behind such turns. As per the research of Ogrodnik (156) it can be stated that the 21st century films are very much aware of the content that it presented and its possible outcomes. Therefore, an extra care has always been in order to make the characters more real with a valid social insight. Pseudo-bulbar affect (PBA) was the disorder that phoenix suffered with. Using laughter as a syndrome and made the whole world frightened enough with monstrous effect of laugh is one of the creative and effective practice that the director successfully presented. Moreover, the gasping agony of loneliness is also depicted in the film through the PBA disorder so that the hiding sadness of Joker can be more appealing to the viewers. At the same time the film vehemently supports the social stigma regarding psychotic illness with constant misinterpret and misunderstand (Adams). Therefore, all the stereotypes and misinformed actions that people generally used to possess was countered firmly in the film and at the same time a social consciousness and awareness related to the mental illness and issues was also being addressed so that people must concern about it.

One of the best picture of Gotham City already presented in the comics and previous films was its clash between poverty and richness. Since the murder of Thomas Wayne at Park Row which was the less developed and filled with poor, wretched and criminals, the Batman stories were hugely pondered upon the difference between rich and poor in the fictional city of Gotham. In fact, the film to some extent questioned the society specifically the elites of the society who are trying to alienate them from the mass and also imposing the narcissistic attitude towards the alienated masses. For some of the film critiques the film directly attacked over division of the society with a mask of poverty. This multi-layered film hit the foundation of western imagination of late capitalism. Therefore, the condition of the poor and wretched class and their retribution is also a great gem hidden within the movie (Brooks). The movie also succeeded to make an irony of the rich laughing at the struggles of the poor. As a result of that the film demands a world dominated with the anarchic poor struggling through brute force and safeguarding security and happiness for the lower rung of the society.

The relation between the vision and motive of the film and its projection over the political concept is very innovative and highly thoughtful. According to Hamonic political message and inclination is not a new thing but the projection of political note by not distorting the main theme of the movie is a brand new trend that many directors are trying to do. As a result of that Bieniek-Tobasco et al. (12) advocated that the new trend helped to attract a number of audience as they also got the license to interpret the film as per their own choice. Therefore, Joker also tried to follow the same fashion with skipping the direct political message by galvanising it with other facets. Furthermore, Glas, and Taylor (262) pointed out that there is also anarchy and dismantling the old order through the dominance of the poor and wretched people.  Therefore, it is clear that a political touch is portrayed in Joker.

From the context of criminology, it can be stated that the film is a true example of criminal psychology. There are several aspects that the role of joker was played in the form of violence. As per the research of Silva (2019) a criminal mind is generally driving by combination of genetics, disturbing childhood, trauma, mistreated mental illness and the societal provocation. Those factors are clearly depicted in the film Joker where the criminal mid-set of Phoenix was a creation of deprivation and isolation from the entire society. The use of smile and laugh became a vile nature of Joker in course of time due to the treatment that he had got from the society. It was not something that spontaneously sparked itself. The revelation that Joker presents in front of the audience is very acute and portrays the dilemma of human psychology that makes a man different in nature. For instance, in course of emotional liberation of himself, Joker suffocated his mother for whom he almost spared half of his life (Zacharek). From the point of view of criminal psychologist this typical character of the psychopaths intrigues to kill others and launch a revolt against the entire society. Joker also portrayed the same way and it seems to be a master piece in the history of modern cinema.

The above discussion is trying to elucidate a number of important aspects of the film Joker. The film is succeeded to use a number of concepts and shades into the character of joker and reinvigorate Joker through the acts of Joaquin Phoenix. The essay tries to highlight and define the concepts of violence, super villains, mental illness, poverty, criminality and most importantly the political projections that Joker also portrayed. From that point of view, it can be concluded that the film Joker successfully narrated the themes and does justice with the legendary character of joker itself.



Adams, Tim. “This Is The Joker Scene Where The Clown Prince Of Crime Earns His Title”. CBR, 2019, https://www.cbr.com/joker-scene-where-arthur-fleck-becomes-clown-prince-of-crime/.

Bieniek-Tobasco, Ashley, et al. “Communicating Climate Change through Documentary Film: Imagery, Emotion, and Efficacy.” Climatic Change, vol. 154, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-18. https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/search#!/search?ho=t&fvf=IsPeerReviewed,true,f%7CContentType,Journal%20Article,f&rf=PublicationDate,2015-01-01:2019-10-30&l=en&q=political%20message%20in%20films

Brooks, Dan. “What’S The Panic Over ‘Joker’ Really About?”. Nytimes.Com, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/02/magazine/the-joker-movie.html.

economictimes.indiatimes.com. “‘Joker’ Review: A Film That Is Intense, Stirring And Unnerving All At Once”. The Economic Times, 2019, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/joker-review-a-film-that-is-intense-stirring-and-unnerving-all-at-once/articleshow/71473560.cms.

Glas, Jeffrey M., and J. B. Taylor. “The Silver Screen and Authoritarianism: How Popular Films Activate Latent Personality Dispositions and Affect American Political Attitudes.” American Politics Research, vol. 46, no. 2, 2018, pp. 246-275, https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/search#!/search?ho=t&fvf=IsPeerReviewed,true,f%7CContentType,Journal%20Article,f&rf=PublicationDate,2015-01-01:2019-10-30&l=en&q=political%20message%20in%20films

Hamonic, Wynn G. “Global Catastrophe in Motion Pictures as Meaning and Message: The Functions of Apocalyptic Cinema in American Film.” Journal of Religion & Film (Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln), vol. 21, no. 1, 2017. https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/2.0.0/link?t=1572780216382

Kermode, Mark. “Joker Review – An Ace Turn From Joaquin Phoenix”. The Guardian, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/oct/06/joker-review-joaquin-phoenix-ace-turn.

Marso, Lori. “Perverse Protests: Simone De Beauvoir on Pleasure and Danger, Resistance, and Female Violence in Film.” Signs, vol. 41, no. 4, 2016, pp. 869-894, https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/2.0.0/link?t=1572779911951

Ogrodnik, Benjamin. “Forging an Alternative Cinema: Sally Dixon, the Film Section, and the Museum-Based Media Center.” Film History, vol. 31, no. 2, 2019, pp. 144-178, https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/search#!/search?ho=t&fvf=IsPeerReviewed,true,f%7CContentType,Journal%20Article,f&rf=PublicationDate,2015-01-01:2019-10-30&l=en&q=trends%20of%2021%20century%20films

Silva, Jason R. “Mass Shooting Films: Myths, Academic Knowledge, and Popular Criminology.” Victims & Offenders, vol. 14, no. 2, 2019, pp. 239-264, https://ryerson.summon.serialssolutions.com/2.0.0/link?t=1572780502964

Zacharek, Stephanie. “The Problem With Joker Isn’t Its Brutal Violence. It’s The Muddled Message It Sends About Our Times”. Time, 2019, https://time.com/5688305/joker-todd-phillips-review/.

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