Neither director Todd Phillips nor actor Joaquin Phoenix are caving to the campaign of political correctness swirling around the upcoming movie “Joker,” which has been denounced by critics for its unflinching portrayal of the iconic villain, leading some to fear the movie might inspire real-world violence.
Speaking with Vanity Fair, Todd Phillips said that critics should not be blaming the movie “Joker” for bad actors that wish to use it as an excuse for violence.
“We’re making a movie about a fictional character in a fictional world, ultimately, and your hope is that people take it for what it is,” said Phillips, according to a report from Fox News. “You can’t blame movies for a world that is so f–ked up that anything can trigger it. That’s kind of what the movie is about. It’s not a call to action. If anything it’s a call to self-reflection to society.”
While Joaquin Phoenix understood that the movie would be met with some blowback, he ultimately hoped people would engage in a meaningful discussion after watching the film.
“I didn’t imagine that it would be smooth sailing,” Phoenix said. “It’s a difficult film. In some ways, it’s good that people are having a strong reaction to it.”
Critics of the movie have pointed to the film’s intense empathy for the title character as evidence of its danger, saying it will lead some to believe that violence is a form of self-expression. Phoenix, however, feels that simply viewing a character through a distant lens is counterproductive to communication.
“It’s so easy for us to — we want the simple answers, we want to vilify people. It allows us to feel good if we can identify that as evil,” he said. “But that’s not healthy because we’re not really examining our inherent racism that most white people have, certainly. Or whatever it may be. Whatever issues you may have. It’s too easy for us and I felt like, yeah, we should explore this villain. This malevolent person. There’s no real communication, and to me that’s the value of this. I think that we are capable as an audience to see both of those things simultaneously and experience them and value them.”
Last week, “Joker” director Todd Phillips told The Wrap that the bulk of the film’s criticism has come from the far-left, which he said has hijacked the conversation to “suit their agenda.”
“I’m surprised,” Phillips said. “Isn’t it good to have these discussions? Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?”
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while,” he added. “What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far-left can sound like the far-right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me.”
Despite that criticism, Phillips said he did not set to make a controversial piece of cinema but rather “a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.”