As of November 3, 2019, Joker has grossed $299.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $634.4 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $934 million. It is the seventh highest-grossing film of 2019 and the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, upon the movies premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival it received an eight-minute standing ovation, it then goes on to receive the Golden Lion, which is the top prize awarded at the festival. Such success seems phenomenal, however, once the general public began to view the movie, a debate was sparked regarding the ethics of the movie, with many arguing that the film glamorises domestic terrorism, it was not long before this debate reached the star of the movie, Joaquin Phoenix, who waked out an interview with The Telegraph after being asked if he was worried if his performance would inspire real world copycat killers, Phoenix was taken by surprise by the question, reportedly replying: ‘Why? Why would you? No [...] No.’ and briefly walking out. He returned around an hour later claiming that he left because he hadn’t considered the possibility and needed to think of an appropriate response. 

This question is one that many critics, and much of the public, are asking. Some suggested that the film gave a dangerous message and had the potential to give viewers the wrong message about avenging their own personal grievances. Vanity Fair critic Richard Lawson, in his review, wondered, whether the film ‘may be irresponsible propaganda for the very men it pathologizes’, along with this Stephanie Zacharek at Time felt that Arthur Fleck (the main protagonist) came across as uncomfortably similar to some of the most violent, dangerous people who have inflicted incredible harm to people, particularly in America, where the topic of gun violence is particularly sensitive. Five family members and friends of the twelve individuals who lost their lives during the Aurora shooting sent a letter of complaint to the chief executive of Warner Bros., Ann Sarnoff claiming that a ‘tragic event, perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt ‘wronged’ by society’ had changed their lives in the worst possible way, and urged the studio to use the huge political debate the movie sparked to advocate for gun reform, and to help fund gun-victim charities and gun-violence intervention programmes. 

Despite a reproachful response from some, there have also been more positive responses to the movie; The Outline’s Alex Nichols argued that the notion that the behaviour of the Joker could result in real-life tragedies ‘rests entirely on the assumption that violent media breeds violent behaviour’. Steven Galloway claimed that there is ‘[no] evidence to show that a criminal- even one who imitates something on film- wouldn’t have done something equally abominable at another time’ . and so the debate is sparked as to whether or not the movie is to blame for any imitated behaviours, as if this was the case, would it not be the case with any film including torture, murder and other criminal acts? What the controversy truly comes down to is the timing of the movie, with gun crime at a high in the States, the topic of mass killing is a huge issue, particularly with young individuals, who blame their actions on social injustices they face, similar to the protagonist in the movie. And so the issue may not be in content, but instead in context. The controversy caused rings similar to the outrage of the British public upon the release of Detainment, a short film that presented a sympathetic and perhaps even glamourized image of the James Bulger killers, despite the controversy, and outrage from Bulger's own mother, the short film was nominated for an Oscar, similar to how Joker has been tipped for multiple nominations.

Therefore, we can see the issue doesn’t lie with the events that take place in entertainment, they exist to tell stories and offer alternative points of view, it is perhaps when the events of the movie strike perhaps too close to home when the public and critics alike find a particular work problematic.