t’s official folks. Last week, “Joker” went wild, grossing over $900 million worldwide. That’s no laughing matter. It’s enough to make “Joker” the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history. It’s especially impressive when you consider that it didn’t receive a release in China, where studios typically make a large chunk of their profits.
The movie – which reimagines the iconic villain as a put-upon schlub that was violently failed by the system – has also managed to become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, becoming a symbol of protestors worldwide: In the movie, the Joker accidentally sparks a protest movement against Gotham’s elite.
This is especially impressive when considering all the things the movie had going against it. This was the movie that languished in developmental agony for a year after the script was completed. Director Todd Phillips had to pitch the movie to two sets of entirely different people before the movie was completed.
Warner Bros. executives fretted about the idea of making an R-rated Joker movie, worrying that it would impact the character’s kid-friendly image. Meanwhile, others had to deal with the wrath of an angry Jared Leto, who was reportedly upset that the studio greenlit a new version of the character he was playing.
That’s on top of the movie becoming a whirlwind of controversy beforehand. Initial reviews coming out of the Venice Film Festival were overwhelmingly positive, with many praising the dark, mature tone and especially Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the Joker.
This early praise quickly curdled, however. Some saw “Joker” as an “incel” fantasy. “Incel” is shorthand for “involuntarily celibate” and refers to a predominately online community of “sex-deprived” men that has come under criticism for promoting misogyny and violence. Many in the incel community used the Joker character as an icon.
The talk got so heated that police departments nationwide heightened security during the premiere.