On Halloween, the normally festive atmosphere of Tokyo turned dark when a 24-year-old man stabbed a random train passenger in the chest and started fires inside the cars. In the aftermath, the attacker told police he intended to kill so that he himself would get the death penalty, adding “I wanted to be like the Joker.”
Although the Batman villain has appeared in countless books, TV shows, and movies, reports say the attacker was referring specifically to Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar-winning role in the 2019 film "Joker." Normally, high-grossing and award-winning films such as this would be slated to appear on broadcast television by this time. However, a source in the TV industry tells Tokyo Sports that there’s a good chance it will be “permanently shelved” under the current circumstances.
The source singles out the scene in which Phoenix’s character murders three people on a train as the reason. In addition to the Halloween attack, there has been a series of recent incidents on trains in Japan including an arson attempt on a shinkansen line on Nov 8 and an assault on another shinkansen line on Nov 9. On Aug 6, there was a multiple stabbing on a train in Tokyo.
With all the recent train-based violence, broadcasting a movie with a pivotal train murder scene was already dicey, but a person actually dressed as the Joker seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.
Reaction online has largely stood up in defense of the movie, and said that fingers should be pointed at the criminals and the media attention they get instead.
“The movie’s not the problem.”
“Don’t blame the movie for what people do.”
“This is like giving in to terrorism, isn’t it?”
“If we do this then we can’t make any movies for fear someone will misunderstand the characters.”
“I think the constant media coverage of the attack is a bigger problem than some movie.”
“What the source means to say is that they can’t get any sponsors for it so it’s not worth showing.”
“There are still lots of ways to see it anyway, so no problem.”
As the last comment points out, this is only the case for broadcast TV and "Joker" will remain readily available on video and streaming services in Japan. Still, televised feature films are a popular thing here, with Nippon TV’s weekly prime-time movie showcase "Friday Roadshow" remaining a strong cultural loadstone.
Curiously, the many comments defending the movie all seemed to overlook the irony that "Joker's" rather heavy-handed message regarding the importance of proper mental health support might actually make it a more worthwhile film to show in light of recent events.
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