Brow Beat

Joker Murders an October Box Office Record, But You Don’t Know the Pressure It Was Under

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker.
“We live in a society.”
Warner Bros.

Joker, director Todd Phillips’ gritty look at the origins of the famous Batman villain, earned $93.5 million domestically over the weekend, cold-bloodedly murdering the record for the biggest October opening in history, Variety reports. Box office observers gasped in horror as Joker took the record—previously held by Venom’s $80 million opening from last year—and stabbed it in the neck with scissors, laughing like a maniac as lifeblood spurted from its shredded carotid artery. The film went on to shoot the international box office in the head, spattering 22,552 screens in 73 markets with blood and gray matter and pulling in $140.5 million in the process. But don’t blame Joker for the shocking outburst of violence: It takes an entire society to produce a weekend box office result this twisted.

In retrospect, Joker’s explosion onto the box office charts seems sadly predictable, and maybe even preventable. From a very young age, the film was greeted with scorn and derision, underestimated by critics who couldn’t see past the poverty and grime to the pure, beautiful comic book movie deep inside. No one was sure what you’d get when you crossed a Scorsese-like tale of a mentally-ill loner with the system of franchise superhero filmmaking, but it was easier to turn a blind eye to Joker’s madness than to try to help it. Everything seemed to come so easily to other movies like Abominable, which came in second place over the weekend with $12 million domestic, or Downton Abbey, which pulled in $8 million, but not for Joker! Oh, no, not Joker! Even when the film triumphed at Venice, winning the Golden Lion and a round of ecstatic reviews, stateside critics scoffed. We just wanted to make fun of Joker, just like the rest of them, but who’s laughing now? All of us, the system that knows so much, that decides what movies make money and what don’t, abandoned Joker and treated it like trash. Now we’re getting what we fuckin’ deserve … at the box office!