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Watching films and examining them critically presents a better chance to understand how they inform about factors contributing to crime. One such film is Joker (2009) that forms the basis of this analysis. Critically evaluating the film using an applicable theory of crime offers an opportunity to know why some people commit crime, and to understand what can happen to savage the situation. The presentation recommends social disorganization theory of crime as a possible framework for knowing what causes some people to engage in unlawful practices and to come up with an effective framework for remedying the issue.

Overview of the Film

Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker is a 2019 American thriller film. It tells the story of Arthur Fleck, who has unsuccessfully tried to be a clown but still aspires to be a stand-up comedian. The protagonist’s condition deteriorates so fast when he starts showing signs of insanity, a condition that sparks an aggressive counter-cultural uprising against the affluent and wealthy in Gotham City where people display high immorality (Phillips, 2019). An evident theme in the fil, is struggle with mental problem. The condition fails to improve even after repeated intervention. The other theme that features prominently in the film is social alienation. The mentally retarded stand-up comedian appears to be avoided by society, whose background of substance abuse leads him to nihilistic offender disguising as a clown (Phillips, 2019). Arthur increasingly reject all moral and religious principles in the view that life does not have any meaning. His tribulations, compounded by his mental condition and poor social status leads him to believe that all values lack a base and value and that it is difficult or impossible to know or communicate anything. He becomes skeptic and even condemns his existence. Allowing the rich and wealthy allow the group to flourish even further while lack of opportunities make the poor poorer. The situation in Gotham City instills much pain on Arthur who resorts to harming some rich people. In one instance, he murders three people on the subway with reports on media showing that the killings could be instigated by the sharp societal contrast. Arthur also kills Murray Franklin, a TV host, for looking down upon him. He takes away the life of Murray in front of the whole audience (Phillips, 2019). Hence, the argument that forms the basis for this analysis is that the social injustices and inequalities in Gotham City leads Arthur to criminal acts as a way of responding to what he feels hurts many lowly placed individuals.

Introducing the Theory

The most suitable theory for analyzing the happenings in the film is social disorganization theory of crime. The theory attributed to Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay implies that an individual’s place of resident is more essential than an individual’s features and characteristics when determining criminal activities. According to the proponents of the theory, those living in a particular area are likely to indulge in criminality as a result of the evident cultural or societal approved practices within disadvantaged societies, communities, or neighborhoods (Kubrin & Ronald, 2003). Thus, the prevailing circumstances in a particular location serves vital roles when it comes to fostering criminality as per social disorganization theory. The theory that has attracted much attention since its introduction in 1942 posits that a person is highly likely to indulge in criminal acts when they lack opportunities and resources to improve their lives and well-being as opposed to when they have such chances (Kubrin & Ronald, 2003). On the other hand, better opportunities and chance to express oneself could distract one from indulging in criminal acts because they access what they need and preoccupy themselves with constructive things rather than considering enriching themselves through other people’s sweat and strength (Porter et al., 2015). The theory has served a primary function in addressing the neighborhood processes and structures that impact on disorder and crime. The theory also informs community crime fighting mechanisms and programs focused on social realignment of urban neighborhoods.

Analyzing the Film using the Theory

It is possible to explain why Arthur performs the crimes he does in the film in light of the social disorganization theory. It is apparent that the socially unfavorable conditions push Joker to commit the killings in the film. He feels that the society is unfair in the way it allows some people to flourish while others continue to languish in poverty. The tough times the protagonist encounters while trying to make ends meet also leads him to think that those charged with the task of distributing resources and ensuring that everyone gets something are failing in their work and do not deserve to hold their positions. One scene that shows how lack of opportunities and inability to meet one’s needs in a highly discriminative society can lead one to crime is where the inability to cope with escalating pressure of a disorganized society and mental problems lead the Joker to kill his own mother. He believes that the action would save them from the tough times where they have to struggle in nearly everything that they do without success. The killings at the subway is another scene that shows how societal oppression, particularly due to disorganization and failed systems could result in crime. However, it is possible to identify certain limitations of the theory by examining specific scenes in the film. One of the limitations is that it is not a guarantee that hailing in a society where inequality prevails automatically leads one to crime. For example, Penny, Arthur’s mother and Sophie, a single mother who shows close affection to Arthur are equally poor and suffer the effects of a discriminative society but have not indulged in criminal acts. However, despite the limitation, the theory plays a fundamental role in understanding why the leading character engages in crime in the film.

Crime Prevention and Policy Implementations

Whether the Issue could be addressed using the Theory

It is possible to address the crime-related issues in the film by paying considerable attention to how social disorganization theory compels individuals to indulge in criminal acts. Knowing that inequalities in the societies could push some people to partake in in criminal acts presents a better chance to instill changes that would eradicate the factors that propel disharmony. Advocating for the for a society where people have equal opportunities regardless of their background presents a better chance to deter potential criminals from indulging in unlawful practices with the hope of meeting the gap created by an imbalanced society (Kubrin & Ronald, 2003). Some of the approaches that key players can take to alleviate the issue raised in the film is to create employment opportunities for vulnerable individuals, especially those who lack jobs and are likely to experience tough conditions because of this vulnerability. It is also possible to prevent crimes such as those committed by Arthur by enlightening people about the need to treat each other without looking at their weak sides. For example, treating people with mental problems with indifference could drive them to criminal acts. The same could happen with treating with poor people differently as if they do not deserve any opportunity. However, creating awareness through various avenues presents a better chance to understand that every person, regardless of their status, deserve a chance to express themselves while benefitting from what the society has to offer. Nonetheless, it would only be possible to address the issues through the lens of social disorganization theory by being familiar with its key tenets and provisions. Consequently, key stakeholders should be ready to embrace a raft of recommendations, particularly at the federal level.

Policy Recommendations for Federal Government

The government, being a chief player in combating crime, must consider a raft of measures that would ensure that social stressors do not lead people to crime. A fundamental approach to mitigating the issue is to enact policies that advocate for social equity and sameness in accessing key resources and opportunities. For example, the Equality Act that amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers non-discriminative protection on the basis of gender identity, sex, religion, or ethnicity among other factors that make people different (, 2022). A related policy is the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that safeguards people from discrimination in accessing housing in terms of their religion, race, nationality, and sex. The latest version of the Equality Act, the Equality Act 2010 lawfully safeguards people from alienation in the workstation and the broader society (, 2022). The new version replaced former anti-discrimination regulations, making it simpler to comprehend, strengthen, and enhance protection in particular scenarios. However, incidences such as those occurring in the film suggest that existing regulations need to be adjusted to eradicate scenarios where social status still appear to be a determining factor in how people access resources. Thus, policymakers at the federal level need to come together and identify existing weaknesses in existing frameworks and enact possible effective remedies.


In Joker, Arthur is compelled to indulge in crime due to the pressure emanating from his discriminative neighborhood. The protagonist feels that the society is not fair in the way some people get the opportunity to excel while others remain poor and dejected. The claim could be true based on the argument of social disorganization theory because most of Arthur’s victims are those who he perceives as being beneficiaries of the corrupt society that only cares for the well-being of the rich and wealthy. Paying considerable attention to the provisions of social disorganization theory presents a suitable chance for policy implementers to make adjustments that would help to evade crimes emanating from societal pressure. The government has made significant strides in developing laws and policies that promote social equality and sameness in accessing resources but the evident gaps as depicted in the film suggest that more need to happen in terms of policy refinement to achieve a society where people do not get the urge to commit crime because of disorganizations in the society or their neighborhoods.

References (2022). H.R.5 – Equality Act.

Kubrin, C., & Ronald, W. (2003). New directions in social disorganization theory. Journal of Research in Crime Delinquency, 40(4), 374-402. doi:10.1177/0022427803256238

Phillips, T. (2019). Joker. USA: Warner Bros.

Porter, J., Capellan, J., & Chintakrindi, S. (2015). Social disorganization theory.

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