“Is It Just Me Or Is It Getting Crazier Out There?”
CONTENT WARNING: THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS TO THE JOKER MOVIE
Have you ever felt like your life just wasn’t fair? That you’ve been beat down by and neglected by society? Money problems, health problems, relationship problems and so forth. Have these powerful feelings of rejection, hate and guilt rushed through your veins to the point where you would almost break? What would you do about it? Would you tough it out? Would you get depressed and give up? Would you even…kill?
The 2019 film Joker (stylized JOKER), asks us these questions through its lead character, Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is set in the 80s during an economic collapse in Gotham City. Everybody except the rich are now struggling to pay the bills. Employment is low, and crime is rampant as people in the city feel like they have no other choice. When we’re introduced to Fleck, we see him getting ready to perform his dream job: a clown. He only wants to make people laugh, but in such a dark time for the city, noone is into it. Every scene where he’s in his clown makeup, you can see the passion in his face and movements, thanks to Joaquin Phoenix’s amazing performance.
Despite Fleck’s dedication, he fails miserably. He gets jumped and robbed by some street kids and targeted by his co-workers allwhile worrying about paying for his mental health treatment and the well being of his mother.
Once he’s reached his breaking point, Fleck refers to himself several times as a product of a society that “abandoned “ and “neglected” him. This is the declaration of his twisted and violent transformation into “The Joker”; where much of the film’s controversy stems from.
Could this film potentially inspire and incite violent actions? The only answer to that is: maybe? It’s hard to make a decision like that based on a fictional film. This is definitely not the first movie about a sympathetic psychopath, thus it shouldn’t be treated as such. Is there a community who might resonate with this film a little too much? Of course. The largest concern being Incels, an infamous internet group known for blaming society for their issues; with some members doing violent acts like SWATTING, in which they hack into someone’s personal information (like their home location) and calling the FBI stating they had a bomb or another SWAT team worthy threat.
I think the film could be seen as a bit troublesome if the Joker was portrayed as a hero for his actions throughout the film, but he’s not. The worse the actions he commits the more you think: “What happened to this man?” He strays further and further away from a possible redemption and just becomes a full-on villain.
I think the film should be seen as a tragic character study of a man who just couldn’t handle the pressures of society, and dealt with his issues in the wrong way. There could have been a much healthier way to handle his situation, and he just didn’t do it. If anything, I believe the film should be a warning for both the rich, poor, and those who feel like society is to blame. If we don’t work together and try to find positive and constructive solutions for our economic and social problems, who knows, we might end up with some Jokers walking around; and if that happens, none of us will be laughing.