Get the skinny on "Joker"
I never really understood the Joker.
In fact until 1989 The Joker was not even a blip on my radar. He was just another of the gang of villains that Batman fought. Nicholson was a fun joker still just a tad darker.
Before that though, Penguin, Riddler, Joker, those were who Batman fought on the same Bat-time and same Bat channel every week. Then they were who he fought on Saturday mornings.
But in 1989 we saw a shift. Tim Burton took the Joker and made him darker. More real. He was still a cartoonish version but he had a dark side we had not seen before.
Along came another actor who made him even darker. Heath Ledger became the Joker and made him into more than the clown prince of crime. He made him into a threat. A real dangerous individual. A psychopath.
Jared Leto took that back a bit. Going more into Romero territory. Joker was still lethal yet not as psychotic.
Now Joaquin Phoenix has taken the character of the Joker and made it his own. Taking Joker deep into the depths of what society deems psychotic and deranged. “Normal behavior” is what society permits. What does not go beyond the bounds of what people are willing to accept. Joker crosses the line into abnormal behavior with the help of a possible chemical imbalance in his brain.
Make no mistake, the Joker is not the hero or the anti-hero here. He is the villain. Killing is not acceptable. Joker kills. Raised by a psychotic delusional mother, perhaps his condition is inherited. Is crazy in the DNA? What makes the Joker who he is? The film does not answer the question but it urges you to try to figure it out for yourself.
I think that the reason that Joker has been deemed so controversial is because it holds up a mirror and forces you to look at yourself. I think it also taps into the question of what is reality? How fragile is society? How much of what we believe to be true is just our own vision our own experiences?
The truth here is what we see in the movie the Joker is what we want to see. If we want to see a movie that could spur catastrophic events that is what we see. If we see a director who says that comedy is too hard to manufacture and so he moves on to flip the cartoon Joker on its head and look up his nose, that is what we see.
If we watch the movie and we order more police patrols around the theater, that is our truth.
If we see Joker as a cautionary tale of the world outside our window that becomes our truth. If we see Joker as trying to justify the actions of a psychopath, then that becomes our truth.
If we ban costumes at the theater for the show because people are afraid, that is our truth.
What is the point of the Joker? I think that it all depends on who sees it and what their mind creates for themselves.
Phillips has crafted a real story here not about a goofy clown who is a thorn in Batman’s side, but an actual person that snaps. Showcasing a series of events that causes a person to snap. For some the list of events is not very long and we find ourselves snapping like turtles. Joker has a pre-existing predilection for anti-social behavior. Whether it is chemical (they take him off his meds when Gotham cancels the program he is on) or neurological we ride with him as he spirals downward.
What I saw, was what we need to see more of from Warner Brothers. We need to see them build a character. We need to see them create something that people will love or hate, or even question how they feel about that movie, or question within themselves what they thought, enjoyed, or hated about the film.
This is Warner Brothers first truly dark film. No costumes, no pretenses about the black and white nature of good and evil. Joker is evil but he was born that way. It is barely even a comic book film. It could have been any (psychotic) clown in any city who through a series of events, finds himself going astray. This is a film about mental illness with a bit of the Wayne family sprinkled in. Not sure why they portrayed Thomas Wayne in the manner they did. Definitely not a loving father who is trying to make the world a better place. There are other differences from established lore as well, but that runs into spoiler territory.
Films are meant to entertaining and in some cases to provoke thought. A less balanced individual might see this film and think Joker was meant to be an anti-hero, somewhat a trend these days to try and make villains sympathetic. Something to emulate. I can see a justification for the alarm bells that this film has rung. What we need to realize is that when society degrades, what is depicted in the film is what one person thinks might be the result. Art imitates life and all that. Arthur, is a catalyst. His story impacts the entire city of Gotham. He goes from an unnoticed loser with no future to become an inspiration and idol for those of the city who right or wrong, are feeling downtrodden.
The film will have you questioning yourself, society, and the nature of humanity, it may not be a bad idea to pick up that college book on psychology after seeing Joker. Maybe before.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP4LtGXi5oc