“Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos.” These words by the Joker from The Dark Knight still gives me goosebumps. The clown prince of Gotham isn’t even remotely associated with who we are, at least that’s what I think, but then why we are such huge fans of him? What makes us crave the Joker’s appearance that we decide to stand outside the movie hall in a huge line waiting to enter it? Maybe, it is peer pressure or pop culture influence that spreads like an epidemic. Perhaps, yes. I think there is something deep in our subconscious with which we can relate to this hideous character so much.
We all dwell in our dark sides and according to the Joker’s own philosophy just shy of one bad experience to go completely crazy. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker depicts a mentally deranged character whose trauma accumulates with every wrongdoing done to him that leads to his transformation into the sociopath we have learnt to dread since our childhood. He had a troubled childhood that continued through his adulthood, a malnourished and physically abused kid who was adopted by Penny Fleck, but ofcourse this revelation comes in the end and one of the biggest sufferings he underwent that led him into the dark path.
If somebody goes to watch with the expectation that there is going to be action scenes that we expect from any typical superhero movie, they will be disappointed. The movie delves deep into the psyche of the Joker and is a take on the clown prince’s past that hasn’t been told to us in the comics. His real name is Arthur Fleck, and in the entire movie he is addressed with that name so I will call him Arthur. The name calling automatically develops a lot of intimacy with him and the watchers.
If we look into his life, all circumstances are against him. He suffers from malnourishment to the extent that his ribs are protruding from his abdomen, he suffers from a delusional condition that makes him burst into a weird frenzy of laughter at the brink of tears. Throughout the film we see him getting bullied by strangers, ostracised by his peers with the exception of a few but no effective moral support. Most of all, he is not able to understand why he is always sad and despite his desperate attempts to smile and become happy, for he will always live up to his mother’s word for the model son that he is, he remains that way.
Arthur has always been a quiet and lonely kid, not able to stand up for himself but true to his moral values and all that he gets in return is abuse from the world. He is very aware of the relationship between his mental illness and the world. He knows that no one cares for anyone but themselves, that if anybody dies someday it won’t matter to anyone and the only ones who are happy are the rich and powerful—those who decide what is right and wrong and are in control of the entire system.
Here it is worth mentioning Thomas Wayne, whom we know as the magnanimous and honest individual who died protecting his son Bruce Wayne aka Batman. But here we see a different side to him. A condescending, snobbish, insensitive upper class who ditched Arthur’s mom and ignored her letters for more than thirty years. After Arthur shot three men inside the train on his way back home who were eve teasing a young woman before assaulting him, Thomas Wayne derides the entire clown community in his statement, making fun of all individuals who don’t have jobs or nothing to fend themselves with but claims to be the messiah of Gotham who is about to run in for the mayor.
This is one of the chain of events which has to do with the larger conflict of clowns turning against the city by violently protesting. Individual struggles run parallel with mass struggles as Arthur’s mental illness is mirrored in a class conflict between the clown community and the upholders of the law. These clowns later become his followers when he assumes the name of the Joker after killing Murray Franklin, the famous comedian who mocked him in his TV show. In his show Arthur vehemently summarises his life, that no one really cares for anyone but themselves, no one except the rich and powerful get to decide how things will proceed and what outcomes will come, only those few bunch of people watching daily soaps and drinking wine will matter if at all, but not the ones living under their foot.
Thus, the only solution is to introduce anarchy, and let the entire world burn. Here it is worth reiterating Heath Ledger’s dialogue which I talked about in the beginning. Arthur is an agent of chaos and never was he happier when he watch the clown community vandalising the entire city like animals and making everyone around them severely frightened.
The movie produces so many mixed feelings that it is hard to conclude if it is good or bad. One can either be awed by Arthur’s transformation into Batman’s greatest nemesis, feel pity for him before that or cry for an iconic DC Batman vs Joker scene which they never get.
One can contemplate on the state of the world and ask themselves what needs to be done to save people from turning into madmen by trying to know them. Arthur had a lot of humanity in him. Inspite of himself, he used to take very good care of his mother, put his whole heart into his craft and tried to make everyone happy around him. He is truly an inspiration.
For me, Joker gets a 5/5. The only complain I had about the film was that it had too many ads before starting.