Posted by Pinch November 6, 2019 in Movies and TVNEWS

In a world where the people in power choose who and what is right, Joker challenges the norm.  We live in a society where our government points at someone and says “that’s the bad guy”. Like sheep, we agree and follow.  The rich in our country point to our poverty-stricken, to people who have different religious beliefs or different skin colors, to people who have mental illnesses and say “that is the bad guy”. 

Our society oppresses those who do not conform. Who doesn’t keep up with the Jones’. These people are just like you and me. Waking up, going to work, coming home, grabbing a meal, and sitting in front of our TVs or computers to watch their favorite show.  The only difference? Their jobs are the ones you never thought to do, or even existed. They are our janitors, our car wash attendants, our servers. Their meals are frozen or from the fast-food joint they work at. It’s not the home-cooked meal you made, or your spouse made, or your maid… made.  The people, the middle to lower class, are perpetually mistreated and unheard. And the worst part? Some of them are too uneducated to even voice that there is a problem.  

Our society harps on there not being “classes” that every citizen of our country is equal, but if you look at even the hierarchy within the businesses we work at, you can see the major differences.  You can see the Director of Sales, the CEO, the Director of Operations going on annual business trips to Europe, to Mexico, to the Bahamas, while the sales analyst, the credit department, the dispatcher, all stay at base to hold down the fort.  The building blocks of the company are on the bottom of the ladder, always being stepped on to lift others.

There’s more though, those at the top have the ability, the power to write history the way they want.  They exclude or revise the facts to benefit themselves – like a dystopian Orwellian society – and the lower class citizens are told to think nothing is wrong.  Eventually, that pill becomes hard to swallow.

Why does it matter?

We are seeing it all around the world.  Protests in Lebanon, Iraq, Chile, and, of course, Hong Kong are all happening.  And what is more, they are all using Joker’s masks and face paint. In the movie, the Joker represents anti-establishment, anti-fascist, anti-classist idealism.  The idea that the oppressed can, and should rise up and take a stand. Joker was their symbol of hope in a world full of chaos. If you can’t join them, beat them.  

Protesters around the globe see themselves as Joker and Joker as a symbol of freedom from oppression.  As the underdogs against conformity and authoritarianism. Some see a man who slips from sanity to become an evil non-conformist, but that isn’t how Todd Phillips portrays the character.  

Todd Phillips, writer and director of Joker, created Arthur Fleck as an already struggling and broken man.  From the very first scene, you see society, in the form of a gang of kids, verbally and physically abuse and berate him and, as the movie progresses, the abuse gets worse.  For people who have struggled in their life, this symbolism so early in the movie feels so real. We feel those pains of society holding us down, making fun of us, calling us weird or strange or gross or fat or whatever.  

When I was homeless, I remember the looks I got walking into my gym, people knew why I was really going.  To get out of the cold, to have a hot shower, to distract myself from the fact that there was no way, at the wage I was currently at, I would be able to get myself out of the hole my “friends” put me in.  I fell for the trap of being accepted. They said my money was “community” money. We all put money in, so that we can all take it out, but never once was I allowed to take out. I felt trapped by the people I trusted the most and that hurt on the deepest of levels.  In my circle of “friends”, I was painted as the outcast weirdo that they can use as an emotional punching bag. I spiraled into depression, social anxiety, and turned to smoking weed alone while they all partied and spent my money like it was going out of style.  

But this is what the upper echelons of society does to broken people, it finds a way to take advantage of them, and when they go too far, they have this beautiful card of privilege they use.  Sorry, I’m rich, sorry, I’m white, sorry, sorry, sorry… a slap on the wrist later, they are back to it.

The subway scene when the three idiots are harassing a female passenger is the perfect example.  The news, and Thomas Wayne of Wayne Enterprises, painted these three men as upstanding citizens, but the audience, and Joker, knew the truth. Joker took a stand in the most extreme way possible. His mentality tips and becomes unstable, defending himself in the only way he can fathom.  Killing them. For the average person, we would feel remorse, self-disgust, probably terror as well, and he did, at first, but something curious happens in that scene, he lets go, and accepts the violence.

This parallels what many oppressed people feel.  What anyone feels who has ever been gassed by the police (that’s not fun by the way, message me and I’ll tell you THAT story), or have been beaten by the very civil servants who are hired to protect you. 

We all feel sometimes that violence and hatred and chaos is the solution to our issues, that we feel alone and misunderstood.  Listen to me: You are not alone, You do not need to go through this dark time alone. We hear you. I hear you.

Much like the Joker using his dancing as a coping mechanism for his anxiety, you can use different mechanisms to help cope with your problems.  Create Art, Play Video Games, talk to a friend. Or if you have really severe issues, try using this app.  Violence may put you in the spotlight, but it will not solve the emotional turbulence you are going through. 

Joker is a cautionary tale of how our culture treats the most mentally vulnerable, and how those people can be pushed far beyond the unthinkable, resulting in horrific consequences.  It is both a piece of horrific, unsettling art and a political statement about how if people continue to be oppressed, revolutions can happen.  

“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that treats him like trash?  You get what you deserve.”