Joker (2019) by Todd Phillips

Joker, is a…disturbing film. It is difficult to write about as its intentions are hidden beneath a layer of dense imagery and incredibly performances.

What I mean by this is that the film has some phenomenal actors who draw you into their performances, especially Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck. At the same time, the film does not want to make him a classic hero or even an anti-hero. This depiction seems to be working with the fallen hero narrative. Except it’s not his redemption arc, it’s how this hero fell.

So what do you get when you cross the hero’s journey with someone unequipped to pass through the ordeals the journey presents? You get a villain, a villain not borne of malicious intent but anger and a thirst for vengeance against those that wronged him.

The film explores how modern society does not care for the mentally ill, how its prone to mockery, cruelty and is built upon the weak foundations of toxic masculinity. I do not think film tries to excuse incel culture, but it attempts to explain how it is a result of patriarchy finally failing. It suggests that this failure has been exacerbated by an angry minority that wants justice, and a privileged majority that is happy to jump in on the new zeitgeist.

Put simply, you have angry white men who don’t feel manly enough, cause like the soldiers returning from WW2, the world has changed for them in ways that threatens their identity. And they also don’t know how to work through these new feelings cause their very upbringing denies them tools that would let them get help. Furthermore, society has decided to make these people into villains, and attacks them at every chance they get, not pausing to consider that perhaps what we need is rehabilitation, even though that is not the duty of the previously victimized.

I don’t think this is a DC film by the way. It’s just a film that reflects on society while using the Joker as a marketing strategy, a Trojan horse of sorts.

The film does drag at points and it is certainly pretentious in others, trying perhaps too hard to show how dark, and mentally ill its characters are. I don’t know if the world is as dark as they make it seem, I certainly hope not. But overall, it is a dreary new narrative that I will not be revisiting anytime soon but am glad it exists.

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