During a particularly poignant time in which we find our political system and current affairs, Todd Philips’ ‘Joker’ delivers Arthur Flecks’ (Joaquin Phoenix) dramatic transformation into madness whilst brushing together the parallels of justice and anarchy.
Aside the Joker’s denouncement of the media masquerade, we bear witness to the social divide separating suffering and privilege; the gloomy hues of poverty, endless steps, paving the ground for grander paths and carpets of plenty. Arthur Fleck’s contest to justify his purpose as a clown by trade compliments the entitlement of a younger Bruce Wayne, one that lends into Batman’s own burdens and inception with violence.
We quickly acknowledge the conflicting notion of how laughter gives Arthur purpose besides suffering, whilst confining him to the disillusionment of a brewing sourness which slowly bubbles over into reality. It’s a sourness with the system and disregard of matters surrounding mental illness which stand resolute throughout film, though we are neither led nor assume Arthur is categorically ‘crazy’, until he reneges the hand that makes him human and reveals his calling-card. It is ultimately a realisation which puts the entirety of both his own existence and the audiences morality into question, ushering the same measures of what is right and wrong, entertaining or palpable.
Arthur’s optimism is shattered by the reality of being upstaged by Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) amidst his own dismay for existence or lack thereof. It is only until Arthur takes both the role and pragmatics of character that his malcontent for the system transpires, amassing a crowd of clowns to play out the blissful pandemonium of mob rule.
Subverting a now familiarly human face under that of the quintessential masked villain provides enough reason with situation. We proceed to diffuse responsibility for murder, allude to alternative means for stable establishment and reevaluate Arthur Fleck’s role of passenger to chaos rather than a perpetrator. Audience, centre stage, living in fear, inciting it. We undertake the Joker’s decaying sense of purpose since he has no job, family or any real friends besides a dwarf who he spares from killing. It begs the question of how existence is entirely based on what you earn and certainly not the character you behold. A social criteria ascertaining order to make sense of death, when you make no ‘cents’ worth living for.
Onto my favourite point which concludes on the ground of ‘That’s Life’ is this whole dichotomy of humour and morality, though subjective. Something amusing to one differs with what others consider or know to be morally conflicted, which begs the greater question of ultimately who decides what is funny and what not. Arthur Fleck sits and reads from his diary/joke-book, often sagaciously, prescribing his own means for purpose and entertainment besides that of which is eagerly handed out to him already. The ways of suppressing or diluting his dismay and tainted disposition towards society is one no longer contained by the now lack of drugs enlisting council for. He plays devils advocate to his own inception into madness though not initially mad, as humanity fails to diagnose the undiagnosable, equilibrium hangs in the balance along with the earlier allusion of unstoppable forces and immovable objects; one cannot exist without the other, Batman, Joker, happiness, suffering, reality, insanity.