‘Joker’ Reveals a Reflection of Madness

Published on October 14, 2019

The enigma that is “The Joker” is the fundamental reason audiences love him. A symbol of the anarchy that revels in the freedom of madness.

As often as the character of the Joker has been played in cinema, there has always been a mystery to his beginning, and that mystery seemed to be the strength of the character’s charm. Despite attempts made through animated movies like DC’s film adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke, we did not want to know why he was crazy. We just wanted to watch nonsensical anarchy plow through Gotham as Batman raced against the clock to save the citizens…until now.

Todd Phillips has brought to the screen the story that no one thought they wanted, until they were drawn into the life of a simple man, Arthur Fleck. Driven to create a persona that would allow him to survive in a world where no one cared, the audience watched through unassuming eyes as Arthur made us uncomfortable in all the ways that matter.

From physical beatings to mental manipulation, Arthur reflected back at us each time we may not have been the best person to others, as well as the moments in our own lives when others misinterpreted our own behavior.

Source: Warner Bros.

Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Arthur is transformative on screen, in a performance so palpable and disturbing you are not sure if it is stagecraft or years personal psychic trauma being bled from his soul.

Physically, Joaquin is not only excruciatingly thin, but he moves in slow rhythmic motions with slight ticks that are just noticeable enough to make the whole thing seem like a slight case of Tourettes syndrome. However, as Arthur evolves into the persona of The Joker, these physical manifestations do not just disappear—they evolve with him.

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix have brought to life a classic villain in a very true to life fashion. You will find no vats of chemicals here. Arthur is real. His pain and suffering are tangible and reflected accurately in the world around us.

From overwork, underpaid, and underfunded mental health programs to the pitiless way we judge each other, reflecting our worst selves, the mirror that is held up to the viewer is not rose tinted in any fashion.

In a statement by Warner Bros.:

Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of  donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”

Source: Warner Bros.

At the end of this reprehensible vision of the world, a metamorphosis has taken place. And the audience understands how a gentle and compassionate person can be moved to madness.

In the end this is a story about a man taking back his personal power that the trials and tribulations of an apathetic world stole from him. However, in his quest Arthur had to give over what defined him and ceased to exist.

Instead, a legend was born from his actions and the Clown Prince of Gotham took his first steps into the light.

Erica Frisby is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She focuses on entertainment, including music, film, and television. As the host of Nerd Podcast Radio, she has an inherent drive for all things nerdy, geeky and pop-culture. With two degrees in Psychology, Erica finds passion in what motivates and moves people. A mother, wife and nerd she brings a different perspective to the world of pop-culture. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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