The Joker was a good man, until he wasn’t
The Joker is a movie unlike any we have ever gotten. A film that dares to pull back the fabric of insanity and show us its true face. Not the face of a clown, mind you, but the face of your average man, after having been beaten down mercilessly by life. What everyone seems to be missing about this movie is the most important part of the story and the very heart of The Joker’s mythos. He is a man turned animal by “one bad day” (as expressed in The Killing Joke and the scene in this movie where he says, “I had a REALLy bad day.” He is a victim (up to a certain point) of a broken system that works to keep the rich stable and make the poor into broken, shells of the people they used to be. Conditioned and put into boxers, all lined up in rows. It is an essential movie right now for the story it tells. The unflinching story of what a good man can become if enough weight is placed upon his shoulders.
Yes, Arthur Fleck was a good man, until he wasn’t, and THAT is what this stunning movie is truly about. It is about boiling points. The boiling points of one man broken, and how that one man managed to capture the ennui of a whole city that was in the process of boiling over itself.
It also might be the most beautifully unapologetic view of a downward spiral ever captured on film. Fact is, The Joker is the movie that 2019 didn’t deserve, but we were lucky enough to get anyway.
Arthur Fleck Is A Good Person When We First Meet Him
Why is no one talking about this? Though his crazy spiral may happen quickly in the film, let us lay out the person Arthur Fleck is (and has been his whole life until we meet him).
Here are some bullet points about his character:
- Works as a clown because he genuinely enjoys making people smile.
- Takes full care of his Mother, who has essentially been the source of his horrible life.
- Volunteers AT A CANCER WARD MAKING KIDS SING AND SMILE
- So in essence, every single thing Arthur Fleck does is improve the quality of life for others, while his own needs cease to exist.
That, my friends, is the very definition of selfless, in every sense of the word. What bothers me is people are acting like the character was crazy the minute we meet him. No. He is tortured and tormented by his own thoughts, but he is not a crazy bastard by any means.
So what made him that?
Medical System Fails Him
As if the burden of taking care of his insane Mother isn’t enough (sorry but NOBODY should ever have to bathe their own parents), he gets attacked at work and is basically ridiculed by people who do and do not know him. Even though he shows up to every shrink meeting and takes his meds, that matters little when he finds out funding has been stopped. It is made clear he needs and requires his meds, but literally has no way to obtain them any longer. Something not at all unfamiliar to anyone (like myself) who struggles financially. The American Healthcare system is broken, and good on them for showing who that truly affects.
So the loss of his meds and his slow crawl into insanity is not solely his fault. That is him being the sad circumstance of his own social class. But it is not like he had any other options. It is made very clear he didn’t. That (and his ruthless beating at the start of the movie) are the two crucial moments in his mental break. He WANTS to be okay, but no longer knows how and has no help, so it is in those moments we can sort of seems him put his own hands up and say “fuck it.”
Also, how about the fact that he would have never shot anyone had one of his coworkers not egged him on by giving him the gun and sort of encouraging that side of him. Yes, he pulled the trigger, but do not forget, he pulled it on a weapon he would have never had otherwise, and that says a great deal.
My point being, isn’t it safe to say that bullies who picked on the kid who shot up the school may as well have pulled the trigger themselves? Yes, it is.
The sad fact is, if bullies did not exist in public schools and were not allowed to get away with it, there would be no school shootings.
Yeah, I just said that, and it fits into the Joker movie perfectly. He didn’t walk off a proverbial ledge.
He was very much pushed by a broken world which ignored his cries.
A Modern Shakespearean Tragedy
To call Joker a horror or thriller or whatever people want to attach to this movie seems off. That is emphasizing the wrong aspects of this film. It is, literally by the numbers, A Shakespearen tragedy in every sense. Shakespeare more than anyone knew the power an “evil mother” has on her family, and this was a scary look into that.
From lying to him about his Father to lying to him about his own medical conditions, (Munchausen syndrome, folks. All crazy mom’s favorite move), Arthur was doomed. It is even made clear that said Mother let one of her boyfriends abuse Joker physically (shudders) so in every sense, she was making a serial killer, to a fault. It is well known by anyone who understands true crime that Mothers make serial killers. That may seem nihilist to say, but it is backed up by hundreds of books and papers on the exact subject, and that is what Arthur was the victim of. It doesn’t undermine any of the sick shit he does in the film, but it gives any inkling into why.
And how about one more thing no one is talking about, though it is the most important moment in the movie.
Arthur Just Wanted a Hug
Yeah, it’s true. Had he gotten the hug from Thomas Wayne when he confronted him, the whole thing wouldn’t have gone done the way it did, and he made it intrinsically clear that is what, if not ALL, he wanted.
The moment is in the bathroom scene when Arthur confronts Thomas about being his Dad (which Arthur fully believed). You can see how much of a douche Thomas Wayne is, and when Arthur brings the stuff up about him maybe being his Dad, Thomas Wayne says “what do you want, MONEY?” to which Arthur, HeartBreakingly replies:
I JUST WANT A HUG!
Fuck man, think about how sad that is? The man was alone in his life, stuck his crazy Mom, who he essentially had to be the parent to. No one raising him, no one loving him, no one hugging him. Isolation is known for being dangerous, it truly is. And all Arthur had was his own mind and his own (most likely twisted) thoughts. When you’re stuck in your own headspace with only your own thoughts there is only place you can actually go, and that is crazy.
But it is not insane to think that if Thomas even just reached out and hugged him, he literally could have prevented everything that went down from going down.
So go hug someone today, that is how much of a difference it can truly make.
There is why my jaw is still left on the floor. Every mannerism Phoenix took on breathed immense life into a 2D comic book character. First off, let it be known, the scene after he “sees his Mother in the hospital, wink wink, where he dances in the bathroom mirror, yeah, that was all improvised by Jaoquin Phoenix on the spot. In the screenplay he just kind of goes into the bathroom and looks at himself, meant to symbolize the true breaking point, when Arthur BECOMES The Joker. But he took it one step further by getting into the bathroom and doing this honestly stunning dance that is an ode to freedom. The moment of him finally feeling like himself and realizing how empowering that truly is.
And for anyone to imply this is not on some Daniel Day Lewis shit is insane. This is one of the best, most gripping performances in modern film.
There are SO MANY ASPECTS TO HIS PERFORMANCE, it is jaw-dropping.
Phoenix Subtleties Most Missed
But if you look back at that Joker performance, that dancing brought something SO sinister to him, and he pulled it off so eloquently. A man who can barely talk to people, suddenly gliding like Gary Cooper (Google him), and he did this in multiple scenes, from the curtain opening on the stage for him to the entrancing dance he does down the steps, this Joker oozes character, and for that reason alone, through the entirety of the movie, you could hear a pin drop in the theater. Every single person was mesmerized, and for good reason.
Phoenix essentially just captured a mental break better than it has ever been represented on film, and the fact that he did this with dance just proves how masterclass his work truly is.
Did you even realize that, through most of his scenes, HE WASN’T EVEN BREATHING? That’s right. Anytime he was confronted or bothered by something, that actor would stop his physical breathing, making it look like he was about to strike like a snake. It is subtle to the point of most people not noticing it, but those who do are that much more affected by it.
Or what about his physical stature as Arthu? He literally changed how he walked, moved, and utterly existed. As Arthur, Phoenix would droop his head down and forward, and slump his shoulders and back to the point of visible discomfort with a bent spine. He looked like a man carrying a heavy, invisible weight on his back, which is honestly what he was.
Or what about the different laugh types he adopted for different moods?
The fake one he thought was a medical condition was over-emphasized. He would laugh at a higher octave range when trying to fit in (comedy club audience) and had a kind of third laugh he finally adopted, which we only hear in his final scene while talking to the shrink, which we can assume is his official Joker laugh.
WHO ELSE WOULD HAVE COME UP WITH THREE LAUGHS FOR THREE MOODS?
Honestly, probably no one.
Dude killed it, pun very much intended.
PC Culture/Joker: The Movie We Don’t Deserve
This is really why I wanted to pen this diatribe. Because this movie seems impossible in the modern culture in every sense. We are living in a time when the world, and all art therein, has been and is being watered down for the sake of appeasing the idiots who seem to try to push “cancel culture” agenda on the world.
But everyone NEEDS TO SHUT THE FUCK UP.
DARK ART HAS ITS PLACE, AS DOES THIS FILM.
We need to stop walking on eggshells because we are afraid out outraged assholes who cannot handle anything.
Does The Joker scare you? Good? Do you think you might get shot during the movie? Well, that isn’t good, but that is not on you. That is mass media, who are furiously masturbating in the corner praying this movie causes violence, which is kind of sickening. They perpertate it and then point their fingers at anyone but themselves. In this case, this movie has been vilified by a society that seems to forget THAT THESE MOVIES EXISTED ALREADY. American Psycho had no violence in theaters, why would this? People who want to shoot you in public are gonna shoot you in public. Pretty sure this movie wasn’t playing at Columbine in 1999.
And seriously, when has being a super pussy about everything benefited anyone? Really, I am asking. The moment the collective world decided to start giving award ribbons to “every kid who enters” was the start of the end of us, honestly. Rewarding shitty behavior or lackluster output convinces people lackluster output is okay, exemplary, even.
But it isn’t.
Getting second place pushes a kid to work harder for first next time. Giving ribbons to the kid who gave up and walked the whole course makes that kid think he did well.
No, that kid sucks, and the worst thing is, no one will ever tell him that.
SO, he will grow up thinking being sucky is okay. At which point, he will grow up sucky, and as soon as he or she or they or whatever people are these days is faced with EXACTLY what Arthur was faced with, they will crack too. A world they aren’t properly prepared for, and a world that will ultimately break them (and, in essence, turn him into another version of Arthur IRL).
Stop pointing scared fingers at this film. It is a MOVIE!
MOVIES DO NOT CAUSE VIOLENCE. SHITTY PARENTING DOES (AS THIS MOVIE IRONICALLY PROVES). Above and beyond that, it is a masterful piece of work that deserves to be held in much higher regard than it is right now.
And to those scared of this movie, do you not realize what the guy two houses down from you does for fun? Your actual world is far scarier than anything in this film, and that is just facts that you are too sad or too scared to face, and that is on you.
It will never happen because the world has been pasteurized, but I live in a world where Jaoquin Phoenix wins an Oscar for this, and accepts it as Arthur Fleck. Can we just take a moment to imagine how fucking amazing that would be?
This is as good a movie the mainstream will ever put out. Is it dark as fuck? Yes, and that is okay because some art needs to be. Some art should scare us. That is what makes it art.
*Starts dancing around my office to the music in my head