“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Todd Phillips’s long awaited “The Joker” finally hit theaters worldwide last weekend, and for the first time, in the longest time, massive number of people lined up, rushing to buy the tickets. This psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker, sets the clown prince in his pre-revelation days, before he became the universally known “The Joker”, as we’ve seen him to be in earlier Batman flicks.
Although it is centered on a character from the superhero universe, this film is far from being a superhero movie. We are being introduced to “Arthur Fleck”, a young, troubled and mentally-ill man, suffering from a disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times. Set in Gotham City, in 1981, Arthur is tormented daily by the harshness of society around him, living with his mom in a tiny apartment that barely fits the two and working as a badly-paid party clown.
When he gets fired from his job and loses the only source to his medication, we witness Arthur’s slow decent into madness, until finally seeing his transition into The Joker, a transition we’ve already seen a long time ago in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, easy to say that Arthur Fleck and Travis Bickle definitely share the same DNA. As Taxi Driver can serve as a certain social commentary on society in the 70s, The Joker can definitely mirror the dangers of our modern society, showing us how people’s ignorance of the unfortunate can and will create a character resembling the Joker.
Despite its roots in the superhero genre, this film is far more concerned with how evil is manifested in the real world rather than in the comic book universe, offering a convincing portrayal of not only the product of society, but equally the urban decay of the society itself. Showing us how we create the world we live in and how the world we live in also creates us, and that is the universality of this very movie, it will not only speak to superhero fans, but its entire audience.
By Nasma Younes