The Jest of Joker: What happens now?

Joker (2019) has made the crowds go wild by grossing over $300 million worldwide so far. The movie has only been out for one weekend and has broken box office records – making it a huge contender for several nominations this year.

The cinemas are filled with curious souls, trying to become a part of the legendary hype, perhaps less because of their genuine interest in the move but more because they want to say “been there, done that”. While Joaquin Phoenix has escalating chances of being bestowed with an Oscar this year and not only being limited to a nomination because of his superb acting, there are probably relatively few who understand the symbolism that his character portrays. Of course, the meaning is open to interpretation.

Joker is the story of a lower class, struggling stand-up comedian, Arthur Fleck, who is struggling with mental health issues including a neurological disorder that causes him to burst out laughing randomly and continue without being able to stop. Although, some viewers may see this just to be a peculiar, or scary addition to the script and associate it with the scary laugh of a clown, this can also be symbolically associated with bullying, belittling, and the way people laugh at others.

People laugh at others continuously without there being a valid reason and find it to be okay or enjoyable. However, no one appreciates it when Arthur randomly bursts out laughing and continues. In fact, it instigates other people into continuously asking him “What’s so funny?” and eventually attacking him. Perhaps it is Todd Philips’ way of mocking society, bullies, and people in general who find it normal to laugh at other people. In essence, Philips may be saying that people who laugh at other people without due cause have a psychological disorder and must see what it looks like on screen.

Fleck, then later dons the guise of Joker and gives everyone “what they fucking deserve.” Without giving too many spoilers to those that haven’t seen the movie, we can simply say that the movie is a representation of how unfairness, bullying, disrespect, and a lack of empathy for those that are struggling can turn someone into a villain. While the main message of the story is true and really needs to be pondered upon by society, unfortunately, the movie may be causing mayhem as well.

Apparently The Telegraph asked Phoenix, (the acclaimed actor who played Arthur) whether he was concerned about the perverse effects that the movie may have on the kind of people it is about – namely involuntarily celibate men who are suffering from mental health disorders and a lack of acceptance from society. Reports suggest that Phoenix got up and walked out of the interview when this question was posed.

Well, Phoenix isn’t the only one walking out- plenty of viewers are walking out of cinemas midway of Joker because they found the content too disturbing. While that is alright, as the movie is not for everyone, there have also been other instances where people felt unsafe in the cinema because of other viewers acting inappropriately or in a very disturbing manner during the movie. There was an instance where one viewer kept loudly clapping whenever Joker murdered someone. While some viewers sharing the cinema with him were disgusted or appalled at the behaviour, others were definitely disturbed thinking that there are people who literally believe that taking revenge from those that have hurt or wronged them by physically assaulting them is applaudable. There have been several other incidents in cinemas which have frightened the audience.

Social media is also full of Joker memes suggesting that the character is a hero and that people should get what they deserve. Teenagers as young as 15-16 are putting up posts about “understanding villains” now. Although, the purpose of the movie is most likely for people to understand why villains become who they are, the main purpose is to PREVENT it by being more empathetic, kind, understanding, accepting, and giving them the help they require.

Unfortunately, it seems that some people are taking it as the movie saying that it is okay to become a villain or a murderer if society has been unkind to you.

The youth, or even adults, most definitely shouldn’t take the message that grabbing a gun and shooting down anyone who has not treated them appropriately is the way to go. Most of the time we should let karma give them “what they fucking deserve” and pulling a gun is never the answer. The grotesque life that the Joker is living is not to be admired, but learnt from. My personal favorite scene in the movie is when Arthur lets his midget co-worker, Gary, go and says, ” I won’t hurt you Gary, you are the only one who was ever nice to me.”

Perhaps instead of idolizing guns, revenge, and such actions, we should idolize kindness and how by being kind, considerate, and caring, we can prevent crime and people from becoming Arthur Fleck- the Joker.

All of us should be like Gary.

Instead, he was probably the most overlooked character in the whole movie as I don’t see a lot of people talking about him. Obviously, negativity sells and people are more intrigued with the Joker rather than his midget co-worker who got away because he was sympathetic and a generally nice person.

There were several nail biting scenes in the movie, some jumps, gasps, and sometimes you may simply want to bury your head in your friend’s shoulder and never look up. The move is for those with a strong heart and a strong stomach. However, I do wish that those watching it also had a strong intellect.

Here’s to Joker, the Oscar that Joaquin will be getting this year, making even better movies in the future, and to a kinder world- the real message Joker was conveying!

Do watch it if you haven’t done so already!

About Anam Jalil Sheikh

Anam is a writer by passion and an entrepreneur by profession. She loves writing about topics that are close to her heart and hopes to become an internationally-acclaimed writer someday. Anam has an MSc in International Business and Entrepreneurship from the University of Glasgow and hopes to catch up on some travelling soon.

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