Joker proves to be no laughing matter

Katie White ’20, Managing/Copy Editor

Warner Bros.’ newest psychological thriller, Joker, hit theaters on Oct. 4. This stand-alone film from the stories of Batman and the Joker in the DC universe has been the topic of discussion among critics and viewers alike due to its dark themes and subject matter. Joker follows a mentally ill and aspiring stand-up comedian, Arthur Fleck, as he descends into madness due to a chain of events that spark city-wide riots and eventually turn Fleck into the famed Joker of Gotham City. 

The film begins with Fleck at work, and the audience’s attention is immediately drawn to the depression of the city and in his life. He lives with and cares for his sick, elderly mother and carries himself through the motions of life. Fleck struggles to handle his numerous mental illnesses and a neurological condition that causes him to laugh maniacally at inappropriate times. After being fired from his job as a party clown, his life begins to spiral into madness. The audience travels with Fleck as he tunnels deeper and deeper into insanity when he discovers a new, disturbing motivation in life. His actions have an unintentional political effect that sparks the downfall of the city’s upper class and sets the city ablaze in an uproar. 

Despite the debates of which actor portrays the Joker best, Joaquin Phoenix adds new levels of depth and emotion to the character as the audience discovers what lies in his past. Phoenix created a painful laugh for the role to reflect Fleck’s medical condition that sends chills down viewers’ spines. He also gave Fleck a slight limp that disappeared when he developed the Joker identity. When speaking of the limp, said, “We know that it’s put on because he casts it off both when he’s dressed as a clown and when he begins to feel a little more alive and less dissociated.” When Fleck discovers violence as a relief to his troubles, he dances to cheerful music, which inflicts a sadistic tone onto the film. These subtle details that Phoenix added to Fleck allows one to infer that there is much more in his past than is revealed to the audience. 

Joker brings awareness to the effects of mental illness and psychopathic tendencies. The apathetic and ruthless character of the Joker develops and gains power as he progresses through his personal discoveries. The ominous themes in the film challenge societal norms and provoke questions and theories concerning Fleck’s mental state and ability to decipher authenticity. Senior Paige Bunker said, “Joker was one of the creepiest movies I have seen all year. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.” The mind games of Joker toy with audiences as it makes them question what is delusion and what is reality. The film is applauded for the psychological twists that leave the audience shocked and wanting more. 

Joker’s connections to the DC universe and focus on criminal psychology entice a wide range of viewers; however, it is not an uplifting film. The dark tones and content provoke thought and psychological theories about the character amongst moviegoers, but may also turn people away from the film. If you appreciate films with somber motifs, Joker is one that is sure to leave you thinking. 

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