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The allure of Joker: Maybe a sign of our times

Image Credit: The Everett Collection

It’s almost been a month since I watched Joker, and I am yet to gather my thoughts properly.

Each and every frame of the movie still flickers across the dark theater of my mind, projecting the familiar shadows of a weird addiction and fantasy. Almost a clown, yet not there, will never be.

Here and there, the pathos and suffering, a stupendously brilliant Joaquin Phoenix, an amazing soundtrack, Scorsese-esque treatment, brilliant character study and a cinematography worthy of multiple viewings, definitely make it “cinema” if not a masterpiece. An 8-minute standing ovation at Venice film Festival to being the highest grossing R-rated movie ever despite being marred by various controversies; more than covers up the review part of the movie. So, not going into that, my question is how personal was it for each of us? Was it a bit too close to the skin? Did it cut into our polished faces?

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The impact of the movie was palpable in the silence that followed after it ended, and I am not talking about the applause that followed. That is appreciation, but the real emotion always hides in the pauses.

One of my friends watched it a few days later and she hasn’t really watched anything else since then, just to preserve that feeling, euphoria or catharsis. I do not know. But why is she clinging to it? Is there more to it than blatant allegations of inciting violence, mental health issues, some anti-capitalist movement or just another Guy Fawkes story?

The dichotomy of Joker lies in the fact that it questions more than it answers; questions which are glossed over or swept under the carpet as critics get more concerned with rating fresh or rotten. That is fine, part of the job. Everyone has to go through the grind, each day, vulnerability, abuse, and those moments when you want to break down, scream and let go. Didn’t Arthur feel the same way? Or is it just me?

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Ever been discriminated for a mental disease? Treated as a liability while you struggle to make it through the day? Those psychiatric wards were they talk in hushed tones as if it were a taboo? Even the familiar start showing signs of frustration. What do we do then? Repress and be functional. Isn’t that the norm? To put on a happy face and move on?

The socio-political scenario of Gotham, a fictional city, can’t be too close to reality. Yet, somehow the people felt a connection as evident from protesters wearing Joker clown make-up during public demonstrations in Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong, and Iraq. So, is clown the new messiah of our age? A voice of dissent in sanctity of anonymity? Or a faceless movement of incels hiding behind terrorist attacks as many would hope for? Is it finally coming to that snapping point?

Who am I kidding? “Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh” and go on.

All these layers, and are we identifying with an anarchist with barely any plan. The contorted, gruesome skeletal shape of Phoenix, writhing across public washrooms and black mirrors, behind clown make-up is the sign of our times. Repressed rage finally giving way to nihilism. A symbol that never should be. Yet, the sacrifice of a moral compass for complete freedom; isn’t it worth the price?

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

So what is Joker? A common person like us, insignificant pawn in the daily game of life; battered and bruised, yet, somehow carrying on. Maybe, bidding time, for that time or push. It never comes. So, when you venture out of that office, broken at that end of the day, the fantasy of being the Joker plays out. Don’t lie.

It’s only human nature to nurture the eccentric. Doesn’t matter we all are what we are. That is our Joker, playing out in the circus of our heads. Maybe, someday they will get the joke.

For better or for worse, Joker held a mirror to our faces and gun to our heads. It is our choice to make. That’s his killing joke.

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Tuhin Roy

The author Tuhin Roy

Anything and everything at 24 fps interests me. Trying to learn new things about it everyday.

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