Joker

“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? You get what you fucking deserve.”

Joker caused a lot of worry for some reason. Because it might incite people to violence. Considering a man was arrested at the screening my brother attended, maybe they had good reason. But it was odd that the worry came from the “lower class.” Because at it’s heart Joker is a story of that lower class rising up and taking on the upper class. It’s a revolution story, told by someone who shouldn’t have been there.

Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) loves his job. And he’s getting help for his mental illness. But times are tough, as evidenced by his own situation and the background story of Gotham’s trash department going on strike. Mountains of garbage litter the city. And you know how people get when everything smells and no one’s happy. Bad event leads to bad event, the city cuts funding, and Arthur suddenly finds himself sans job, sans medication, and with a real good reason for a chip on his shoulder. Does it justify his descent into madness and homicide? No. Do we understand it? We sure do. Because Fleck is not a cause of the disease. He is a symptom of it. He has no political leanings, no desire to lead the revolution. He is a crazy man taking advantage of a poor situation. Hitler, Stalin, you name the despot who found a desperate people looking for something to cling to. Joker was in the right place at the right time. I thoroughly enjoy the fact that it’s ultimately because the city of Gotham cut funding for social services. You treat the people like crap? You get the riots. Easiest cause and effect there is. Just look at Chile right now.

I don’t believe Joker glorifies violence. Or even revels in it. Nor do I think it celebrates Fleck’s Joker. (Amazing performance by Phoenix as usual). It’s just an extremely realistic look (and surprisingly political class based warfare) at the superhero world. We’ve always been told that Gotham is full of crime. Even The Dark Knight trilogy has a basic understanding. Joker gives a broader, street level view at the institutional rot that leads to a city run by crime. Inequality breeds desperation and so it breeds criminals. A more mature take on the Batman universe.

I doubt I’d watch it again. Although I did appreciate how it subverts the Thomas Wayne was a great man trope by making his morality a bit ambiguous. Certainly one of the better super hero movies, especially for DC. Don’t sequel this one. It stands on its own, we can imagine the rest.

3 out of 4 stars

 

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