Without a doubt, Joaquin Phoenix’s rendition of The Joker is the best to date. Taking the character out of the realm of the super villain in into the realm of the every-man who has simply…had enough. Like Michael Douglas in “Falling down” or De’Niro with “Taxi Driver”. This version of The Joker could be someone you know. The meek, quiet, mild mannered guy down the hall with the odd sense of humor…that guy.
White, black, male or female… that person is more common than any of us are truly comfortable with.
What bothers this particular “fan” is the immediate urge to tear it down. After its release, there were more than a few “expert” reviews condemning the portrayal of the mentally ill.
Either it hit too close to home or it painted a negative light. It was too much of this, not enough of that. What Chappelle referred to as the “cancel culture” wastes no time ripping apart anything constructive if it dares to show you the green copper underneath our collective gold plated cages.
Ignore the man behind the curtain! Disregard the reality of what connects the audience to such a vile character. Instead… nit-pick, parse out and dissect the perceived slights and inconsistencies in his story. Rearrange the narrative so you don’t have to deal with the substance. Ignore him.
In the 1st 45 minutes of The Joker I counted 4 separate times when Arthur needed nothing more than candor. He needed someone to talk to him like he actually existed. Not coddle him or listen to him whine… simply speak to him.
How many of us walk around seen, yet anonymous? How many of us are harmed, physically or mentally and then blamed for it. Left alone to lick our wounds while the world continues its barrage of hate and misery.
Why is this particular movie on pace to be the highest grossing “R” movie of all time? Why do people love it? Why do I love it? In the movie and outside the theater, there is a unifying theme… ‘We are tired of lying to ourselves for societies comfort.’
What lie? What is “the lie”? The lie that has us on anti-anxiety meds and energy “supplements”. The lie that has our kids taking meth by prescription while attending schools modeled after prisons. The lie that ties your bank account to your worth. The lie that says your job title is your identity. The endless lies that defines how we interact.
The lie. The deep, all-consuming lie.
Jokers descent into madness never actually happened. Throughout the movie, I kept waiting for him to “go crazy” and then when the lie finally came crashing down it hit me. There is no “point” where he descends into madness, quite the opposite. For lack of a better term… He ascends into sanity.
When he finds out his mother is delusional, that she hadn’t lied to him, that she believed the things she told him. That is the singular moment when Arthur becomes The Joker.
The woman who never taught him to stand up for himself, or to fight for what is his. The woman who told him he was a “sweet boy” and that he was put here to make others laugh. “Everything will be alright” and “it will get better”, regardless of the situation. The same woman who stood by while he was being abused. She is all of our parents who said: “you can be anything you want”, knowing their lives have not been entirely what they wanted.
She is the same people who told us to “turn the other cheek”. She is the exact same person who told you it was a good idea to medicate your kids for the sin of being…kids, all while telling them to be themselves.
She is the person who placated your dreams without pushing you to do better. She is the person who told you we are all “equal”, without ever defining equality.
She the person who decided “zero tolerance” was a good idea and defending yourself against bullying is an offense in and of itself. She is the people who told you that somewhere out there is someone who could help you, but helping you would be a burden.
His mother is our society. The seemingly well-intentioned lie that covers abuse after abuse with the constant acquiesced tone of “it’s gonna be alright in the end.”
When that lie cannot be told anymore. When he could not tell himself the lie and she is not there to tell it. When the mind is no longer sedated and there is nothing left to take from him… then, then you get to meet The Joker.