I’ve never been one of those superhero / villain movie fanatics. Unpopular opinion, but it is what it is. However, over the last couple of years, I’ve grown a huge liking to the Joker. Mostly because of his ride or die relationship with Harley Quinn. Cue in the “you shouldn’t glorify mad love relationships,” etc. etc. comments, yeah, I know, but they’re still my favorite, sorry.
I knew there was a new Joker movie coming out, but I wasn’t obsessing over the date or watching it ASAP. My boyfriend texted me while we were both on break saying we should watch the Joker movie that night. We later found out that we watched it on the release date! That explained why we were literally in the first row. I was kind’ve bummed out that we were so close to the screen, but wow. The movie did not disappoint! It was so good, and all I could think about was how badly I wanted to watch it again.
….So I did. This was the first movie ever that I raved about. I’ve seen good movies, but never to the point where I wanted to spend money to watch it again. This was the first movie ever that I paid to watch it twice within a week and a half span. And I decided to treat my whole family to the movies because I knew my dad would probably really like it. I was so excited to the point where I was counting down the days to watch it again. I figured that if I enjoyed the movie that much sitting in the first row, then watching it a second time from further away would be just as good. Watching the Joker for the second time gave me the opportunity to dig deeper into the movie.
I’ve always been a back story kind’ve gal. I always enjoyed knowing why people are the way they are and how their past played a hand in how they are as an adult. I’m that way with people in real life and characters in movies and shows. So when I found out it was a whole movie dedicated to the Joker’s backstory, I was all for it. To be honest, I didn’t really care about Marvel characters until Suicide Squad where I was first introduced to the Joker and Harley dynamic. I know, so late, pitiful. Anyway, I just knew the jist of the Joker and his story, so this movie was allllll dat and a bag of chips to me.
Clearly, Arthur Fleck deals with a few diagnosable mental illnesses. He has a condition where he laughs obnoxiously in situations where he is stressed, anxious, uncomfortable, or in an awkward situation. He carries around with him a card that explains his condition so he can hand it out at any given moment. The card says this condition causes him to laugh even though laughing does not match his mood. This condition is usually what makes Arthur the target of violence.
They never really say what Arthur’s mental illnesses are, but I think we can all agree that he is severely depressed. In the opening scene, he is painting on his makeup to start his shift as a clown. He stares at himself in the mirror with his painted on smile, and forces his actual mouth to smile by placing both pointer fingers in his mouth, pulling his cheeks all the way up with force. His mouth is “smiling” but he actually begins to cry. I thought this was such a powerful depiction of Arthur’s inner demons. On the outside he puts on a smiling face – literally – but on the inside he is so broken and unhappy. The movie literally makes his day job a clown, twirling signs for stores going out of business, doing gigs at children’s hospitals, and all these little weird side jobs that would call for a clown. His dream is to be a stand up comedian, and his day job and goal job scream irony. Even his mother questions his dreams of becoming a stand up comedian by saying, “Don’t you have to be funny?”
Arthur meets with a social worker regularly. It seems like the only people he talks to consistently are his mother, the social worker, and people at work. Even though he meets with her regularly, he still feels like she doesn’t listen to what he says. At one point in the movie his social worker tells him that the government is cutting off funding and that would be their last session. She goes on to say that the government doesn’t give a shit about people like him or people like her – the mentally ill and those in the field that are trying to help the mentally ill. This really plays into the theme of Arthur feeling like he is being left in the shadows. Not only in society, but with people in his daily life as well. During one of their meetings, Arthur tells his social worker, “You don’t listen do you?” He goes on to say that she asks the same questions week after week, even though he tells her all the time that he’s miserable and always has negative thoughts. The repetition is what pisses Arthur off because week after week his responses are the same, and he believes his social worker isn’t listening to him when he verbalizes his misery.
It really seemed like the whole movie everyone was just abusing Arthur. Like damn, got jumped by teenagers, got beat up by 3 rich privileged assholes, punched in the face by Thomas Wayne, this guy was just the punching bag of Gotham.
After getting jumped by teenagers, a co-worker gave Arthur a gun to protect himself. The gun ends up falling out of his pocket while he’s doing a clown gig at a children’s hospital. The gun incident gets Arthur fired from his job. He’s so distraught because he really enjoyed his clown job. After finding out the news of his termination, he’s on the subway on the way home. He encounters 3 upperclass privileged men who are harassing a woman on the subway. With Arthur’s condition, he starts laughing, upsetting the men. They begin to beat him up, and Arthur finally uses his gun, killing all 3 men.
On the news, Thomas Wayne is asked what he thinks about the subway killer, who was said to be in a clown mask. Wayne states that the murderer is a clown and coward for hiding behind a mask, mad at the fact that those 3 men made something of their lives while the killer himself is basically shit. The concept of hiding behind a mask is a popular theme in the movie. Not only does Arthur hide behind the identity of Joker, but also hiding how he truly feels inside. When someone is wearing a mask, they are trying to conceal their real identity, and although Arthur wasn’t originally trying to use the clown act to hide his identity, that’s what ended up happening anyways. And the fact that it’s a clown, really adds and hints to the fact that Arthur feels like his mental illness – or even his existence – is seen as a joke to the public eye. He doesn’t get taken seriously and is seen as a “clown” with or without makeup on.
When news of the subway murders circulates, Arthur starts to feel empowered by all the attention it is getting. Even though people don’t know he is behind the murders, he still feels a sense of pride when he sees all the media attention it is getting. This was a big deal for the social outcast to finally be and feel “noticed” by a society he feels ignored and abandoned him. His clown mask unintentionally became the face of the protests. The people of Gotham were upset that Wayne referred to the working class as “clowns.” So, they saw Joker as the idol who killed those elite rich guys in the name of politics.
What really sets Arthur off into a killing spree is when he discovers his mom was lying to him his whole life. She too was mentally ill, and adopted him and tried to convince Thomas Wayne and Arthur that Thomas was his father. She was in fact mentally ill, and was admitted into a mental asylum. The records show that Arthur was abused by his mother’s partner, and had pretty bad head damage. This sets Arthur off. The loss of his identity is what makes him turn rogue. He lost his job and the understanding of who he was. Knowing the truth about his “mother” set him into a killing frenzy. Killing her, and those he believed did him dirty in life. He lost sight of the Arthur he knew – the clown by day and mama’s boy by night. When he lost the understanding of those two things, he really took on the villain role.
Murray Franklin has been Arthur’s idol. He watches his shows religiously, and all he’s ever dreamed of was being on his show and meeting him. Murray ends up playing a clip of Arthur’s stand up act, and basically makes him the butt of the joke. Imagine, having your idol, someone you look up to, bash you on national television to make you look like Boo Boo Tha Foo himself. To have your idol straight make you the laughing stock of the town is enough for any person to feel salty as hell. But to have a mentally ill person who has stopped taking their medication feel this type of resentment is dangerous.
Arthur later gets a call from Murray’s people saying they want him to appear on the show. By this time he is full blown Joker, and taking on the villain persona. Arthur is in full blown clown makeup, and they believe this can be an issue since there are political riots and civil unrest. But Murray insists that it will be fine. Arthur requests to be introduced as “Joker” since that’s what Murray introduced him as when they played his stand up clip.
When Arthur was on stage at the show speaking his truth, I felt that shit. He confesses to being responsible for the subway murders, and shit gets real. He expresses that he’s not political, but those guys got what they deserve because they were shitty people. Arthur rants about how society is messed up and how nobody tries to see life through the other person’s eyes. It’s some pretty heart felt shit that I feel like POC can relate to – being like the 2nd class citizen, being ignored and neglected, not having people sympathize with you because society only cares about the rich, like Wayne. Murray goes on to say that Arthur is playing victim and basically take out that lil violin and play that sad song. In my head I was cheering Arthur on when he told off Murray saying he only brought him on the show to make fun of him, and it’s people like him that make this world so fucked up. He murders Murray on national television.
This leads to more riots and looting on the streets. Joker becomes the face of the riot and he finally gets the attention he’s been desperately craving. Throughout the movie they kept going back to a quote in Arthur’s journal that read:
“I hope my death makes more cents than my life.”
The way he spells “sense” to “cents” also plays on the theme of the rich not caring about the mentally ill/ poor people. He forshadows that there will be more to gain from his death/ how he dies than his real life as a person when he was actually alive. And that hits hard.
At the end of the movie I asked my parents if they liked it. They both said yes, but my mom added, “but I didn’t like the part where he killed his mom..” and I 100% knew she was going to say that lol.
But knowing the backstory of the Joker really made me sympathize with him. And then I thought of all the mass shootings and how the shooters claim mental illness. And then I thought, “but I wouldn’t feel sorry for them.” And I started over analyzing everything and the movie. The Joker killed all the people that did him dirty in life, so I feel like that’s why I sympathize with him. He wasn’t (to my knowledge) a dangerous person before everyone fucked him over and government cut his funding. But what I told my mom in regards to him killing his mom is, “I don’t agree, but I understand.” And I think that applies to the whole movie and all his actions.
This was such a good movie, I just had to share my thoughts on it and over analyze, like I do so well. 🃏