When asked what happens in the mind of a murderer, Jordan B. Peterson explained that malevolent men fantasise for years and years about their destructive future actions to reclaim their power. When that happens, when the fantasies become incorporated, taking actual shape within and without the body, the route is set, there cannot be any good anymore, the possible existence thereof has been progressively expelled from the brain, from the body: hope.
All the people walking out of “Joker”, claiming that it is “too dark”, are unable to stomach the truth about the system we exist in, accept their own guilt and responsibility in that mirror-image, are perfectly comfortable with a ready-made villain, but not with a mentally ill and abused man and all the dirty ugly things that degraded him to become an anti-hero.
If Arthur Fleck would not have taken control and power over his life, witnessing his realities and desires would have been completely unbearable, because mental illness is unbearable, and people who walk out on that, walk out on real people too. Arthur’s laugh makes you want to cry and it is a cry for help, from within himself, to himself, echoing across the parts of him that are ripening to avenge the state of things. This is a man who is bashed and dragged through the rat-infested garbage of Gotham and rises out of his victimhood into active, reactionary, deracinating and recreational violence.
As an empath, a sensitive and caring dreamer, the world he lives in continuously rejects him and tells him that is of no use, that he is no good, makes him feel like he does not exist and does not nurture his humane characteristics. They take him nowhere, they keep him chained to other people’s fists and soles. Meanwhile, the calling to fill the shoes of all the violence that he has suffered grows and welcomes him with ever-opening arms. The swollen bosom of crime seems to be more hospitable and affectionate than the impotent lap of legal behaviour.
Isn’t it interesting that viewings of “Joker” are cancelled in the US or that the news spread wildfires of the movie inciting violence? Don’t let yourself be deviated from its actual themes that concern us all. This movie is dangerous to the rotten system we exist in, (a panic room of borders and walls, of countries not one world, where everybody could have enough to live but money/resource-hoarders shut the everymen out) because it exposes it, denounces it and justifiably and legitimately causes necessary and urgent outrage. We glorify and host a villain, but we expel and stigmatise the suffering man. Before attacking a movie that tells the truth, get rid of your guns.
The French Revolution comes to mind. It all started with ideals, with the urge to recreate, with the vision of a good life for everybody, a decrease in suffering. But as ideals get brutalised and oppressed and bullied and ignored, they metamorphose into vices and things get ugly, and “nobody saw it coming” and yes the bloodshed is unnecessary, but as history shows, violence gets attention and is taken seriously and that is a tragedy that is has to go that far to incite change. The pattern of the gut-wrenching chasm between the rich and the poor is a repetitive vicious circle where nobody ever learns the lesson and abuses instead of distributes.
Arthur Fleck looks outwards for reasons and justified scapegoats, mainly in the shape of Thomas Wayne (who, in the big picture, is a part of the rotten machinery of societal, financial and behavioural injustices), until he finds out that everything starts with the absence and carelessness of daddy and the mental illness and abuse of mommy and her partners. The only bond he has in his life turns sour and reveals itself to be the root of evil, home itself, the supposed caregiver herself, adopting him, harming him, and the shedding of her name and matricide seem to give more life to him than an intertwinement with her.
The moment when Arthur Fleck interacts with a young Bruce Wayne, separated by a high gate, poor from rich, ravaged from privileged, subjected from secluded, is haunting. Two sides of the same coin, different circumstances, shadow and light, protagonist and antagonist. The only way that Arthur Fleck could enter the world of the fat cats and play a part in it is by becoming a villain and that is the tragedy. The golden cage of violence forces him to gravitate towards his annihilating and derailing self.
Existing in a world where he crawls into himself after being beaten and amidst the ever-piling garbage in a rotten alley next to a sign that feels like a subtitle saying “everything must go” but is quickly overruled by the overpowering word “Joker”, he tries to override his own persona and adapt himself to the showmanship of a cheap bullshitter, but gradually becomes the real deal in a world where artifice is applauded and depth kept at bay. A man who lingers at the exit of a system, an appalling hierarchy and methodology that are so desperately transparent to him. Through the overtness of his mental state he seems to be the sane man in the room turned insane by an insane system pretending to be functional.
As the whole movie could be continuously revisited and carefully collaged flashbacks of key moments in Arthur’s self-narrated life through memories and possibly altered/highlighted/emotionally-visualised images, desires, fantasies and alternative realities, the real interwoven with the perceived, the rise and evocation of his Joker persona, growing from the emaciated clown into the embodiment of disruption and revenge, mind and body aligned, shedding the dead skin of victimhood and awakening ever fibre of his being with agency and power, the subway scene demonstrates why the Joker is so dangerous: he knows both sides, victim and murderer, sets people against each other like inevitably enacting pawns, anticipates violent behaviour, how it is brought forth, how easily men become perpetrators and passive onlookers, how free one is as a malevolent force outside of the pseudo-good system that is more crippling than engaging, he uses what he knows, what he has felt, what he has seen and sets it in motion without even doing a lot, his weapon is psychology and the ambivalent face, tortured by both smiles and cries, started off with a smile made out of harmless make-up and ends up being painted with Arthur’s own blood. He learned how to use his past of being victimised by deviant human behaviour to project everything he was handed back to its source and become untouchable.
The juxtaposition of a young Bruce Wayne towering over the butchered corpses of his parents with rats passing by and the orphaned Arthur Fleck disintegrating amongst the ejections of a decadent system that eats its children, sends shivers up my spine.
“Faim, folie et crime” by Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865)