One thing is for certain after its tremendous, albeit controversial, success; Joker will inevitably be the source of inspiration behind the most popular Halloween costume this year, so prepare for an onslaught of murderous clown faces. Beyond becoming reacquainted with one of the most iconic, bone-chilling villains in the DC universe, Joker offers a unique character study of the man behind the clown makeup.
The film follows the troubled Arthur Fleck, a man riddled with the misfortunes of suffering with mental illness, buried traumas, and struggling to breach what’s beyond the seedy underbelly of Gotham City. Due to his traumas, whenever an event occurs that triggers his mental condition, his classic Joker laugh erupts into a form of hysteria. This is in response to his inability to express appropriate emotions, often leaving those around him disturbed and confused.
There are glaring themes in the film that undoubtedly rouse controversial debate, such as the causes of violence, the way society and governmental systems fail to recognize the importance of addressing mental health stigmas, the growing disparity between social classes, and the transgressive, promotional acts of anarchy. In a way, the film encourages the viewer to sympathize with Fleck as he constantly gets battered down by forces outside of his control. There are scenes that wrench the heart, ultimately impelling viewers to question their indirect involvement in the cultivation of such sadistic, domestic terrorists that could have otherwise been prevented if given more care and attention.
But this is where the controversy mainly roots itself. This particular origin story of the Joker, parallels the origin stories of today’s mass shooters. The film takes a nihilistic stance on the Joker’s character, almost portraying him as a hero rather than a person capable of evil despite his shortcomings throughout life. The script can easily be misinterpreted for inspiring violence against the unjust, corrupt, and the rich. It’s a haunting film nonetheless, and the ending satisfies viewers with the events that lead to the arrival of a young Bruce Wayne before he dawns the enigmatic black cape and mask.