I have watched Tod Phillips’ adaption of the Joker a few times now. To state that Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal is disturbing is rather the understatement. The first time I watched the movie, I was horrified. How graphic, how intense and how evil is this Joker? Phoenix is quoted as saying:
“There’s so many different ways of looking at it. You can either say here’s somebody who, like everybody, needed to be heard and understood and to have a voice. Or you can say this is somebody that disproportionately needs a large quantity of people to be fixated on him. His satisfaction comes as he stands in amongst the madness.”
The first watching was in horror – I don’t do violent movies well at all. The second, I came to understand the story line. The third – I cried as the humanity of a villain was fully exposed. We don’t like giving our villains human emotions. We will do so for our super heroes – Stark who has his epiphany when he is hurt by his own weapons, Captain America and the loss of his friend who he then has to fight and save and fight and save, Thor when he finally listens to his father and grasps the concept that ego does not make a good leader and home is not always the place you think it is, Black Panther and learning that revenge is not as sweet as it seems and the list goes on. All of our super heroes are allowed to be human, but not our villains.
I think that this portrayal of a villain, is one of the most profound I have seen. The movie shows what is possible when we ignore those who require our help, it shows how uncaring and unfeeling we are as communities. If someone is not at our level of expertise, or knowledge or just our own measurement pole, then we ignore them. We do not nurture or teach or help – we push them aside to find more like us.
We are all prejudiced and judgmental. Oh that is a hard pill to swallow, isn’t it? I am guilty of this too. I try not to be, but I realise that I fail in this, consistently. I have people who are “Jokers” in my life – hard to deal with, not measuring up to my standards, needing more attention and help, wanting to be the centre of all attention – and I ignore them. I stay away from them because fuck it, it is hard work.
Then I realise that I, too, am hard work. I have times where I want to be the centre of everything, I want it all and cannot find happiness in what is in front of me. I want the banquet when my appetite is the size of the entrée. I throw a tantrum when I don’t get my way (not Joker style 😉 ) and lash out hurting those who hurt me.
Do we all need a voice and to be heard? Fuck yes! I want to be heard, I want to hear others and make theirs, and my, experience a better one. I want to understand so that I can live, not in peace, but in empathy and consideration. We all have stories to tell, and stories that should be told and heard.
Do I want to have a disproportionately large amount of people fixated on me? Yes. (And trust me that was not easy to write). From time to time I do want to be the centre of attention, I want to have the adulation (or fear) that comes with being at the top of my game. I want everyone to see ME and not ignore me.
We all have a little of the Joker, or any other villain (I have a thing for Loki 😉 ). Just as we all have a little Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor or any other super hero. It is how we face into those characteristics that can make us, not better, but more empathic and understanding people. We will never be better in my view – no one is better than another – we can only strive to have empathy and understanding, and instead of ignoring, we should be reaching down and helping up.