The movie ‘Joker’ has taken the world by storm. The citizens of the four cardinal directions of a compass all seem to flock to the screening of the movie and feel gobsmacked or spellbound even by the stellar performance of actor Joachim Phoenix in his soul-wrenching portrayal of Arthur Fleck before his rebirth as Joker. The aftercome of the movie is a great legion of tweets rhapsodizing about the character and the man behind, which is deemed meritorious, justifiable, and agreeable. However, most of the tweets about this outstanding movie disappoints me because of their opinions that seem to miss the gist of the movie, the logotheraphical nuance of the movie itself that director Todd Phillips tries to express on the screen. Is this movie about a clinically crazy man, a so-called “psychopath” who wallows in killing-sprees? Why do people suddenly seem to care about a man whose existence is constantly slighted and ignored when they unconsciously or consciously do the same to the ilk of Arthur Fleck in everyday life? Will the movie change their attitudes toward those struggling to make their presence amid constant ridicule and estrangement?
As I previously stated in my review of the movie, this is about a man whose efforts to preserve a sense of purpose in the world and a tenacious grip on recognition are ruthlessly vanquished. Everyone from all social strata, including those recognized as underprivileged underlings, not to mention the upper crust of society, indiscriminately ignores him. And the reason for such unanimously consented mistreatment of Arthur Fleck is not so much due to his low social class as due to his unlikeness that manifests itself, so visible that it makes onlookers regard him as a tacitly public domain of disdain and estrangement. He is a public whipping boy, a modern-day equivalent of a cunning man accused of witchcraft or dark magic, bestriding on the verge of madness as a result of concerted social alienation, which forces him to choose none other than being Joker. Hamlet’s existential question of “To be or not to be, that is the question.” seems too pat and gives a fillip to the loneliest, darkest, and saddest moment of Arthur Fleck when he feels pushed into the edge of his conscience. He surrenders himself to the death of his old, bullied, slighted self because it’s better that way than spends his life misunderstood and ignored to the end.
Alas, poor Arthur Fleck! I know him, my dear reader. For however fictional the character may be, an Arthur Fleck is here in our ordinary landscape of everyday life. Workplaces, schools, supermarkets, buses, trains, streets, hospitals, and houses that you go and live are where you see him but not regard him, hear him but not listen to him, speak to him but not talk to him. If you protest, then you are probably feeling guilty of doing the same thing that they did to Arthur Fleck whom writers call a misfit, employers an incompetent, social workers/psychiatrists a basket case, and a detective a psychopath. That whom we call him by any other names will remain the same as neglectful and insignificant.
In sum, those of you who rave about the movie in terms of the outburst of the suppressed shall regard it not as a liberal cause of partisan ideology or a demotic social manifesto but as a visual memoir of a very lonely man who cries inwardly every day for the wounds of his estranged soul. For what Arthur Fleck wanted was very human and basic as appreciated by American philosopher and psychologist William James many years ago: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Praising what is missing and ignored makes the remembrance dear. This is about one man’s struggle against finding a meaning of life, will to meaning, stumbling into a vertigo of his existential horrors of daily life. That is the message.