Toxic masculinity can be perceived as a way to hold dominance over men, women and society. Although some may choose to agree that toxic masculinity mainly affects women, I’m here to talk about the contrary. We forget that even though men are men, they can still be easily affected by toxic masculinity. I chose to watch the film, The Joker directed by Todd Phillips in order to present the ways that men can harmfully dominant one another. The main character, Arthur Fleck is a failed comedian who is completely disregarded by society due to his mental illness. Towards the end of the film, toxic masculinity drives Arthur Fleck to the point of madness in which he turns into the well-known psychopath, “Joker”. Although this film is fiction, being beaten by men on the street, abused by male character Thomas Wayne and bullied by male character Murray Franklin, result in how Arthur Fleck transformed into the criminal mastermind, Joker.
Towards the beginning of the film, Arthur gets his work poster stolen by a gang of men, which results in him being beaten up in an alley way. The purpose of this scene is to demonstrate just how cruel some men may be to others. In Michael S. Kimmel’s, Masculinity as Homophobia, he shares an example at the playground that if two boys pick a fight with each other, one will either have the option to run like a “sissy” or to stand up and fight like a “man”. In most cases, men will choose to fight for themselves because they don’t want to be perceived as the weaker individual. The scene relates to Michael S. Kimmel’s playground story because the gang of men chose to fight Arthur in order to hold power over him. I believe this is an example of toxic masculinity because it represents the men that choose to be violent instead of civilised to others around them.
Towards the middle of the film, Arthur’s mother tells him that the character who plays the Mayor, Thomas Wayne is his father. When Arthur sneaks his way into the men’s room to speak to Thomas, he confronts him and tells him that he is his son. Thomas Wayne automatically tells Arthur that he and his mother never slept together, that he is adopted and crazy. When Arthur refuses to listen, Thomas results in violence and punches him right in the face. This scene relates to what bell hooks had to say about patriarchy in, Understanding Patriarchy. She mentions that, “Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak…through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.” The scene in the film relates to patriarchy because it demonstrates how Thomas used violence to dominant Arthur because he knew he was weak. This ties along with toxic masculinity because once again men use violence as a tactic for defense instead of confronting their feelings in a different way.
The end of the film is about how Arthur gets called to be on character Murray Franklin’s live show. Unfortunately, Murray Franklin only asked Arthur to be a part of his show in order to ridicule him in front of thousands of people. Once Arthur understands that he is being made fun of, he retaliates and reaches his character’s full potential. In Michael S. Kimmel’s, Masculinity as Homophobia, he explains that, “Manhood is equated with power.” I thought that this quote explained Murray Franklin’s behavior perfectly in the film because he only made fun of Arthur in order to feel like a powerful man. This scene relates to toxic masculinity because it demonstrates that some men bring other men down in order to feel powerful. Although the film ends off with Arthur killing Murray Franklin due to his frustration, it shows how toxic masculinity had a hand in making him this way. I choose to believe that if society had treated Arthur in a civilized way, then maybe he wouldn’t result to becoming a criminal mastermind.
To conclude, Arthur Fleck transforms into the Joker because he was abused, bullied and ridiculed by different men throughout the movie. In no way should one result in becoming a criminal mastermind like the fictional character Joker, but this film does demonstrate the ways that toxic masculinity could push one into madness. If men learned to go against toxic masculinity stereotypes, then society would have a higher chance of being civilised. Although this movie was quite disturbing, I thought the writers and directors had a brilliant way of showing how men could harmfully dominant other men. I would definitely recommend this film, not only did it keep me at the edge of my seat, but it educated me on how society could be so cruel to some people as well.
By: Julianna Noto