Blog #7: Exploring Masculinity

I chose the film “Joker”, that came out last year to write my final blog on. I have been told before watching it, that this movie was provocative. “Provocative” was a strange word, I remember thinking about how it could be provocative, as I couldn’t imagine in what way, or what aspect in this movie could cause strong reactions from the viewers. Especially after seeing the movie “The Plateform”, I thought I had seen what’s shocking and disturbing. While “The Plateform” didn’t disturbe me as much as I thought it would be (maybe it was too gory?), “Joker” really did a good job in making me feel uncomfortable while watching it. The two movies both has themes of murder, mental illness, existentialism and human rights, but “Joker” deals with the much current social problem of the male identity, and link it to issues such as the difference between the rich and poor, expectation of other people and the worth of one’s dream in this society.

In the society of today, prople often think that men gets more than women. More power, more status and more fame. It is true to a certain extent, but “Joker” shows us that there is also a difference between men and that not all of them are successful. The main character, Arthur Fleck, is one of those people that most of us would probably not see or pay attention to even if we are aware of his presence. He is different from the rest of the society; it is shown in the movie that he seems to have multiple mental disorders along with “emotional incontience”, an existing condition that makes him burst out of uncontrollable laughter even if he doesn’t want to. Arthur’s condition seems like a good joke from god, among all the problem he already has in life. He is from the lower class, and struggles to makes the ends meet while taking care of his sick mother, while relying on seven different medications to make his pain go away. Arthur does recieve help from the government: there is a social worker whom he can consult and talk to. But as the government cuts away founds in sectors they consider as “less essential”, Arthur soon doesn’t even have access to this service anymore. He is then left all alone, with no financial help or any other aid from the government, while Thomas Wayne, the politician running for the mayor position, promessed to help citizens in poverty and to make their life better. This is a good example to demonstrate that the rich only gets richer and the poor only gets poorer since the upper class simply doesn’t care about them. This movie also illustrate that men in the upper class often hold all the power and prestige, and men like Arthur in the lower class can only live in poverty, ignored and forgotten. For example, the three man Arthur killed were depicted as terrible people, and yet their death were described as tragic loss (since they are from the upper class and work in a prestigious company) and Arthur was represented as being a merciless murderer by the authority. It shows that not all men have hold of power and that men are still separated by social classes and are labelled according to their class.

In this movie, it is shown that men with mental illness are treated badly. Just like Arthur wrote in his joke book: “the worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t”. Indeed, the main character was treated differetly and unfairly because of his mental issues. People don’t understand that his laughter was not controlled and make fun of him. It is shown that men that don’t fit in the typical image of masculinity are seen as failures and are mistreated: Arthur faces inequality every day such as being looked down upon, not trusted in the work environment and even beaten by strangers, because he is not strong, he is different, not rich and that he does not have a successful job. People expect him to be masculine, manly and all the traditional values because he is a man. It’s as if the main character’s life is worth less than other people because he is different, and he knows it. In his joke book, he also wrote: “I hope my death makes more cents than my life”. It is shown that Arthur knows that his life has little worth or values. The main character’s long life dream was to become a stand-up comedian and works hard towards his goal. But his ambition is discarded and made fun of, by others because people think that being a comedian is a “low level” job. The society make it clear that his dream is worth as much as his life, which is almost nothing. This movie shows that people still have high expectation towards men and expect them to occupy “successful” professions such as in politics or in economics. But it is not possible for every man to fit in the narrow box of traditional masculinity and Arthur is a perfect example of a man that is on the other side of the spectrum of what a man is, facing daily rejection by the society he lives in.

“Joker” also illustrates the danger that a man can become if he is pushed too far. After living all his life in poverty and as the bottom of the social structure, he recieves a gun, a destructive power that is now in his possession. Arthur then shoots the three men that are the perfect representation of why his life is so miserable. The main character finally felt like existing and being noticed for the first time in his whole life, after the incident appeared on the news and attracted all the attention of the city. Arthur would not have to feel invisible and would certainly not kill the three men under the influence of anger, if he has received more help sooner and if he was not oppressed by everyone for so long. The main character also stabs one of his coworker to death, as revenge for being responsible for his whole situation, and even shot the tv host when he was live on the Murray Franklin show. He started his plan of revenge killing, letting his anger (or detachment) take over the best of himself, because he finally felt free from any restrictions that prevents him from avenging himself and his unfair life. I think Arthur did all those killings at the end because he simply gave up on himself and didn’t care about the consequences, after being hurt so much by other people. He became a monster after he was pushed too far by the cruelty of the society. It teaches us a valuable lesson that men should all be treated equally and fairly regardless of their social status, because injustice creates anger and it is often the motive for the powerless to chose to do harm, when they are suddenly in the position of power. This movie not only represents the oppression of men, but also the repression of all the people of lower class. At the end of the movie, Arthur was seen as a symbol of resistance by the citizens because he killed men of the upper class. People of Gotham had enough of the rich having all the power over them and controling their life. Their repressed anger finally escalates and they end up starting a revolution and killing Thomas Wayne. This is an important lesson that everyone should be treated with empathy and respect, because anyone can start a riot or become monsters if they are percecuted for too long.

Finally, I wouldn’t say that I liked “Joker”, but it is certainly a movie worth watching because it brings up many issues the current society still has, such as the difference between the rich and the poor, mental health problem, the importance of empathy and one’s identity. It is certainly a movie that makes us reflect on how we treat people with mental disorders and under what circumstances a villain is created.

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