A GOTHIC HERO
By Nevin Ulusoy
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,” says Shakespeare in one of his greatest plays, “Hamlet“. When we question the nature of good and evil, we tend to categorize people and events according to our social norms and mostly believe that evil is always evil and people who commit crimes has always been bad since they were born in a way. However, there is nothing and nobody completely bad or good, circumstances, experiences make us choose things. We all have our different tendencies, but seem to deny the evil, the dark side in us. John Locke’s “Tabula Rasa”, the idea that we learn through our experiences, that we do not have a prior knowledge of anything also tells us that nobody is born bad actually.
Hollywood films are made to entertain us, we all know it for sure. To be entertained, we must feel how good we are and the bad people are always bad, they have to be punished in the way they deserve. This is what is normal and the society decides what is normal, how people should live and behave. If you feel you do not belong to this society you do not, cannot live according to the given codes, then you are an outsider, you are wrong and you must be behaved badly. You become a source of laughter sometimes, a source of disgust at other times and never a part of the society. “Joker” turns all our learned reactions upside down as he makes us go deep down the character and the sources of his behaviour. The director Todd Phillips takes us to a painful journey to Gotham and all the characters we know so well through all Batman films and the serial “Gotham”. A film discussed so much and criticized for its violence shows us our own reflections we do not want to see or accept in full light. Gotham is not an imaginary place anymore, but the place we all have to cope with in our daily lives. People who cannot earn enough, who have to live in really bad conditions, feel they do not deserve this, have done nothing wrong to deserve this and cannot find a way out.
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Shakespeare
Arthur Fleck, a clown, living with his mother, caring for her, wants to be a stand-up comedian. He has a mental disease which makes him laugh in appropriate times and places. His doctor does not seem to care much, always asking the same questions with the same cold, detached face and eyes. Besides, it seems the unreasonable violence of the people and the city is on him all the time. No decency, no understanding anymore and people hurt him for no reason at all. When you are decent and kind in such a society, you cannot escape being a loser and luck is never with him. We go through the pain he suffers as he looks at the mirror, as we look him in the eye that penetrates our souls, along with madly saddening music. He is like the monster Frankenstein made in Mary Shelley’s unique novel, an unacceptable figure in society, even though he does his best. It is not his fault that he is so ugly, but people want to destroy him at his best and his “father”, Frankenstein does not do his duties as a father. After that, the monster starts his revenge, as he sees that he cannot be a part of the society. Arthur is on his way to become “Joker” in a very similar way. Those who have “decent” jobs, who dresses well and who earns well are accepted as “honest, kind and trustworthy” people, although they may insult lonely women and beat defenseless people. As the famous comedian Murray Franklin (Robert de Niro) makes fun on him as bad luck will have it and invites him to his show, apparently to go on with the fun, the click sound in his head is heard more distinctly, there is no going back after that. Murray is his hero, the prince of his dreams, so the stroke is immensely powerful. What they, the monster and “Joker” do cannot be accepted in any possible way, violence cannot be accepted, but they are both gothic heroes, the outsiders whose dark sides take the control as they find no acceptance. Unhappy people are there to follow him, take him as their examples, which happens in the real world today, at least in masks, as they cannot resist the burning fire of rebellion in their hearts, the spark catching fire.
The film, the character, the music has an effect that cannot be forgotten in the soul, making us grasp realities that we cannot cope with and look at the mirror more closely.
Joaquin Phoenix is unbelievably successful as he acts “Joker”, he acts with all his body, movements, voice and his eyes go right through our hearts. We are both thrilled and sorrowful as we watch him, as he puts on his make up, as he walks, as he is beaten, as he is on stage. It is no wonder the film has won those prizes and is likely to win more. The film, the character, the music has an effect that cannot be forgotten in the soul, making us grasp realities that we cannot cope with and look at the mirror more closely. The images are more distinct and questions more clear. A masterpiece, a film that will be watched and discussed again and again.