Joker was indeed an Oscar-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix (to understate it).
All the reviews ahead of time, both good and bad, made for greater anticipation, and I did really enjoy this very gritty/real non-superhero movie.
To get one thing out of the way, let's be clear: There are no "good guys" in this movie. And for that reason, for being so different, I love it even more. You certainly empathize with Joker for much of the movie, but the balance it strikes, where you don't fully want him to win, but you don't entirely want him to lose either, is really well done.
I also appreciate how Thomas Wayne (and subsequently Bruce Wayne) is juxtaposed beside his character, but you neither really admire Thomas, or totally despise him, either.
I can appreciate now why many people on the political left have drifted away from appreciating this movie (my own ridiculous "State Broadcaster" in my country has recommended skipping it).
I once heard someone describe our current political leftist parties as "the new church ladies", and this is quite apt. For in the same way that many fundamentalists often take a very strident/non-nuanced picture of "morality" and "culpability" for wrong-doing (and in our more recent society, "wrong-think"), so also many leftists do the same. I can see how this movie would be a red flag to such minds who want to reduce all "badness" in the world, to one thing.
I recently heard a conservative political commentator (I tend to libertarian conservatism myself) also say that this movie is of the Social Justice left, that it sympathizes with them. To be frank, I think he's wrong, and like many religious people on the right, he missed the nuance undertones in this story.
Whether you're a leftist "new church lady", or a classical fundamentalist, one thing is for sure: Our desire to "scapegoat" all the problems of the world onto one thing (devil, the rich, patriarchy, capitalism, feminism, marxism, etc), won't be truly satisfied/buttressed by this film.
As many others have said, this movie just really opens dialogue, and it's one of the few gems that you could go see, and then talk with friends over beers for hours afterwards. I just love that.
There is, however, one thing I'd like to point out (minor spoiler) of this movie, that both positive and negative reviewers seem to miss:
Despite the, yes, rather ridiculous placards of "kill the rich" that the movie's equivalent of "Antifa" carry around, it's not really about them, or about their (assumed) anti-capitalism efforts (although images of them are a frequent feature).
What is it about? In one word? ...
Or maybe more specifically... Exhaustion.
Revenge against what? What I appreciate in this film is how it's not so much about how "evil" the "rich capitalists" are per se (even though a cursory viewing may lend itself to that). What this film is really about, is the shocking discovery process of the "sins of the fathers" (or in Joker's case, the mother), by the son.
Where your heart really breaks for Arthur/Joker (if you're paying attention) is the shocking discovery of the terrible things that were imposed upon him when he was young, and how, for so long, those things were hidden/brushed under the rug. Particularly, after how long he has dutily taken care of his mother, the real shock is in coming to terms with what happened to him when he was young, and the specific condition he learns his mother has is a part of that.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
There is one scene where Arthur (Joker) is pursuing the truth of his past. He is in a scene with the records clerk who basically reads the records and tells him that his mom suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The clerk isn't supposed to release the records, but Arthur steals them. And that, coupled with other discoveries, leads him down a dark path, where he realizes much of what he thought of the past, is in fact, a lie.
What is that condition? NPD is a "Cluster B" disorder that fractures the whole "personality" of the person who suffers with it, leading to levels of narcissism that are wholly crippling to a normal life. Having known people who suffer from such disorders (cluster B), this aspect really resonated with me.
To me, this is a critical point in the movie. It's not really a sort of "Antifa" ideological thing with Arthur/Joker. It just happens to be the case that those who want to "bring down the system", are rising in tandem with Arthur's journey of discovering the dark past.
It's pretty apparent to me that Arthur doesn't really care about politics per se, but rather that he is simply tired of the hand-waving away of the hard past, but more than that, coupled with the relentless/heartless cruelty of society, in general.
Overt vs Covert Nihilism
Arthur isn't really against capitalism per se. At one point, he even states he's not political. This would no doubt be in contrast with those around him who were carrying the "anti-rich" placards. They would at least claim that their goals were political, and for the "common good".
Our modern real-life equivalent are groups like "Antifa" (supposedly "anti-fascist"), who claim to work against actions they see as "fascist" (but most of us know they tend to communism).
The point is that, at least in regard to what they project (which is dubious), they claim to be working towards a better world.
What is admirable about JOKER, is that, contrary to those protesters (who co-opt his ascent), he doesn't actually even bother with putting out the pretense about creating a better world. You can see he has more (admirable) honesty than that. Life has been relentlessly cruel to him, and the desire for the end (chaos), naturally comes to be his goal. Arthur/"Joker" becomes an Overt Nihilist, in contrast with the protesters, who would not have the courage to admit their real motivations (covert nihilists).
Relentless Cruelty, and Personality Disorders
I like capitalism generally (it's better than virtually everything else on planet earth, IMO). So don't get me wrong, I'm not ideologically siding with communism/socialism or something like that.
But let's be clear here regarding the underlying message of the movie: If "society" (particularly families, but also organizations, capitalism, etc) thinks it's possible to maintain a world where the relentless selfish pursuit of capital is the main and overarching goal, and thus cruelty/indifference to others is commonplace (and ends up being the rule, rather than the exception), you can be sure that it is not psychologically "sustainable".
The so-called "sins of the fathers" will catch up to us, at some point or other. Eventually, personalities will "crack", and create "personality disorders", and at that point, the end will be "off to the races".
Again, to be clear, I do not advocate for "forced kindness" (socialism, etc). I'm actually not advocating for anything.
I'm merely saying this: If society (families in particular) runs out of spontaneous/voluntary kindness, society should not expect to last long.
As the lyric from "The Messenger" by Linkin Park goes:
"When life leaves us blind, [only voluntary] love [true kindness] keeps us kind."
1 comment - "Joker", Cruelty, and Mother's Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Chan - March 7, 2020 at 10:46 pm
I love reading your stuff and giving other people challenges. It's a very interesting perspective of the things that happen on earth and what mankind does/did in this world. I would like to continue hearing and seeing these posts and videos.
(Please please reply via email, I'd like to hear more and see more. I would also like to know more)