"Madness as you know is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little push to cross the line."
The Joker, as we know him, is a supremely famous villain, limited to being the arch-nemesis of Batman. Like most antagonists, we see him fulfil the role of opposition to the main lead, whilst also suggesting an intriguing past that motivated him to take to this path of self-destruction.
Several films across languages have attempted to portray a charter tipping over the lines of sanity; examples include Sampath in Vanajagar Ulagam, the serial killer in Psycho and the likes. Few have attempted to uncover the traumatic or troubling past that nurtured the growth of a character that defied social standards of normalcy, Joker being an exception; one that did great justice to the character too.
"You don't listen, do you? You just ask the same questions every week. How's your job? Are you having any negative thoughts?
All I have are negative thoughts?"
The unstable, repressively violent character of Arthur Fleck is seen to the brink of insanity, guided by various personal instances. We see in him a sense of desire for recognition, a burning one that lurks amongst each of us as well as angst and anger. We see him wallow in unhealthy emotions, stemming from the thankless job he is admitted to, his existing medical conditions etc. steadily catalyzing his transformation into the almost maniacal Joker. The emotions he feels aren't unique or alien; the very same emotions resound within us, the difference lies in the form of manifestation.
"Smile and bring laughter and joy to this cold dark world." He stifled these emotions, isolating himself from those that surround him like each of us when stomaching a strong, vindictive emotion. His hate for the Thomas Wayne and the Wall Streeters is typical to the middle-class hate of the privileged upper class. He realises the inequality of worth awarded to each life, simmering in the silent recognition for the Wall Street murders, allowing unhealthy feelings to take deep root.
Like the egoist and narcissist that resides in each of us, he nurses one too. He craves attention and validation, earning it secretly through his outburst of violent, animal emotion. "For my whole life, I didn't even know if I even really existed. But I do and people are starting to notice."
He discerns the fallacies of the system, grasping that the decisions to suit each member of society are again controlled by the hands of a powerful few - " Comedy is subjective, Murray. Isn't that what they say? All of you, the system that knows so much, you decide what's right or wrong. The same way that you decide what's funny or not."
Through his cinematic deconstruction, we see his inherent desire for celebration and acknowledgement. We also see the deliberate societal isolation - his cackling laughter and distinctive behaviour enough to steer people away. As every incident loosens the threads of severe repression that held him back, we see him adorn the mask of the Joker, paradoxically letting go of the mask of Arthur Fleck that hid his ego within. The little pushes finally make him tip across the line.
"Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there ..?"
- Sivaranjani V