Joker: The Backstory of Gotham’s True Dark Knight


Todd Phillips’ controversial film, Joker, made its debut on October 4. Alongside it, every AMC theatre throughout the country was armed with security personnel. The movie is set in dystopian Gotham of the 1970’s, a city plagued with rats, crime, and piling garbage. The protagonist of the story, Arthur Fleck, is a mentally ill citizen who lives within the city’s most extreme poverty. His story is delineated by an emaciated physique and mind-contorting performance of Joaquin Phoenix.

Arthur’s story is filtered through thematic greys associated with an urban depression. To find happiness in his dark reality that is tormented by his neurological condition of uncontrollable laughter, Arthur attempts to better his life with a painted smile as an advertising clown. Unable to form meaningful relationships due to his numerous mental conditions, Arthur routinely visits his local mental health facility funded through public assistance. His counselor is the stereotypical overworked and underpaid social worker who only has enough time to ask a few questions. After his brief counseling, they send him out the door with several prescriptions that do not help, leaving the office feeling unseen by society. It is when Arthur’s only support from society is defunded and shut down that the Joker awakens.

During this time, Gotham is in extreme unrest. The city’s mayoral election is ridiculed by its citizens as corrupted, and these feelings are exacerbated by the bid of billionaire philanthropist, Thomas Wayne. Just like Arthur, the people of Gotham feel invisible to the powers at will. The notions of faux reality television, conditioned consumerism, and fictitious happiness of Gotham’s society begin to appear symbolically on the screen as clown masks. Everyday citizens begin to take up the cause of the Joker in an attempt to show the world a message. Through cause and effect, corruption of society causes the infliction of pain unto others. This takes form as extreme wealth inequality, unhealthy living conditions, lack of necessary healthcare, and a loss of funding for crucial public assistance programs. Society created the Joker, not Arthur.

To most, Arthur is the villain of the story. They will disagree with the way he obtains the attention of the powers at will. They will blindly get caught up in the gory details of the Joker taking life for his cause, disregarding their own country’s REAL habitual tendency to carry out the exact same atrocities on massive scales. When the curtains close and the controversial bickering resumes, the foundation of the story’s message will be omitted by most of the audience. Money is worth more than the life of any citizen to the United States of America: that is the sadistic joke.