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9 October 2019

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Film review: Joker - Sympathising with a monster created by today's incendiary conditions


Joker   (Click to enlarge)

Ryan Aldred, Plymouth Socialist Party

The most striking thing about this film is how gritty and believable it is. Based on the origin story of one of the most iconic comic book villains of all time, and situated in Gotham City, a carbon copy of New York City, this film is set in the 80s.

However, it echoes the incendiary economic and political situation of today. Tension and frustration build among working-class people against their conditions portrayed in the movie.

Poor-quality housing, rising crime, poverty, cuts to mental health services, uncompromising bosses and increasing civil unrest are abound and help shape the Joker's character. What makes the movie so compelling is that it holds up a mirror to the realities of austerity faced by the viewer.

A perfect storm develops. Cut off from psychiatric help due to cut services, mixed with the instability of precarious working conditions.

This is topped off with an incident, subject to the cruelty and entitlement of what effectively represents the capitalist class, causing Arthur Fleck (Joker) to snap. An act of extreme violence against those representing big business strikes a chord and sets off a movement.

At times the Joker not only comes across as sympathetic but often relatable. What makes Joaquin Phoenix's Joker so terrifying is that he isn't overblown and cartoonish but realistic and entirely plausible.

We can relate because it is very clear that the capitalist system is laid bare, shown for all of its failings, a stark contrast between the haves and have nots. Where that relatability ends is in the action the Joker takes to strike back against the system, manifested in part due to his developing psychosis.

We the audience empathise because we too want to strike out against a system that is so utterly broken. Where that empathy ends is seeing that action being translated into what can only be described as terrorism through the actions of the Joker.

At the end of the movie we're left with an uneasy feeling of both sympathising with the tragic creation of the Joker, while being horrified at the monster that's created out of the monstrous conditions which we also inhabit.

Joker reflects the rotten system we live in and serves as a stark warning to the kind of ideas that might flourish if we allow that system to continue. It's certainly worth a watch.

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In The Socialist 9 October 2019:

What we think

Brexit theatrics continue

Syria: Trump gives green light to Turkey to attack Kurds


Cutting, lying Tories - kick them out!

Asda workers protest callous bosses

Cynical Tories' domestic violence bill not enough

Labour and workers' rights

Corbyn promises 'power in the hands of workers' - how can Labour do it?

Labour and the fight for a shorter working week


Tony Mulhearn 1939-2019

Workplace news

BEIS: Outsourced caterers' indefinite strike victory

Vote yes to Royal Mail strike action to take on the bullying bosses

Birmingham HS2 protest against bosses' attacks on trade union organisation

Attacks on Caerphilly waste management workers

Equity manifesto lays out anti-austerity model for arts

Vote for socialist fighter Jared Wood in RMT elections

Sainsbury's strikers win

Unison's retired members reflect growing anger

Lincolnshire health visitors strike

Chinese revolution

Chinese revolution of 1944-49: 'The second greatest event in human history'

International socialist news and analysis

Trump, impeachment and the need for an independent workers' party

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Socialism: The alternative to capitalist austerity, low pay and crisis

Best way to fight back? Join the Socialist Party

Socialism 2019: why I'm going... and why you should too!

Waltham Forest: mobilisation needed to defend abortion rights

Huge opposition to Barry rehab ward closure

'The little people can win' - Leeds tenants push back demolition

Selling the Socialist

York freshers success


Book review: She Said - Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement

Film review: Joker - Sympathising with a monster created by today's incendiary conditions


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Article dated 9 October 2019

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