While some poor intern at Warner Bros. is typing out their 1,945th statement begging moviegoers to remember that Arthur Fleck in Joker is unquestionably the villain of the movie, Joaquin Phoenix is saying “Okay, but…is he?” with an elfish grin. The police and the military are now involved with this mess, so clearly Joaquin hasn’t read the room, because he recently pushed the whole poor, misunderstood greasy-looking murderer narrative during an interview with Vanity Fair.
Before Joker premieres this Friday, we’ve had to rely on a whole lot of heresay about what angle Todd Phillips was going for when he made the movie. One side believes that the film glorifies Arthur Fleck as a failed anti-social comedian-turned-murderer, and that Joker might inspire violence by some incels and wannabe terrorists who identify with his performance. The other side thinks it’s just a movie, and movies don’t inspire people to commit violence (except when they do, but go on), and in Todd Phillips’ opinion, people just want to be outraged about something. And in fact, Todd told Vanity Fair that he stopped directing comedies, because of “woke culture” and people on Twitter getting mad about everything.
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore — I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’
It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies — I think that what comedies, in general, all have in common — is they’re irreverent. So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but fuck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.”
Joaquin is taking a more zen approach to his defense, which is that Arthur Fleck is everything to everybody.
“There’s so many different ways of looking at it. You can either say here’s somebody who, like everybody, needed to be heard and understood and to have a voice. Or you can say this is somebody that disproportionately needs a large quantity of people to be fixated on him. His satisfaction comes as he stands in amongst the madness.”
But with that being said, Joaquin pretty much went ahead and confirmed what many people thought, which is that the real villain in Joker are all the mean people in the audience who think the psychopathic murderer is the bad guy here.
“I was going through [the script] and I realized, I said, ‘Well, why would we make something, like, where you sympathize or empathize with this villain?’ It’s like, because that’s what we have to do. It’s so easy for us to – we want the simple answers, we want to vilify people.”
And if you really want Joaquin to lose you with his argument, he compares labeling Arthur Fleck as the villain to racism.
“It allows us to feel good if we can identify that as evil. ‘Well, I’m not racist ’cause I don’t have a Confederate flag or go with this protest.’ It allows us to feel that way, but that’s not healthy because we’re not really examining our inherent racism that most white people have, certainly. Or whatever it may be. Whatever issues you may have. It’s too easy for us and I felt like, yeah, we should explore this villain. This malevolent person. There’s no real communication, and to me that’s the value of this. I think that we are capable as an audience to see both of those things simultaneously and experience them and value them.”
I agree with Joaquin that it would be pretty simple to make The Joker the villain here, but…that’s kind of his thing? He’s always been an unsympathetic, murdering trash heap. Like, I don’t remember a part of the Batman mythology where Bruce Wayne and Arthur Fleck are friends until Bruce gets a little cocky at a party, and declares, “Hey everyone! Wanna see a funny JOKE?” before pantsing Arthur in front of his crush and laughing at his dick. Joaquin should just keep the requests for sympathy on himself. Like how Vanity Fair made poor, greasy Joaquin shoot in a swimming pool. You know that was nothing more than a shady suggestion on their part that he bathe more.