We need to talk about the Joker. Again, yes, but the Joker doesn't go away. He's popular precisely because of his ability to reflect something about his creators. About the society that creates him. In order, he is chaos. In structure, he is excess. In decorum, he is outrageous. In straight-laced times, he is camp. He is everything we fear not about a guy walking around in clown make-up, but about ourselves. And that couldn't be more important to the new take on the Joker.
With the trailers for Todd Phillips' new vision for a Joker origin film out, there are some significant talking points. And it's not that Joaquin Phoenix looks amazing. Or that his laugh is incredible. Or that the cinematography looks wonderful. It's how the film seems to be portraying mental health issues, their stigmatisation and also, how this could either be a huge opportunity or it could make Phoenix's Joker the unwitting poster boy for groups like the alt-right and self-styled militant incels.
This is The Dark Truth Of The Joker Movie...
It's crucial to start in one place. The idea that Phillips' Joker isn't just an origin story about Joker but also the origin story of Gotham as we know it. It's a film about Gotham's fall and how that impacts its people at both ends of the spectrum - and even more importantly, those who aren't even on it any more. It's a story of how a perfect storm of mental health issues, a troubled past, systematic failures and a legitimate political movement of revolution combine to drag Gotham into the gutter.
We always knew from every Batman story ever told that there is a reason to love Gotham. There is talk, frequently, of Gotham deserving a hero. Of Gotham being saveable. Hell, why else would Bruce Wayne care to protect his city if it was always the grotesque, twisted monster it would become when he had to pull on his cape and cowl? That would make no sense.
For that to ring true, Gotham had to be great once. In Bruce Wayne's mind, it was great because of what his parents taught him before they died. They made it an aspirational place that would ultimately fall to corruption and darkness. Because in Bruce's eyes, of curse his elitist parents - with their riches, their power and their happiness - would love Gotham. They were thriving in it. Batman is essentially trying to save a Gotham of their creation - clipped of its rough edges and devoid of the more distasteful realities that were hidden from him until they passed away.
But those on the darker underbelly of Gotham existed. Joker is their story too.