Joker masks for protests?

Protesters in Chile, Beirut and Hong Kong adopt clown masks

euronews

Protesters of the world: think twice before putting on that Joker mask

Joker, Todd Phillips' blockbuster, was controversial before it even hit the screens.

The FBI reported an increase in online threats linked to the release. Many of the posts referred to a 2012 mass shooting that occurred at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.

Joker focuses largely on how its title character, as his origin story reaches its climax, inspires a wave of riots, protests, and general mayhem in Gotham City, a classic battleground pitting the poor and oppressed against the rich.

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Joker: should the clown masks be used in political protests?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Joker is a dark and brutal movie, exploring the origins of the famous DC comics villain.

The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix, is set to make $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Not only is it making money around the world, it is also affecting political protests in different countries.

The clown masks and make-up seen in Joker have been adopted by movements in Chile, Catalonia, Beirut, and Hong Kong.

An academic has explained why the Joker mask is being used as a "symbol of the oppressed".

However, others warn to "think twice" before protesters consider using the masks.

The Claim

Wired's Laurie Clarke argues that the Joker's clown mask is "the perfect political symbol", saying that "it ticks all the boxes" for anti-establishment protests.

She says that themes from the film - such as "the representation of the failures of neoliberal capitalism, and its disastrous consequences" - have resonated with protest movements around the world.

Mattias Frey, professor of film and media at the University of Kent, told Wired that the protesters have used the mask for the symbolic value, while divorcing "all the evil stuff, the crazy stuff".

He said: "On some level, we identify with the Joker, in the sense that he's someone who has a purpose. In this film, he's given a reason - he's bullied.

"I think if you asked the audience ‘do you sympathise with blowing up the world?’ they would probably say no, but some of the radical energy – this rage against the establishment – obviously does appeal to them."

Frey added: "He's a symbol of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the ignored, the abused.

"But the mask also carries a warning – basically, ignore me at your peril. I will strike back."

The Counterclaim

However, Euronews' Rafael Cereceda tells protesters of the world to "think twice" before putting on that Joker mask.

He says that the Joker's issues are not the issues that are the focus of real-life protests and civil unrest around the world.

Conflating the Joker's story, Cereceda argues, would be "to misunderstand both the protests and the film".

He argues: "The movie depicts protesters as full-of-rage, blind followers of a murderer.

"The Joker is happy to become their leader, not for the "cause" or to defend the oppressed, but because he is visible and appreciated for the first time in his life."

The violence in the movie is simply "pure violence", born of the character's circumstances and his "deep-rooted misogyny that makes the woman responsible by proxy".

The Facts

Joker is the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time, dethroning Deadpool from the top spot.

Forbes predicts that Joker will probably top $1 billion at the worldwide box office. The comic book movie - with a budget of $60 million - has already made around $934 million in cinemas around the world.

They also note that it is the first - and possibly last - 2019 release not related to Disney or Marvel that could make over $300 million at the US box office this year.

Rotten Tomatoes, the film review aggregation site, gives Joker a 69 per cent rating from over 500 reviews. It also has an audience score of 89 per cent.

The critics consensus reads: "Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star - and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema."

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Why Joker masks are the perfect political protest symbol

Towards the end of Joker, the title character stands atop a car, revelling in the midst of a crowd of protesters made up in his image. Now, almost inevitably, the character has become a symbol for real-life protestors too.

At its release, the film - which stars Joaquin Phoenix in a dark take on the Batman villain - prompted moral panic and a warning issued by the US Military. It was feared that it would inspire lone killers - particularly incels - but so far, Joker has proved more inspiring to mass protest movements across the world.

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