THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS SO PLEASE BEWARE
Arriving home from the cinema with my wife, I could never have anticipated the effect this movie would have on me. I knew I was about to watch something intense and entertaining. However, nothing could have prepared me for the extreme picking apart and wearing down of another human being.
I once knew someone just like him. This person had the make-up, funky dress, strange introverted laugh, long hair and troubled background. He was also beaten up for his peculiar behaviour. And the bystanders just stood and watched it all unfold. The only thing absent was the violence at the end of it all thank God.
I was a musician living in the highlands of Scotland going back some 15 years. I used to play in a club with my uncle every weekend. It wasn’t much, just me and my acoustic guitar and the songs I’d written. Every time I played the club was always empty with only a few friends at the bar before the night would kick-off. The song I played was still a popular one among locals back home in Ireland. The one in question was “Halfway There”, and It was a very depressing song.
Whenever I played it this young man in his 20’s by the name of Willy would walk up and sit right in front of me. Willy had long hair, make-up with red lipstick wrongfully applied, all over his teeth and dressed in women’s high heels, including mans clothes. He’d smile and listen to the entire song. He did this every week. One week, after the song, the party began to kick off, and a lot of polish people arrived.
In the polish culture dressing half woman, half man just wasn’t cool. They didn’t see him in a good light. As he danced – alone – on the dancefloor in these significant-high heels, they’d deliberately push him out of the way. To the laughter of the crowd, he’d lose his balance. In the movie, when the Joker (Joachim Phoenix) is beaten up by some young thugs, I recalled that similar scene in which Willy lay helpless upon the dance floor. He just lay there, at the mercy of those who jeered.
Limping off the dance floor, he approached me at the bar smiling but always looking down at the ground. For some reason, he couldn’t look someone in the eye for too long. The barman tells him to, “Stop wearing your mother’s clothes and get that fucking make-up off your face”. I told the barman to calm down. A few moments later, I see a fresh glass of beer beside me. Willy had kindly bought me one. He smiled again and this time, looking me in the eye the longest he’d ever looked at anyone, his eye shadow running due to tears said: “Thank you”.
He wanted someone else to say it to me because of his extreme shyness that my song halfway there was his favourite ever song. I wanted to know this guy more. Who was he, and what was his story? Some other people told me that one day he’d showed up to the club dressed as Superman for no reason and he was just a strange loner.
I didn’t ask but someone close to me who’d lived in the village for over 40 years sat me down and told me his story. It was almost identical to that in the movie I’d seen tonight, the Joker. In the film, the Joker had been sexually abused as a child and physically beaten by his mother’s boyfriend. His mother just watched as all of this took place.
Willy’s story was very similar. It turned out Willy got sexually abused by his mother and his father who made him have sex with them from a young age. He was on lots of medication and had carers look in on him often. I recall my heart sinking within me so bad that my knees began to give way. I wanted to cry but held back the tears.
Tonight, as I watched this gradual making of a sociopath on my screen, I suddenly understood how the picking apart of a human being could result in such behaviour manifesting itself. An innocent child, abused by his mother and father, scorned by the world just totally cracked and went berserk.
I think the Joker does reveal to us how inhumane we are. We don’t understand how all of our sin and judgmental behaviour can influence another person to commit such acts. The Joker has to be the best movie I’ve seen in over 20 years, and I’d be interested in seeing it again.
It calls to mind a quote: The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose – James Baldwin