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A Mask Unites…

The wide smile is artificial, but well known… the sad eyes are also very known! The main character of award-winning new Hollywood film ‘Joker’ – directed by Todd Phillips and the title-role played by Joaquin Phoenix – uses a mask. Phoenix has played the role of a psychopath in this movie. Interestingly, this mask has become the face of protesters across the globe!
Many countries, including Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong and Iraq, have been witnessing anti-Government protests over various issues in recent times. In some countries, common people are staging protests against price rise. Elsewhere, people take to the streets to protest against dictatorial or authoritative rulers… everywhere, the protesters wear this mask in a rare show of unity! Many artists, with colours and brushes, were present at the main square in Beirut, where people recently gathered to stage anti-Government protests. They painted those masks on the faces of the protesters. In London, protesters put the Joker‘s face on images of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (through photoshop technology) during an anti-Brexit rally…

Todd Phillips' Joker.jpg
Todd Phillips’ Joker

The question naturally arises as to why the protesters are so much interested in the character of Todd Phillips’ film. The answer lies primarily in the character of the Joker in this film. Film critics are of the opinion that the ‘Arthur’ character of Phillips is very different from the Joker in the Batman series created by DC Comics. In Phillips’ film, Joker is not a villain, but a symbol of revolution. He becomes the voice of protest from a marginal man. When the city is on fire, the mayor is enjoying a movie at a theatre. Arthur becomes a Joker in protest to this casual attitude of the administration!

Joker Beirut.jpg

People of different countries could readily relate themselves with the dissatisfaction (of the Joker) shown by Phillips in his movie. Historian William Blanc has explained: “Todd Philipps’ film about the Joker has a real evocative power. It echoes a form of protest against a Political System that people believe is inflexible and not listening to the people…” He said: “At the end of Todd Philipps’ film, a bit like at the end of ‘V for Vendetta’, everyone putting on the same mask, is their way of coming together as a group, to create a collective, to not feel alone with your struggle.

The ‘Guy Fawkes’ mask.jpg
The ‘Guy Fawkes’ mask in V for Vendetta

People, wearing the masks of a popular movie character, had staged protests in the past. In the 2006 film ‘V for Vendetta’, a mysterious radical anarchist was seen wearing a Guy Fawkes costume. He worked to bring down an oppressive Fascist Government, profoundly affecting the people he encountered. The film was released in theatres on March 17, 2006. Guy Fawkes (April 13, 1570 – January 31, 1606) was a British anarchist-turned-revolutionary of the 16th Century. The Guy Fawkes mask became a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protests against tyranny in Europe in the last decade.
The newly released ‘Joker’ has added a new dimension to that genre of protest. One of the dialogues of this film – ‘I just don’t want to feel so bad anymore‘ – is basically the grief of a deprived common man…

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