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Hidden Meanings in Todd Phillips' "Joker"

06.12.2023

Allegory Today

You know, whenever the notion of allegory danced through my thoughts, my mental imagery often transported me to the medieval tales of "Piers Plowman" and "Everyman." However all that changed when I stumbled upon Todd Phillips' 2019 film, "Joker." This contemporary work not only shook the foundations of my preconceived ideas about allegory, but also highlighted just how relevant and powerful it remains in today's storytelling.

"Joker" - A Contemporary Allegorical Masterpiece:

Let's dig deep into Todd Phillips' "Joker." In this movie, Joaquin Phoenix gives an incredible performance as Arthur Fleck, a guy facing serious mental struggles who eventually becomes the infamous Joker. All this happens in the chaotic setting of Gotham City. "Joker" is a powerful story about feeling left out in society and the effects of not taking care of our mental health.

Thanks to the use of allegory, the movie tackles modern-day issues in a way that's both interesting and meaningful. Watching Arthur Fleck go from a person on the fringes of society to a symbol of chaos makes us think about the things that can lead to such a big change.

*Now, let's zoom in that scene in which Arthur Fleck shifts into the Joker. The setting reflects society's neglect and Arthur's own isolation. Even the colours change – it's a visual cue for Arthur's descent into madness.

https://images.app.goo.gl/6JE6pFyB8obfpWuJ8

The Joker's laughter, once a sign of his struggles, becomes a symbol of rebellion against a society that let him down.

In this scene, "Joker" uses allegory as a kind of hidden language to tell us deeper things about being human. The pictures and the story work together to make a complex tale about important issues.

*It's important to note that interpretations of allegory and symbolism in film can vary among viewers.

Movies and Allegory:

"Joker" isn't the only gem of allegory; there are more to explore:

"The Matrix" (1999): an allegory of how humanity lost individuality in the digital age in a tech-dominated society.

"Pan's Labyrinth" (2006): an allegory of the power of imagination to cope with the horrors of war.

"Meet Joe Black" (1998): Joe Black is a direct allegory for Death itself. The movie is an attempt to reflect on mortality and the preciousness of life.


Notes:

Medieval works that use allegory:

In English:

"Piers Plowman" by William Langland

"Pearl" by the Gawain Poet

"Everyman" (Morality Play)

In Italian:

"Divina Commedia" by Dante Alighieri

"Il Fiore" by Dante Alighieri

In French:

"Le Roman de la Rose" by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun

In Dutch:

"Van den vos Reynaerde" (Reynard the Fox)

In German:

"Parzival" by Wolfram von Eschenbach