I finally managed to squeeze in the time to watch Joaquin Phoenix’s Academy award winning turn in the ‘Joker’. For those who are wondering why I am bringing up ancient history, all I can say is that I will not apologize for the snail’s pace at which I roll. It was a bravura performance with Phoenix losing his shirt literally (and figuratively) at various points in the movie, not to show off rippling muscles but to artfully display a painfully emaciated frame with protruding ribs and bony joints. No wonder the jury was impressed!
While I enjoyed the wildly entertaining performance, the film itself was a colossal disappointment. It was one of those movies, where a character from a comic book is given a backstory that unnecessarily strives to be epic, insists on taking itself far too seriously and is stuffed to the gills with ‘serious social commentary’. Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck who occupies the cramped space beneath the bottom most rung on the social ladder. If that were not bad enough he is afflicted with a deliberately vague mental condition, is a failed comedian who is the butt of everybody else’s jokes, gets regularly beaten up by ruffians, lives with his sickly mum in something similar to the cupboard Harry Potter spent his childhood in, has no friends and sombrely declares that he has not been happy for one miserable minute in his entire effing life. And apparently anybody who has it better which is probably everybody is to blame for all this excessive misery and Fleck becomes the clown Prince of crime with a singular talent for violence.
I am not sure if the intention was to garner sympathy for this character as well as the poor and disenfranchised who are left to fend for themselves by a callous society but this sort of thing fills me with just enough irritation to prompt me into writing a column about it. When did we morph into such pathetically needy folks who feel entitled to all the good things life has to offer without actually working hard for any of it? Why is there so much resentment and hatred for those who are beautiful, rich, powerful, famous, fortunate, and capable of garnering millions of likes on social media? When did so many decide that it is nice to be pitied and it is okay to justify the ugliness within? Whatever happened to things like a stiff upper lip and picking your butt up by the bootstraps when life kicks you in the nuts?
There is so much written about privilege, especially if you are white, rich, or male. But I doubt life is easy for anybody. I envy Deepika Padukone for many reasons with only one being the husband’s deep appreciation for her hotness, but clearly her bed of roses has its share of thorns what with her candid confessions of having wrestled with depression, dealing with fanboys, fanatics who threaten to chop off her nose, and being married to a dude who insists on wearing clothes that clash with hers. The simple truth is that everybody has issues and it is never okay to become a mass murdering maniac or wallow endlessly in misery. It is far cooler to stop the pity party, get a grip on the rage, roll up your sleeves and get cracking on improving the quality of your life. Trust me, you might not get box office returns but you will feel marginally less crappy and for all the times you want to punch the object of your envy in the teeth, I recommend Yoga. Or chocolate.
This article originally appeared in The New Indian Express.