By Dorian Armstrong
Protesters all over the world are rallying for a myriad of reasons: inequality in Chile, corruption in Lebanon and the erosion of democracy in China. CNN reported that since Oct. 24, many of these protests have used the same unusual symbol to represent their struggles: the comic book character, the Joker.
The supervillain has been plastered on street art and social media. Protestors have donned masks and painted their faces with the iconic clown makeup, even though such actions in public are illegal in places like Hong Kong, according to CNN. This trend follows the release of the new film, “Joker,” directed by Todd Phillips, which presents the villain’s backstory and explains the reasoning behind his hatred for society.
CNN reported that amid concerns that the association with an anarchic murderer harms the protests, people like Deacon Lui, a photographer covering the Hong Kong protests, believe the Joker’s notoriety helps their cause resonate even more.
“‘The movie is about a minority in society constantly being ignored by those who hold the resources,’” Lui said, according to CNN.”’They do not have the proper way to express their anger or such negative emotions…I think it’s out of desperation that (the Joker) went crazy and chose to rebel.’”
In the U.S., the character is no stranger to political controversy. In 2012, a shooter claiming to be “the Joker” killed 12 people attending a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Colorado, causing many to fear that the Joker’s cultural impact would inspire further violence, according to Vox.
In a recent protest, A 72-hour ultimatum by the Lebanese government was satirized in a street mural depicting the Joker holding a Molotov cocktail, according to CNN.
In Chile, people dressed as the Joker appeared at a protest where demonstrators actually threw Molotov cocktails at police, though the two incidents have not been linked, according to Fox News.
By comparison, the film’s main controversy in the U.S. has been a glut of tourism to a staircase featured in the movie, according to The New York Times.
CNN reported that protestors like Cynthia Aboujaoude, a graphic designer who wore Joker makeup while protesting in Lebanon, have also reflected the Joker’s provocative views in nonviolent ways, rejecting old social norms in the pursuit of better ones.
“‘Life now only teaches you to lie and cheat for a living because you simply have no other choice, and that’s not a life I want,’” Aboujaoude said, according to CNN.
Historian William Blanc told FRANCE24 how donning Joker makeup, or a Guy Fawkes mask from the thematically related film “V for Vendetta” helps demonstrators reconcile their differences.
“‘The central theme of these two films is social fragmentation, the fact of finding yourself alone to cope with your own misery,’” Blanc said, according to FRANCE24. “‘…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.’”