A tale of two masculinities: Joaquin Phoenix, Todd Phillips, and ‘Joker’s’ double can(n)on

Arthur Fleck watching his silent double, Charlie Chaplin.

By Misha Kavka

Excerpt: “While Joker has inspired impassioned debate about whether it proffers critical insight about or a rallying cry for the white male underclass, such ambivalence is already pre-figured in the trope of Arthur as sad clown, whose sob-inflected cackle tells us he is wailing on the inside while laughing on the outside. This is, however, a specifically gendered ambivalence, unapologetically bound to a masculinity which doesn’t quite add up. Dancing on the thin edge between tragedy and comedy from the very first tear that rolls into the painted creases of Arthur’s clown smile, Joker exceeds its diegetic bounds to stage a clash not just between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ but between two kinds of masculinity: the conformist masculinity of director Todd Phillips, known for the alcohol-fuelled bonding and casual misogyny of numerous frathouse-cum-road trip films, and the deformist masculinity of star Joaquin Phoenix, whose loner roles have plumbed the depths of masculine alienation, rage, and malaise in films like The Master, Inherent Vice, You Were Never Really Here and even the cyber-romcom Her.” Read the full OPEN ACCESS article here