Warner Bros’ Joker movie is not only breaking box office records, but like another DC property, V For Vendetta, he is now the face of protest from Lebanon to Hong Kong.
According to France24, “From Chile to Lebanon, via Hong Kong and Iraq, a number of people have taken to wearing the recognisable exaggerated smile of the Joker currently portrayed in the cinema by Joaquin Phoenix in the international hit film by Todd Philipps. The face of the Joker, Batman’s ultimate nemesis, has now been seen in masks, face paint and graffiti tags in global demonstrations protesting against governments.”
“Todd Philipps’ film about the Joker has a real evocative power,” explained William Blanc, historian and author of the book ‘Super Heroes: A Political History’, to FRANCE24. “It echoes a form of protest against a political system that people believe is inflexible and not listening to the people.”
Political references to comic strip characters are numerous and the Joker is not the only mask being worn in processions at the moment. In Hong Kong, for example, demonstrators are challenging an emergency law that prohibits the wearing of masks by wearing those of Winnie the Pooh or Pepe the Frog, as noted by the Associated Press.
The most commonly used mask globally in protest marches remains the singular face of Guy Fawkes. In the 17th century, Fawkes was the instigator of a failed coup when he attempted to blow up the English Parliament on November 5, 1605. A mask of his face was worn by the character V, an anarchist revolutionary hero in the 2006 cult film ‘V for Vendetta’.
The faceless hacking collective Anonymous (which was established in 2003) adopted Fawkes’ mask as their distinctive signature look and it has since appeared all over the world. This representation has more in common than you might think with the Joker.
There’s a Joker facepaint station at the protests in Beirut pic.twitter.com/C7BSRyOjS1
— Helen Sullivan (@helenrsullivan) October 18, 2019