In protests around the world, protesters unite behind a common pop culture icon: the Joker.
In the movie “Joker,” Arthur Fleck, a wannabe standup comedian who works a day job as a party clown,
struggles to find work while battling a mental disorder that makes him laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate
times. Gotham City elites regularly use Fleck as a punching bag, and Fleck eventually takes matters into
his own hands, shooting and killing three men who beat him up on a subway. The Joker persona is born,
and Fleck finds purpose throughout the movie by systematically killing the city “elites” who repress those in
the lower class.
“Obviously, circumstances in real life aren’t that extreme,’” Bella Bennett, sophomore political science
major, said. Still, many protesters in Lebanon, Hong Kong, Iraq, Spain and Chile are finding the Joker to be
a symbol of their own struggle against the government. “The Joker is us,” Lebanese street artist Mohamed
Kabbani said in an interview with CNN. “Beirut is the new Gotham City.”
Kabbani painted a mural of the Joker holding a Molotov cocktail on a wall in Beirut with the inscription
“72 hours” painted above it in Arabic. This refers to a deadline, which the then Prime Minister Saad Hariri
gave political adversaries in Lebanon, to agree on governmental reforms, according to CNN.
In Hong Kong, a ban on all masks by the government sparked a surge of protestors wearing Joker
“The people are putting on the Joker mask to be like, ‘We’re allowed to do what we want. Stop trying to
control us,’” Jo Parrish, sophomore political science major, said. Parrish said that the rise in Joker symbols
coincides with the sympathetic narrative the movie presents of the classic DC villain.
“I think that’s what started it. [They] kind of see [themselves] a lot like the Joker. He was
misunderstood,” Parrish said. “He wasn’t bad. People made him bad.” Still, some see the use of the Joker
mask as a symbol of violence. Bennett referenced the 2012 theater shooting in Colorado that left 12 killed
and 70 injured, according to CNN. The gunman had worn a Joker mask during his shooting spree.
“He had purchased the mask [randomly] at the theater, but I know a lot of people were saying, ‘We
should be careful of using the Joker mask,’” Bennett said.
Bennett, a proponent of peaceful marches and protesting, said she’s interested to see how the Joker
symbol continues to influence protests throughout the world and whether the Joker’s violent past will
influence the protesters.
“It’s a common struggle of the haves and the have nots,” she said. “I’m interested to see how it