Breaking Down Joker : Violence, Loneliness, Tragedy book cover
1st Edition

Breaking Down Joker
Violence, Loneliness, Tragedy

Edited By

Sean Redmond

ISBN 9780367774240
Published December 31, 2021 by Routledge
232 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Breaking Down Joker offers a compelling, multi-disciplinary examination of a landmark film and media event that was simultaneously both celebrated and derided, and which arrived at a time of unprecedented social malaise. The collection breaks down Joker to explore its aesthetic and ideological representations within the social and cultural context in which it was released.

An international team of authors explore Joker’s sightlines and subtexts, the affective relationships, corrosive ideologies, and damning, if ambivalent, messages of this film. The chapters address such themes as white masculinity, identity and perversion, social class and mobility, urban loneliness, movement and music, and questions of reception and activism.

With contributions from scholars from screen studies, theatre and performance studies, psychology and psychoanalysis, geography, cultural studies, and sociology, this fully interdisciplinary collection offers a uniquely multiple operational cross-examination of this pivotal film text and will be of great importance to scholars, students, and researchers in these areas.

Table of Contents

Breaking Down Joker: Violence, Loneliness, Tragedy;  Section I: Divided Space;  1. All the World’s a Stage: Reading Space(s) in Todd Phillips’ Joker;  2. Joker and Gotham City: Identity Correspondence. The Political Value in the Evocation of New York City in the 1970s and the Imaginary of the New Hollywood Thriller;  3. Joker: Madly Walking and Dancing Through Space;  4. New York is Dead: The Joker Steps and Urban Melancholia;  Section II: Mediated Uprisings;  5. Send in the Clowns: Joker, Vigilante films and Populist Revolt;  6. Looking at and with Images: Crowds in Joker, Joker in the Crowd;  7. Resisting Tyranny with Laughter: Joker and the Arab Revolutions;  8. Joker: Toxic Masculinity, the Instigation of (Political) Violence and the Protection of Minors in Greece;  Section III: Violating Genre;  9. ‘Put on a Happy Face’: The Neoliberal Horrors of Joker/s;  10. Performance Crime, Trigger Warnings, and the Violence of Joker;  11. The Perfect Crime? Anthropology and Liminality in JokerSection IV: Breaking the Ideal Man;  12. "What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him?" - Madness and Power in Joker;  13. A Monster We (Re) Make: Family Violence and Monstrous Masculinity in Joker;  14. The Joker and Man in the Mirror: Through Chaos to True Identity;  15. Lives of Precarity in the Age of Neoliberalism: The Tales Untold

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Sean Redmond is Professor of Screen and Design at Deakin University, Australia. He is the author of 15 books and the founding editor of Celebrity Studies, short-listed for the best new academic journal in 2011.


Breaking Down Joker is a fascinating read. Sean Redmond has collected an array of exciting young scholars, who have each brought a unique perspective to one of the most innovative and controversial films of the 21st Century. From a range of disciplinary approaches, this collection insightfully considers Joker as not merely a complex film, but as a watershed cultural moment. No stone is left unturned as Breaking Down Joker unpacks themes as diverse as liminality, neoliberal political views, urban environments, toxic masculinity, and mental health care deficiencies. This collection is a must for anyone serious about cinema and cultural criticism.

Jeffrey A. Brown, Professor & Chair, Bowling Green State University, USA

Upon its release, Todd Phillips’ Joker garnered critical acclaim, awards recognition, and massive box office. The super villain origin story also received criticism for its depiction of violence, mental illness, and toxic masculinity. In Breaking Down Joker celebrated screen studies scholar Sean Redmond enlists an impressive array of global scholars to better understand the film and its wider reception. Applying a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, including screen studies, psychology, and sociology, this collection captures, unpicks, and challenges the often-conflicting views on the controversial film. Few recent films merit this depth of scholarly analysis, and it is harder to imagine a more rounded understanding of Joker than that offered by this exciting new collection.

Associate Professor Liam Burke, author of The Comic Book Film Adaptation