Paap Culture: TikTok’s ‘Jokar’ deserves the same respect as Joaquin Phoenix

Before you bash, read first. The worst that can happen is that you’ll end up creating a TikTok account.

Ather Ahmed January 21, 2020

KARACHI: In the final panels of Alan Moore’s one shot graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke, the caped crusader finally puts an end to his long time feud with the Clown prince of crime. For a change, Batman finally gets over his arbitrary code and laughs at a poorly delivered joke by his archnemesis, something the Dark Knight consciously refrained from doing. Oh and also, Batman seemingly kills the Joker, in the process saving millions of hypothetical citizens living in Gotham and perhaps even those in Metropolis.

Being the sort of lot it is, hardcore fans of the superhero genre often fight hook and nail over what can be classified as authentic, especially when it comes to the Batverse. Moore’s classic alone sparked several debates since its release.

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Did Batman actually kill the Joker? Is The Killing Joke even canon in the DC multiverse? If so, has Bruce finally succumbed to his urges and proved the Joker true? Wait a minute, what value does being canon even hold given that DC reboots its lore every few years?

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The arguments related to authenticity over a medium that initially kept kids from witnessing the horrors of The Great Depression, in the end boil down to one set of arbitrary rambling versus the other. Perhaps, the two foes are not just laughing at the hollowness of concepts such as good and evil but also at fans getting worked about the minute details of a piece of fiction.

Needless to say, the ridicule Tiktok’s biggest star, Rizxtar gets for his rendition of The Joker or ‘Jokar’ receives, stems from the idea of an unknown person portraying the icon on his own terms, something that is viewed as a blasphemy of sorts.

If one were to do an objective analysis of Rizxstar’s portrayal it’s as much a perversion of The Joker in the comics, as Jack Nicholson’s gangster in Tim Burton’s version of Batman, as Cesar Romero’s prankster, as Heath Ledger’s anarchist, there I said it, and the down on his luck standup comedian performed by Joaqin Phoenix, which you can say inspired the trend on TikTok. (Jared Leto isn’t on the list because of obvious reasons. Neither is Mark Hamil but for totally opposite reasons. The guy ended up influencing the comics. He deserves better than to be included in such a serious piece)

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All of the aforementioned renditions have reimagined the character in their own way. Based on the closeness with the comics, all of them for the most part are either the actor or the director’s own vision. Rizxstar’s joker smile for all the bashing it has received, is the most spot on if comics were to be taken as a standard.

As far as backstory is concerned, it isn’t even well established in the comics. In The Killing Joke itself, the character serves as an unreliable authority on his own past. “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another , If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!" Joker himself says in the graphic novel. A major part of his character relies on the mystique.

As such a backstory in the cinematic verse holds as much value as fan fiction. Those that rely heavily on the Waynes to establish that character **cough ** Nicholson and Phoinex **cough** completely miss the point. Only Rizxstar and Ledger have managed to keep the mystique.

Like Nolan’s depiction of the character, Rizxstar’s motivations from all the videos remain unclear. On the surface he does seem to fit the archetypal heartbroken selfless dil jala driven made by the world around him. However it seems that there is more to him.  This makes the viewer all more curious about him even if one wants to dig up dirt for his or her meme bank.

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In terms of acting, surely Rizxstar is no thespian like the rest, but the guy is convincing. You may disagree with the ethos of the character but he plays it convincingly enough for everyone to think he’s as out of this world as he seems in the videos.

This brings us to his commitment to the role. Even the most meticulous of method actors eventually return to their real selves. However, considering the sheer volume of videos Rizxstar has delivered as the ‘Jokar’, it seems as though he lives and breathes the character he is portraying.

As far as influence is concerned, where Heath Ledger’s Joker ended up becoming a rehashed costume at DHA halloween parties, ‘Jokar’ has influenced a wave of misdirected adolescents looking for a purpose in South Asia. Although Phoenix’s rendition started the trend on Tiktok, it was Rizxtar that elevated it to a point where everyone wants to bleach their faces.

Lastly while others relied on a connection with Batman, ‘Jokar’ doesn’t use him as a crutch. But then again, perhaps in his story, all of us are the Batman. Much like how The Joker is driven by Batman’s opposition, Rizxstar does on ours.

Paap culture is a bi-monthly column about cynical commentary on bizzare pop culture happenings

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