Why is the Joker Mask Appearing at Middle East Protests?

Published November 14th, 2019 - 10:12 GMT
Images courtesy Cynthia Abou Jaoude (Instagram)
Images courtesy Cynthia Abou Jaoude (Instagram)

Why is the Joker mask being used in protests in the Middle East?

The movie character played by Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips became the most profitable comic book movie ever. The most recent movie has struck a particular chord in the Western world, where it conveyed the modern man’s sense of alienation and desperation. So why is the 'Joker' appearing in Middle Eastern countries, which apparently have societies that are so different from our own?


The establishment media, including major channels like CNN, NBC, and ABC were quick to run alarmist headlines saying the movie could accelerate the rate of mass shootings from young white men in America. The Joker impersonated the story of Arthur Flex, a mentally ill character that was abandoned by a self-serving, cruel society. Arthur, a man who despite his troubles, had no ill-intent towards anyone, eventually decided to react by becoming a nihilist killer against those he perceived as having wronged him.

In the Middle East, society is more structured around a sense of faith. Despite war torn regions, the rise in extremism and terrorism, Middle Eastern societies generally do not suffer from the same modern ills plaguing the West or societies built on the Western framework.

In the Middle East, society is more structured around a sense of faith. Despite war torn regions, the rise in extremism and terrorism, Middle Eastern societies generally do not suffer from the same modern ills plaguing the West or societies built on the Western framework. Middle Eastern countries, overall, appear to have a firm basis on a communal living.

In contrast, Western-based societies base their existence on individualistic pursuits, leading people to have no sense of belonging. The Joker mask was used to demonstrate from Hong Kong to Chile, but was shunned in Iraq.

“Only two people used the Joker mask in the Iraq protests, the idea was viciously attacked by civil society,” Rasha Al Aqeedi, an Iraqi citizen leading a page called Raise your Voice to engage young people on the rise in extremism. “Though Arthur indeed was a victim of social injustice and failure, he was also mentally ill; not something the protest movement in Iraq is associated with.”

“Though Arthur indeed was a victim of social injustice and failure, he was also mentally ill; not something the protest movement in Iraq is associated with.” - RashaAl Aqeedi

However, a country in the Middle East that has seen the use of Joker mask embraced in protest was Lebanon. This is likely due to how Lebanon is more similar to the Western world in terms of being affected modern society’s ills. 

“I chose to wear the Joker makeup because it allowed me to express my feelings without having to speak to anyone: that we are hurt and disappointed. Life now only teaches you to lie and cheat for a living because you simply have no other choice, and that’s not the life I want,” said Cynthia Aboujaoude, a Lebanese demonstrator who chose to use the Joker mask of Arthur Fleck in Beirut. 

She added how the character of the Joker built up mental and physical trauma leading him to believe he was failure in life thanks to the society surrounding him. “But for how long can you stand torture?” Cynthia asked. This demonstrator said she related to the character of Arthur Fleck and received a lot of support from those around her in Lebanon. 

Life now only teaches you to lie and cheat for a living because you simply have no other choice, and that’s not the life I want,” said Cynthia Aboujaoude, a Lebanese demonstrator who chose to use the Joker mask of Arthur Fleck in Beirut.

Furthermore, her use of the Joker mask didn’t just receive support from her fellow Lebanese demonstrators or from Westerners on the internet, but even from people in Chile and Hong Kong who would send her messages saying: “You are brave, keep going.”

Perhaps the irony in the use of the Joker mask is that it has been used everywhere, even in places it was shunned, like in Iraq, except for the Western countries it related to the most. The West is numbed by its own sense of desperation. Perfectly aware of its condition, it chooses the path of apathy. Lebanese society, mixed with Western and Middle Eastern values, welcomed the mask as a reaction to social injustice. 


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.
 


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