The Hangover director Todd Phillips’ Joker is certainly the most talked-about film of the year. Maybe solely for its ability to generate fierce discussion amongst auteur-loving cinephiles and superhero fans alike. In fact, there’s already rumours of a sequel in development, with Joker 2 allegedly taking place a few years after protagonist Arthur Fleck’s descent into makeup and madness.
Yep – everybody loves Joker! Or almost everybody. Everybody except the residents of New York City’s Highbridge neighbourhood, who are pretty bloody sick of the Clown Prince of Crime by now.
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Remember the third-act scene in which Joaquin Phoenix first dons the complete Joker outfit and performs a manic, kicky little dance for an audience of one, sound-tracked to Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll Part 2? Fans of the film and Instagrammers are flocking to the actual site of the shot in droves, recreating the scene for their followers. And, incidentally, causing huge obstructions for locals who depend on the stairs as part of their daily commute.
Gothamist reported on the disgruntled locals who are pushing back against the 800 tagged photos of the stairs that have appeared since Joker’s release, with one Highbridge resident saying the community feels “disrespected,” finding it impossible to use the stairs for their intended purpose.
Now, posters have appeared near the stairs warning sightseers against “treating our community and residents as a photo opportunity,” with a photo of Joaquin mid-dance and the stern subheading “NO JOKIN.”
Arguably, Joker fans have a right to celebrate their favourite anti-hero doing an Elaine Benes-esque celebration of insanity however they like. But locals of the area contend that the increased foot traffic isn’t contributing to the neighbourhood’s economy in any way, with influencers “Uber-ing straight to the stairs, taking a photo, and leaving.” In short, it’s a very bizarre new form of gentrification.
At least when Saturday Night Live filmed a digital short on the stairs, it took place at night, hopefully not getting in the way of the location’s average commuters. Their Sesame Street parody of Joker, starring Stranger Things’ David Harbour as an edgy version of Oscar the Grouch, might be one forgivable use of the stairs as a filming location – see below.