Viewers on social media point out that both Gotham and Hong Kong are home to groups of discontented people who feel abandoned by their government and a rich elite. In the movie, Gotham citizens and police officers fight in a subway station, an eerie echo of such scuffles in Hong Kong’s own stations. At the end of the film, rioters vandalize parts of the city, with what appears to be smoke or gas drifting through the air — similar to the tear gas, graffiti and smashed glass that have become routine in Hong Kong.
Kimmy Woo, a student who recently watched “Joker,” also saw an analogy for Hong Kong’s government in the film. In one scene, the Joker accused his therapist of not listening to a thing he said in all their weekly sessions. “It’s like the government now,” Woo said. “No matter how people express their demands, the government still isn’t listening.”
Deacon Lui, a local photographer who has covered the protests, recently posted photos of himself in Joker makeup. “The movie is about a minority in society constantly being ignored by those who hold the resources,” he told CNN. “They do not have the proper way to express their anger or such negative emotions … I think it’s out of desperation that (the Joker) went crazy and chose to rebel.”
Similarly, with Hong Kong protesters accusing police of brutal force, “people feel like they are helpless and they don’t have a way to express it,” Lui said.
Despite their best efforts, however, these Joker fans are not making headway within the protest movement — rather, many more are trying to distance themselves from the film. Posts that draw these comparisons are often heavily downvoted, with comments urging the community not to aspire towards the Joker.
“I hope that everyone will stop using Joker to describe Hong Kong, as it will only bring negative results, no matter on the global publicity level or on the personal level,” it said.
Woo also warned of the danger of glorifying the Joker, saying she hoped protesters wouldn’t try to emulate him or his fictional followers.
“In the end, the masked people killed (Thomas Wayne and his wife), and everyone was excited, feeling like they were doing the right thing,” she said. “But we can’t do that … If Hong Kong people really acted like the Joker, then Hong Kong would be doomed.”
These responses reveal how the protesters see themselves — not as criminals or vandals, but as “freedom fighters,” as one online comment put it. The Joker takes pleasure in causing chaos — but the protesters argue they have been forced into this fight by an unresponsive government.
This distinction is an important one to them, as they often argue that any violence or destruction on their part have justified causes rather than being unnecessary violence. When criticized for vandalizing subway stations or smashing bank ATMs, protesters often say they have been given little other choice, and that it’s all for a greater good.
Even Lui said he didn’t intend his photos to be an endorsement of the Joker’s violence — he was just trying to portray the societal tensions present in both the film and in real life.
The Joker wasn’t a hero, he said. Like many of the Hong Kong protesters, the Joker was “just a guy acting out of desperation.”