What The Joker Gets Wrong About Makeup Application
"So you're a tough guy, like it really rough guy..."
It’s being treated as the Super Serious Movie of the season, shying away from its comic book origins (ew, comics, gross) in favour of a gritty, edgy, realistic approach to an iconic Batman villain. Yet for all the lyrical waxing the Joker filmmakers have done on the press tour to promote their ‘authentic’ take on modern villainy, there’s a few key things the movie gets wrong. Namely, about beauty.
He has no concept of contouring. Which is fine, sure, but his white clown makeup isn’t even applied right to the hairline meaning there’s a solid inch of fleshy skin exposed at the scalp. Okay, maybe you’re in a rush between all the murder, mayhem and stand-up comedy? The very least you can do is add some tonal depth. You’ve got a jawline, Mr J. Don’t hide it.
Towards the start of Joker’s final third, we see Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck maniacally dying his hair. Not using Manic Panic, mind you. Just going to town on some lime green highlights while a swelling score plays in the background. There are plenty of ways one can attain Joker’s iconic green hair-do, as portrayed in the more recent depictions of the DC Comics character. But applying green dye straight to your roots without even lightening the follicle underneath? Boy, this ain’t it.
It’s a Red Sparrow-worthy gaff that could have easily been fixed with the presence of a single female voice on set to say ‘hey, you know if you’re putting any vibrant colour over brown-almost-black roots, you need to lighten the hair, right?’ That voice was silent, along with the one that had any morsel of understanding that if you want the dye to hold on your hair, it needs to a) be lightened first and then b) sit on the follicle for a period of time, minimum 20 minutes, but max two hours if you really want a look that says ‘I’m Gotham’s Clown Prince Of Crime’.
In Joker, rather, Fleck is washing the colour out as he’s applying it, meaning there’s no way the shade would stick to his hair. But hey, if we can dispel our disbelief over Zazie Beetz being a viable love interest then we can dispel our disbelief over any green pigment holding to his oily locks.
The Joker completely overdraws his eyebrows. Or rather, underdraws them. Harper’s Bazaar already told us the brow is back and Arthur Fleck has some nifty caterpillars. Unfortunately we don’t get to see them, with the natural brow painted over and a much smaller, much higher, red brow placed further up on his face.
Sure, the main point of his chosen makeup aesthetic might be to unnerve rather than highlight his natural Cara Delevingne’s. Yet you would have to imagine that a key part of clown school -- or at least an afternoon class -- would be on the power and application of makeup. He even tries to paint his tongue at one point which, yeah, alright might be a very whacking-you-over-the-head-with-a-mallet metaphor for wanting to be the same thing on the inside that you project to the outside. Subtle this movie is not.
Arthur Fleck has no skincare routine! Crying your makeup off during a Gotham uprising is no substitute for an effective cleanser, my friend. Let alone a toner, moisturiser, or even a night serum.
To his credit, the Joker does seem to have an understanding of how temperature can help decrease puffiness and visible lines. He doesn’t settle for a cooling face mask or even chilled cucumber slices over his eyes, however: he just straight up climbs right into the refrigerator. So there’s recognition of the principal, just a little shaky on the execution.
We’ve all had those moments when we see a pair of shoes we love -- and I mean, LOVE love -- and even though they’re one size too big, we buy them anyway. ‘I can wear my thick socks,’ we reason. ‘I can use jelly slides,’ we suggest. The reality is, if you’re a size 40, those 41 Manolo Blahnik’s just ain’t gonna cut it.
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The Joker does not get this, as Fleck is consistently hindered and hampered by his lack of a versatile day shoe in the appropriate size. Yes, the clown aesthetic is all about exaggerated proportions. But if you can’t escape any variation of muggers, the police, or your own personal demons in your chosen footwear then what is even the point?
He doesn’t own a finishing spray. Like, if you’re going to be committing homicide on a national platform and then helping facilitate a city-wide uprising, you need your makeup to have staying power. A setting powder at the very least. My recommendation for a finishing spray that will prove impervious to smoke bombs, unexpected arterial spray and keep your base coat long wear is Urban Decay’s All Nighter. If it can keep your eye shadow popping through childbirth, then it can keep your face fresh through an existential crisis with a body count.
Coco Chanel famously said “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The Joker famously said: “Yeah nah, mate”. Fleck gets the concept of layering, so kudos to him, but how many vests in angry autumn tones does one man really need? Let alone need to wear simultaneously?
Jeff Goldblum made pattern clashing cool again and that’s the sartorial camp Fleck is firmly working. Yet that’s still a helluva lot of fabric for one emaciated 30 kilogram man to pull off.