In Joker, Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck takes multiple trips up a staggeringly steep-looking set of stairs that feel like a not-so-subtle visualization of his struggle against the upper crust, who refuse to take the need for mental health resources seriously. Then the third act lands, and the early stages of a supervillain take shape when Fleck commits a homicide for reasons that are clearly not self defense. He then celebrates by dancing down the stairs to a Gary Glitter tune, which helps pump him up for even more homicidal ends. This part feels a little bit icky (despite “Rock & Roll Part 2” being included in all sorts of movies, TV shows, and sports events), but nonetheless, the way that Todd Phillips shoots the scene comes off as iconic.
Instagrammers agree, and whaddya know, these stairs are real and located in the Bronx’s Highbridge neighborhood. Although this isn’t exactly the same type of situation where Chernobyl showrunner Craig Mazin felt compelled to ask Instatourists to show “respect,” Highbridge residents don’t appear to be enjoying the staircase’s newfound landmark label. It’s a lot like the notoriety that the Philadelpha Museum of Art stairs earned following Rocky, only, you know, more residential. CBS reports that people are hailing Ubers with the purpose of visiting these Joker stairs, and Gothamist adds that some residents “feel disrespected” and “hope it ends soon because we don’t need this.”
Desus Nice who’s one half of Showtime’s Desus & Mero, has an interesting proposal. “[L]egally as a bronx resident you’re allowed and encouraged to tax anyone visiting the joker stairs,” he tweeted.
legally as a bronx resident you're allowed and encouraged to tax anyone visiting the joker stairs
— Desus Nice (@desusnice) October 17, 2019
That’s not a bad idea, really? Perhaps nothing could be legally enforced on this matter, but true fans of the movie might be willing to contribute to some sort of fund to promote awareness or aid for those in need of mental health resources. Regardless, it looks like a new Instagram trend is going strong. This may not last long with winter coming, but for now, behold results from the #JokerStairs hashtag, both costumed and not.
The joke? It’s on all of us.