Some people have compared the real city of Hong Kong with the fictional city of Gotham, where the superhero Batman battles with various criminals like the Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman and, of course, his arch-nemesis, the Joker.

With the current unrest in the former British Colony, the release of the movie “Joker” has resulted in some pro-democracy protesters finding inspiration not from Batman, but rather from the evil Joker calling him "the symbol of the resistance and the spiritual leader of the rebels."

In the film, the Joker character is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. The role shows the development of a man named Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian, into Gotham’s leading criminal. Other characters and scenes from the Batman films, comic books and the campy 1960s TV show were also used to symbolize Hong Kong on social media posts:

  • Edward Leung, a pro-Hong Kong independence activist who was jailed for his part in violent 2016 demonstrations has been equated with the Joker.
  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam draws comparisons to the father of Batman, Thomas Wayne, who is portrayed in the movies as an out of touch, callous and rich candidate to be the mayor of Gotham. For those not aware of the Batman character Bruce Wayne, the son of Thomas, he is the “secret identity” of Batman when he is not wearing his cape and cowl.
  • One student named Kimmy Woo, after watching the film, compared the Joker’s therapist to the Hong Kong government that “…still isn’t listening”.
  • Some viewers on social media have used scenes from the film to make analogies between the two cities. One scene has Gotham citizens fighting at a subway station that draws comparisons to real-life battles between police and protesters at Hong Kong’s MTR train stations.
  • At the film’s conclusion, the scenes of vandalism, tear gas wafting through the air, graffiti and the shattered glass at storefronts are seen by some as eerily similar to Hong Kong streets over the past several months.

Opinions among the protesters are divided. Some see themselves as a reflection of the Joker and others are horrified at the comparison. The destruction of property and with no end to the unrest in sight, businesses and people with more moderate views are choosing to leave Hong Kong for less troubled destinations. The sentiment among the anti-Joker crowd is that bad publicity from being associated with such a character may cause public support to waver.

Halloween is nearly here and there will certainly be many protesters wearing Joker masks this weekend in the beleaguered Asian city. More than a few people wish that a Hong Kong version of Batman will appear on the scene to rescue the city without the help of the People's Liberation Army of China.