The Joker Stairs Are The Latest Attraction For Instagram Tourism
1170 Shakespeare Avenue, Bronx, NY is the location that used to be just an ordinary set of concrete steps. But in recent weeks, the address has been changed to Joker Stairs—a reference to the scene in Todd Phillips' recent film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as the red-suited clown.
The scene had already attracted attention for its use of a Gary Glitter song while Joker is high-kicking his way gleefully down the steps. The footage of him was used for the film trailer and poster and, inevitably, his shimmying swiftly became meme-fodder. The Twitter account @joker_dancing_ exists only to edit the scene to new music: one shows him strutting to "YMCA," another to "Dancing in the Moonlight."
The film has remained in the headlines for months after premiering at Venice Film Festival in August, inspiring debate for its depiction of male rage and the infamy that comes with violence.
Shortly after the film was released in early October, the address on Shakespeare Avenue had its Instagram location changed to "Joker Stairs," with shots showing nothing more than the empty set of stairs. Two weeks later an influencer uploaded a video of himself recreating Joker's dance to the Glitter song "Rock and Roll Part 2," as bemused locals made their way down the steps in the background.
Now the hordes have moved in, with images showing the stairs crowded and queues to get the perfect shot, with some even coming armed with a camera crew. A few have been inspired to come dressed as the Joker for a photoshoot, such as influencer @kiariladyboss who posted an image of herself posing on the "Joker Stairs" in a red suit and clown make-up.
"Have fun getting robbed," wrote one user under her post, capturing the mood of the people for whom the steps aren't #content, but how they get to work.
The odd trend for Instagrammers to turn natural disaster sites into backdrops for photoshoots—like the Chernobyl nuclear site, or the Berlin holocaust memorial—has rightly been condemned for being tasteless and ignorant to the suffering they symbolise. Even spots that don't come with that kind of emotional resonance have been ruined by people searching for the perfect selfie. The California superbloom was catnip to influencers, who swiftly trampled the natural phenomenon and inspired a similar backlash.
Joker Stairs isn't the site of a real event, nor is it a part of nature that needs protecting, but residents of the Bronx still aren't too pleased about the sudden, superficial interest in their community.
"It is disrespectful to treat our community as a photo opportunity for your social media and "it" moment," read flyers which have been stuck around the site, signing off, "No Jokin.'" One resident told Gothamist, "We hope it ends soon because we don’t need this."
Other members of the community have taken more creative action, with an acting group from the Bronx staging a parody video ejecting selfie-taking tourists from the stairs for "acting like parasites," shouting "this is The Bronx."
Perhaps the most generous reaction is an event the day before Halloween which will stage a photoshoot for children in fancy dress and hand out sweets, inviting the community to reclaim the location for themselves.
Dancing down a flight of stairs used in a comic book movie sounds innocent enough, but the fact that Joker used the Bronx location to illustrate a gritty Eighties Gotham means that influencers using it as a dark photo opportunity leaves a sour note. It's another signal of a platform that has everything to do with the people in the photos and nothing to do with the setting they are claiming to celebrate.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.