Tourists visiting a flight of stairs in New York which features in box office hit Joker have said locals were “cheerful and warm” despite complaints from the neighbourhood.
Playing Batman’s sadistic nemesis, in one of the movie’s climactic scenes Joaquin Phoenix danced down the steps in the Bronx – where many residents have complained about the influx of film fanatics.
Columbia University psychology student Chan-Young Hwang made the pilgrimage, sharing a photo of the steps packed with people, with some using tripods to film and take pictures and one dressed in the Joker’s colourful garb.
The Bronx has one of the highest crime rates in the city and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is native to the area, has said the area where the steps are located was once notoriously dangerous.
“When I was growing up, everyone would tell us to stay away from those steps or go with a friend,” she told TMZ.
“The Bronx is much safer now and I’m happy to say that… I think the way a lot of us feel is, listen, like, keep your Instagram posts outside.”
Mr Hwang told the PA news agency that the people he met on the way to the stairs seemed “cheerful and warm”, and believes the neighbourhood “can be changed into a better place”.
“Despite its cultural value, being the birthplace of hip hop, the borough was always considered as a dangerous, under-developed place in NYC,” he said.
“I wish for this unusual influx of tourists to make more people pay attention to the situation of Bronx borough, so the city administration and the residents of Bronx will be able to work for the better.”
David Nemer is a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and says he was “fascinated” by the stairs scene in Joker – and described visiting the stairs as “liberating”.
“That’s when Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) finally liberates himself,” he told PA.
“Unfortunately, his liberation meant that he finally incorporated the Joker, who is a psychopath.
“But for me, and for others who were there, they also saw the stairs as a way to experience, even if it was for a little bit, our own liberating path.”
The 34-year-old said he made his trip to the Joker steps early in the morning to ensure he was not “disruptive” to local residents, but added that those he spoke with did not appear troubled by the situation.
“While some locals said that some tourists got in their ways during busy times, some others were quite happy to see more people coming to the area and bringing more business,” he said.
“Overall, from what I experienced, the Bronx locals were nice hosts, and I do hope tourists realise that and also remain nice and respectful tourists.”
Mr Nemer pointed out that other movies have turned staircases into landmarks for film tourism, such as a flight in Chicago from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or another in Philadelphia which Rocky Balboa trained on.