Warning: Spoiler Alert!
Let me first start by saying, I do not condone any of the actions of Arthur turned “Joker”. Nor do I condone the actions of the Sandy Hook shooter, the Las Vegas shooter, the Columbine shooters. But what if we took a closer look at the environment in which those people were trying to survive? If you examined a day in the life, would you have any empathy or understanding?
“Who would do something so cold blooded? Someone who has to hide behind a mask.”
This is the reality for someone with a mental health issue. They feel they cannot be themselves and must “hide behind a mask” to fit into or have any place in society. In Joker, Todd Phillips portrays Batman’s ultimate villain as Arthur Fleck, as a real person, a human being you can’t help but feel for.
Many themes were present in the movie, including community and economic disparity, the stigma of mental health, and traumatic childhood experiences, which all led to Arthur’s transformation into the “Joker.” It makes total sense. Adopted child abused by the man his adoptive mother was living with. Adoptive mother then getting institutionalized for narcissistic borderline personality disorder among other diagnoses. And then a society who labels him as “crazy.” Watching the film from a person in environment perspective, you can see that there were countless ways that Arthur was let down by the people in his life and his social environment.
And it’s not far from the truth. These elements are encountered by many on a daily basis, from the homeless on the street to the “crazy” person talking to themselves on the subway. Some may find the movie controversial or hard to watch, but is it perhaps because this movie is displaying the truth that most people are afraid to examine? The stigma and lack of help for those with mental health issues, social castration of those in poverty, abused children, the use of the word “crazy,” just for example. Todd Phillips didn’t make anything up, but instead tells us the truth about our own society by telling a new story about a familiar character. Phillips does nothing but Call. It. Out.
How do you think people who commit school shootings, massacres, abuse drugs, etc, get to that point? It is the societal construct in which we live. Think about when Arthur learns that the state cut the funding for the mental health department where he was seeking services. His social worker put it ever so bluntly,
“They don’t give a shit about people like you Arthur. And they don’t give a shit about people like me either.”
Speaking to his mental health issues, Arthur profoundly wrote in his journal,
“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
Think about that for a second. Arthur Fleck hit the nail on the head on this one. And it’s made even more clear during Joker’s last joke of the night on Murray Franklin’s show,
“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?”
And that’s when Joker proceeds to shoot Franklin in the head.
Let me end by saying, of course not all mentally ill people turn to violence, that is far from my point. But maybe if we did pay a little more attention to how we treat people, could we help prevent certain tragedies? Can we at least agree to stop calling people “crazy?” If we can attempt to reduce the stigma of mental health, we may be able to prevent a Gotham City-like rampage.