A box office hit and widely spoken about; The Joker is more than just a part of the Batman series. You do not need to watch the movies included in the Batman series to enjoy this thought-provoking and interesting film. Without a doubt, this movie has been so successful so quickly because of its progressive stance and courage to bring attention to and start a conversation about topics that are not always accepted. The Joker delves into controversial issues such as mental health, government services, childhood trauma, mob mentality, and the struggles for people of low income (spoilers ahead).
It’s more than a superhero movie
On the surface, The Joker intends to tell the story of the notorious villain from Batman. Upon hearing this, I expected the movie to make excuses for this malicious character- but this is not the case. The Joker simply expands on and provides the background of Arthur Fleck (the Joker) and his upbringing. What makes this movie so moving, is the basis of real-life struggles that many people face, but do not always speak openly about.
Bringing awareness to mental health issues
The most prominent issue which Arthur struggles with is depression. Rather than simply stating he is depressed; the movie gives insight into how he copes with this and the ways in which it affects his day-to-day life. In several scenes, Arthur is visibly upset and expresses that he’s never been happy before. While this is not always the case with those struggling with depression, it expresses to viewers his thought process and mental state. Arthur noticeably struggles with self-confidence and feeling anything but negative feelings. He is seen speaking to his therapist, who does not provide much help besides prescribing medications. As someone who does not have depression, I can not fully understand what this character or others are experiencing. But I found that this movie helped me to better understand the depth of depression and that is not something that can be controlled or will magically disappear overnight. Many people wrongly make the assumption that if a person is not visibly upset, their depression has subsided or been “fixed.” The point that The Joker makes is that this mental illness affects victims whether they’ve had a good day or a bad one. I truly commend the creators of this movie for bringing awareness to depression and the seriousness of this issue.
Unfiltered comments on government stances
The joker is seen visiting a government-provided therapist regularly. She does not appear to be especially helpful or passionate about her clients, but it is clear that she is the only healthy outlet he has to express his feelings and cope with his struggles. Despite this, Arthur relies on his therapist heavily, because the medications she prescribes aid him in coping with his severe depression, PTSD, and other struggles. While this therapist and the medications do not fully resolve his internal struggles, he relies on them, nonetheless. When the government funding is low, the therapy department is cut, as well as Arthur’s access to his medications. The therapist blatantly calls out the government saying, “they don’t care about you or me.” This heartless depiction of the government is harsh but realistic. When money is low, the mental health of citizens is not always prioritized as it should be. Because Arthur has a low income, he has no other way to access the help he desperately needs. In this, The Joker sends a strong message to government officials and brings awareness of the importance of providing help for those who cannot find it elsewhere. In turn, this removal of government provided healthcare is what leads Arthur to give up on himself and end up in a downward spiral. Besides emphasizing how crucial healthcare is for those who can’t afford and rely on it, the movie points out the message this sends to citizens. This heartbreaking and enraging scene depicts what is, unfortunately, a reality for many people, due to our government’s neglect and careless attitude towards mental illnesses.
The problems with mob-mentality
In addition to emphasizing the importance of mental health, The Joker draws attention to the seriousness and problematic mob-mentality which our society deals with. When Arthur is invited to his role model’s talk show, it is, in turn, to be mocked and ridiculed for a disorder that people are not aware of. Even though the audience and viewers are not aware that a condition resulting from trauma is the reason he laughs uncontrollably, their encouragement of this cruel behavior is not any more acceptable. The host of the show does not even seem to be entertained by the viral clip but rather motivated by an increase in his own fame and wealth. I liked that a movie which is so widely recognized draws attention to the problematic entertainment industry and the viewers who encourage this. While celebrities and producers are imperfect like us, it is crucial that we do not follow the majority and stand for what is morally right. It angered me that no one in the audience or producing the show seemed to show any sort of concern for Arthur and his feelings. I can not imagine how it feels to be mocked by not only your role model but also millions of viewers. While it appears harmless, the movie makes it clear that this was detrimental to his mental health which was already suffering.
One of the largest takeaways I have from watching this film was the importance of consciously being empathetic of others. There is no way to tell what those around you are struggling with internally or what they have experienced. Arthur is consistently bullied and harassed by various people, unaware of his many struggles, and unconcerned with what they may be. Despite how your day has gone or how bad you may think you have it, there is always someone who is suffering more or just as much. It is crucial to always be kind to others, even those who you think you may know so well. Just one person in Arthur’s life had been kind to him, a coworker who he did not know well. Although their interactions were few and far in between, Arthur did not forget this kindness and appeared to be appreciative of him.
Mental health, government-provided services, mob-mentality, and the problematic entertainment industry are just a few of the important issues which The Joker brings awareness to. This progressive film makes a strong stance and sets an example for everyone watching. I applaud the creators for starting a conversation on issues that so desperately needed to be recognized. Whether you’re a fan of the Batman series or not, I strongly recommend seeing this film and experiencing it for yourself.
Featured Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/4/20899422/joker-movie-review-todd-phillips-joaquin-phoenix-incel-violence-dc-comics-batman
Senior at FSU.