‘Joker’ Isn’t Mainly About The Joker

It’s about Mental Health.

For two weeks, I’ve been bugged by friends to go see the new ‘Joker’ movie. When I finally relented and went to see it, I discovered a much different film than what I expected to find.

My initial thought was that maybe this was just another DC movie. Those movies didn’t fare all too well against Marvel’s MCU. The Justice League Movie was a failed attempt to copycat the vibe that Marvel’s Avengers movies provide for their fans (that’s just my opinion, don’t at me).

But Joker was different, and I LOVED it for that.

Before I go any further, let me just warn you of two things:

Still here? Don’t hold me responsible.

“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t” — Arthur

Arthur writes this sentence on his notebook pretty early on in the movie. I’ve seen many Mental Health advocates that write about how dangerous this is and that films like Joker can shape society’s view on patients with mental issues. I do agree to some extent that we do internalize beliefs from the media and movies we consume.

But, for the record, it is established pretty early on that this isn’t our time. This is 1981, where the internet wasn’t even made yet, and mental health wasn’t as known and treated as it is today. It’s the time when people had to fight for they believed because you couldn’t create a viral Facebook post or post on Twitter and reach hundreds of thousands of people.

At the core of our being, as much as we want to deny or cover it with Futurism and Technology, we all still have the old brain with the fight-or-flight initiative. And when you’re threatened with no way out — you will fight.

Fortunately for us, the 21st century has given us many means to inhibit the fight-or-flight mechanism. Social Media is just one of them. The others are Writing, VOD, Vlogging. Many things help you cope with seemingly difficult situations where all you want to do is punch something or go hide.

The Descent to violence by deteriorating mental health is not what I took from the movie. I don’t think a lot of people took that message that mental illnesses lead to violence.

I do think that what people did take from this movie is how much mental illness is mostly ignored by society. Not because they don’t want to include people with mental illness, but rather because they don’t know how to act and talk to such a person. ‘Could something I say trigger them?’ or maybe ‘Am I safe? Are they safe in my presence?

Let me tell you this: all people — mental illness or no — want to be loved.

In my five years of working at the pharmacy store, we once had a new worker come. She was about 50 years old, but her mind was the mind of an 8-year-old. She wanted to play and eat lunches together and ask awkward questions. I loved her.

Then one day, one of our customers called her retarded and asked why is she even here and not in a hospital after she failed to answer a question of his. My manager told him to leave the store and that she didn’t want to serve him. My ‘8-year-old’ friend cried and candidly asked why did he hate her?

We told her that there are some people in the world whose ability to listen and understand other people is limited and that the customer was one of them.

When Arthur stops taking his medications and suffocates his own mother in the hospital room, that’s when we know that he doesn’t care anymore if people understand him or not. He found a venue to let them see him. That’s what he wanted all along — to be heard.

When he shoots the TV show host in the head, and everyone is panicking — that’s what he wanted all along — to be seen.

Let the takeaway from this movie be that we should include our friends with mental health issues more — not less. We should talk to them, hug them, let them know they’re a part of our world.

Joker is a pretty messed up movie about a supervillain in a comic — but it is also about a man who initially just wanted to be heard and seen.

“For my whole life, I didn’t know if I even really existed. But I do, and people are starting to notice.” — Arthur

Written by

Engineer, Dragon lover, and Blogger. He/Him. @theorencohen on Social Media. Visit my home: https://thegeekwriter.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store