“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
I watched ‘Joker’ during mental health awareness week, and I was blown away. As films go this was a piece of art at its finest. It was thought provoking and much much was left open to interpretation, everyone watching this will take from it something different based on their personal life experiences. It was raw, bold and not for everyone but something everyone is affected by.
Against a very iconic 1970’s Gotham City (that New York feel), I loved the little things like seeing the graffiti on the subway! We also see news about rat infestations which have plagued New York for a while. The scene is set perfectly.
The main protagonist – Arthur Fleck played by Joaquin Phoenix (who asks to be referred to as ‘Joker’ later on) is a loner, struggling in his day job as a clown and stand-up comedian by night. He is bullied and left feeling isolated from society. His story is a very insightful look into the forgotten class and exploration of socioeconomic divides, and I think this is the reason which has made many people feel uncomfortable about the film.
This film has received a very polarizing response for its violence and take on mental illness. Many labelling it insensitive in light of ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks which have taken place. Whilst these have been tragedies, personally I do not see the connection with this film. I feel it is an important time to look into the root causes of mental illness and this film does a very good job of exploring that through the isolation of people with the media being a contributing factor. Coming from a refreshing angle – not one of race the message should have mass appeal to any groups who feel they have been neglected by society, this makes it powerful.
I think it’s a very real reflection of American society where healthcare comes at a price not everyone can afford. Mental Illness often doesn’t get treated (as we saw funding cuts in the film). This can lead to further alienation from society and its constructs. Arthur also develops a strong dislike for Thomas Wayne who doesn’t help his dying mother in poverty after she had spent many years working for the Wayne’s.
Today social media has a heavy influence on our lives, and it was interesting to see the use of media in Joker. At first Arthur was a fan of a cheesy talk show host Murray Franklin played by Robert De Niro. He then realised, he had become manipulated and turned into its laughing stock for ratings. This realisation caused him to regain control of the situation by killing Murray live on air which is what sparked mass movements. I felt this was a symbol for the up rise of the underdog in society to pull against the mass media for social justice and exposure of the truth. It was unclear if this happened or was just a hallucination, perhaps something often imagined by those neglected by the more well off in society.
A dark and gritty film, but a beautiful reflection of reality.