“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.

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Faizah Cyanide

Faizah works in clin­ic­al research by pro­fes­sion and has been an avid Hip Hop lov­er since the early 90’s, hav­ing cre­ated her own Hip Hop event, ‘Breakin’ Bound­ar­ies’ in the early 2000’s which was pre­dom­in­antly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al events pro­moters and dan­cers to inspire oth­ers through this artform.

About Faizah Cyanide

Faizah works in clinical research by profession and has been an avid Hip Hop lover since the early 90's, having created her own Hip Hop event, 'Breakin' Boundaries' in the early 2000's which was predominantly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with several international events promoters and dancers to inspire others through this artform.