I am sure many of you must have seen the JOKER an American psychological thriller film released in 2019. Do you remember Arthur Fleck? The Joker, who wears two masks, one for his job as a clown, and later to conceal his image in the world around him.
In this movie, Arthur Fleck wanted what the majority of people want. Love, care, respect, good mental health care, and being treated nicely and equally.
What did he get in reality? Society bullies him, excludes him, makes fun of him, and brings him to the point where he crosses the line. We all have demons inside and there is a very thin line, if that is triggered on a unilateral level, might do grave damage.
How Did Society fail Arthur Fleck?
What amused me while watching the movie is that when a heinous crime is committed by an individual, we quickly sum it up as it being nothing more than the result of that individual being a psychopath or a mental retard.
Maybe it is a societal coping mechanism; a safeguard or a way for us to separate ourselves from them, and into a different, normalized category, that whatever caused that individual to commit such a heinous crime was the result of a one-off, chemical imbalance of inhuman proportions. But it isn’t true.
Did Arthur Fleck have mental problems? Yes. But having mental problems is a normal part of being human and therefore not synonymous with being innately crazy. How many of us suffer from anxiety or bipolar disorders, or depression or ADHD, etc.? How many of us get timely treatment or even approach for getting treated?
How many of us are guilty of taking out our or literally exploded because of our anxiety issues and our anxiousness on our loved ones? Gone to the level of self-harm? Had a series of negative, brutal thoughts? But people learn to suppress it and wear a mask, just like this joker. A mask that preserves their real identity because once it is pushed beyond a level the bruises will turn into a deep wound that won’t heal easily rather will have a lot of repercussions unaltered.
How Society Saw Arthur Fleck if ever they saw him
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) was an amateur stand-up comedian and a professional clown. He loses access to his therapist, he loses his job as a clown causing him to succumb to madness, killing his deceitful mother, a mother who gave him a terrible upbringing, all this and a lot more provokes him to take the identity of The Joker.
He suffered from a disorder that causes him to laugh unceasingly at the most inopportune times, it occurred mainly when he is nervous. Combine this with a haunted past, a horrible home life, a failed career (purpose), being publicly ridiculed for pursuing his dream, rejection, the denial of sorely needed medical treatment, and getting the shit kicked out of him in an utter state of helplessness and humiliation, twice, all taking place over the course of a few days, it ends up being enough to drive him completely over the edge.
So, was it psychopathy or sociopathy that drove Arthur to embrace this persona of a criminal towards the end when he deliberately starts shooting people without giving any effs? or was it the state of society that was the deep-rooted cause?
As a society, we are often accountable for a person under such severe and critical situations, instead of isolating them, abandoning them, we can include them and give them a safe space to prevent tragedies to some extent. In the movie, what Joker does holds society accountable to a large extent, just because we are blessed with a capable mind and comfortable surrounding, we can’t simply dismiss people with certain disabilities as being crazy when it’s the very condition of the world that we have built that drives them to do the things that they do, not a chemical imbalance.
Therefore, before anything else, Joker is a critique of society— on all of us. It forces us to take a look at the consequences of our actions; All of the times we laugh at the misfortune of others, or “walkover” someone lying in the street, or define others by their perceived mental illnesses instead of defining them as fellow human beings with feelings and perceptions.
The Joker isn’t a psychopath or sociopath, he is a very unfortunate victim of the state of our society who had a very, very rough phase going on in his life. And sometimes, that’s all it takes. All we need to do is to look beyond those distorted filters we have put to see the world.
In the movie, he tried to find work, tries to pursue his passion i.e comedy, looks after her mother, goes in the search for his identity but people around him make it all so difficult for him.
I am not justifying his criminal acts but I am trying to make a point here that everything together drove him to the edge, where he completely lost it as he had nothing, sheer nothing to lose when he completely lost himself. These things don’t just happen suddenly, it has been building and simmering for a long time and it’s just that when we fail to pay attention, it goes out of our hands.
So if this is the way we see people with mental illnesses, some disorders, we need to change our optics, we need to refine them, rate re-define them. Come out with a better view, normalizing mental illnesses just like any other physical illness, making it accessible to everyone who is facing some mental disturbance.
Some people choose to kill themselves, some kill others, but what brings them to this point, needs a call for deep reflection. This is entirely a fictional story but we have witnessed many incidents which have left us pondering over the aftermath.
To conclude, I would say that we as a society if really want to bring about some change, then we need to redevelop the filters we use to see the world, it will at least stop the spread of hatred and help in smashing the stigmas surrounding mental illness.
Love and light!
Priyanka Nair is the author of 26 Days 26 Ways for a Happier you and Ardhaviram. An NLP practitioner and Founder of Sanity Daily, helping you prioritize your mental health. Let’s build a happy community.