Mental illness. Two words. These two words are shunned in our society. People who suffer from mental illness are treated like pariahs. Treated like less than human, People who have a mental illness often keep it hidden. Or if they don’t keep it hidden, people judge them. People with mental illness struggle not only with how society sees them, but also struggle to afford medications in a world that likes to turn a nose. In a world that likes to think that mental illness is a myth or an excuse. Mental illness is a taboo. Something no one wants to talk about. Something that no one wants to admit exists.
But it does exist.
It isn’t an excuse.
It isn’t a myth.
It isn’t taboo.
Mental illness is real. How society treats those with mental illness is real. As is how society treats the poor is very real. And in Todd Phillips’ Joker, we see this. There is no holding back. Joker is not a superhero movie, or even about a supervillain. It isn’t even really about only one man. It is about those who are different and are treated like crap by society. It is about those who don’t fit in perfect neat boxes, and how society throws them away like trash.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a man who has been kicked.
Whether that is literally when he’s attacked by teenagers or by young businessmen or when he tries and tries to be a member of society, and society doesn’t want him because he’s weird.
Arthur’s life has been one tragedy after another. He does everything he can to try and rise up, be better, do better, but no matter what he does, he fails. He loses his job. He loses his health insurance. Everyone turns their back on him. They laugh at him because of how he bursts into uncontrollable laughter at times due to a medical condition.
He finds out Thomas Wayne is his father….or isn’t. That lie unravels and he finds out that his mother suffered from a severe delusion. Arthur is a man who is looking for a place in society that he fits in but it seems like every time he tries to find that place, he’s yanked out like a wisdom tooth.
Gotham is a city that’s on fire. The rich are still powerful while the poor starve, swimming in the garbage that the rich leave. Thomas Wayne, who in the comics is shown to be a philanthropist and a for the people kind of guy, instead is shown to be a greedy rich man.
But, all of this is shown through Arthur’s eyes. His point of view. Arrhur is an unreliable narrator. As we figure out in the movie, he hallucinates things. So is this really Thomas Wayne? Or is this how Arthur, a poor man suffering from mental illness sees him? Is Arthur simply a reflection of how those who are poor see the rich? The people who stomp on us, who ignore us and say we are clowns when we try to fight for our lives. As we try and dig out of the trash that the rich created.
Like I said, this movie did not feel like a superhero movie. It felt like a PSA, or a social commentary on how the poor and those with mental illness are treated in our society. It felt like Todd Phillips was calling it out. He was pointing his finger and telling everyone that how we treat the poor, the homeless, the mentally unwell, anyone that is different, is wrong.
My favorite line from this movie is this:
“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society who abandons him and treats him like trash? –What you fucking deserve!”
Perhaps this movie is saying that we are all the clowns. We are all the Joker. Like when the people causing riots wear a clown mask.
Joker is still in theaters. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend that.
Enjoy this song from the soundtrack. (Which is amazing. Seriously. The score is amazing.)