Oct 17 by Nazer Nazer
The Joker has been one of the most debated and discussed characters in comic history. There have been multiple origins of the Joker and his true identity has always been a mystery. ever since the character's debut in 1940 there has been a growing debate amongst fans: Is he Mentally Ill or just Batcrap Crazy?
Todd Phillips' Joker (2019) is the latest in the Joker incarnations and it attempts to show the origins of the Joker in a controversial way. In the film the Joker is Arthur Fleck, a failed comic loses his mind slowly and eventually turns into the crown prince of crime.
Analysis of Visuals & Scene
An interesting aspect of this movie is the use of visual story telling. Throughout the movie you see Arthur going up to his home, slowly, each time as a symbolic representation of the erratic build up of tension in his mind and only at the point of madness do you see him going down.
There are moments in the movie designed to confuse and baffle audiences by making them question reality, by constantly wondering if the images they are seeing are real or just delusions in the mind of Arthur. For someone like myself who has struggled with sorting out memories, this was an incredible experience, because this was the first time I could point to a movie and tell people, this is how I feel, and this is why its hard for me to trust my own memories.
The Descent Into Mental Illness
The way Joker becomes the Joker is incredibly slow, and shows that he is the result of a world that had failed him. You see Joker slowly questioning reality little by little and you watch him constantly struggling, lying to himself,and trying to keep himself smiling. The point of breakdown is so intense, it makes audiences not only relate but even to some degree support the Joker's actions.
Nature VS Nurture for The Joker Character
One of the biggest issues brought up by this movie, is the question of “what is good and evil”. The world has grown to a point where we are constantly questioning who the bad guy is. We are no longer in the world of Black and White, and we are not even still in a world that's in shades of Grey but rather have shifted in paradigm to a world that is in a rainbow spectrum of colours.
Could we blame and criminalize a man who was pushed into his actions by the world? A lot of people have at one time or another contemplated going to the dark side, and have been stopped by our compass of morality and the societal standards for ethics.
Now imagine losing that part of yourself that stops you from falling deep into insanity.
Would you still be on the side of good?
Arthur was a good man who's mental illness and an intolerant society (that did not understand him) pushed him into becoming the Clown Prince of Crime.
This brings up the debate. Where would we draw the line? if someone is born “evil” so to speak, Do we just wash our hands with them?
Do we still want to live in a world where we expect people with mental illness to behave as if they don't, just so we can have some level of understanding in the world, for our own comfort?
How do we differentiate those who are evil due to mental issues and those who with full mental capabilities, choose to be evil due to their upbringing?
Perhaps if people were more aware of mental illness, and didn't stigmatize it, but rather tried to support and medicate these people and help them cope with their inner demons, maybe there wouldn't be a need for an Arkham Asylum (for the criminally Insane), and we could just have Belle Reve (Prison).
Super-Sanity VS In-Sanity
There have been two big theories when it comes to the Joker's state of mind.
One is Insanity : where the Joker has simply lost his mind and has become lost in his own madness.
The other is a more complex concept of Super-Sanity : this concept claims that the Joker is far Saner than any other humans, and he could see the world as a whole, and is aware that the death of a life would have no impact on the world as a whole, and time would continue to move forward.
The latter concept (super-sanity) also states that the Joker is aware that he is in a comic book. Todd Phillips' Joker manages to run a line right in-between both these concepts.
Even though you notice Arthur's mind deteriorating, you also notice him finally becoming sane and in control of himself when he gives into his insanity.
In a lot of moments, the Joker is seen dancing to non-diegetic sound (background music).
Now if this was not a movie, the personality of Joker could easily have been seen as insane, but his movements are always in tune with the music played in the background. This brings into question, is the Joker AWARE of the music? The most incredible part of this concept is how it relates to people with actual Mental Health issues such as myself, where we are constantly wondering if the inner monologues we hear are the true world and if what we experience through our sense are nothing more than false perceptions created by our brain trying to interpret a world of electrical signals.
Conclusion : Final Review
I cannot in anyway state that this version of the Joker is the best, or even state that the movie is good, that is dependent on each persons individual taste. That being said, This version of the Joker has been the most relatable for a lot of people including myself, who have struggled with mental illness.
It gives a feeling of representation to those who have had a hard time feeling like they belong in a world that doesn't understand them. Granted, to some degree this a point of reductio ad absurdum (exaggerated to the point of obscurity), but then again, maybe it isn't. If pushed to the extreams the Joker was, given the amount of information and understanding available to him, perhaps the birth of the Joker is not that far-fetched.
I cannot guarantee you would like this movie, but I HIGHLY recommend watching it, even if it is just so you can get a better understanding of people struggling with mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia, and learning to be kind and more understanding to those people. This movie very cleverly gives a glimpse into the mind of the mentally-ill using perfectly placed cuts and edits. Its an experience I would ask everyone who is not struggling with these issues to experience.
And for those who are struggling with this, I recommend watching it with trusted friends because it is incredibly Triggering, and I almost had to walk out multiple times (but was too captivated by the story to do so) and having my closest friends there helped me cope a lot.
This is Nazer Nazer, saying SMILE