Happy Thursday, folks!
So, if you are a fan of superheroes and villains just as much as I am, then 9/10 you saw the 2019 box office hit, “Joker,” that premiered on October 4, 2019. While the reviews were mixed, according to Google 92% of movie goers liked the flick, as it ultimately grossed over $1 billion USD.
We follow the movie’s main character, Arthur Fleck, as he transforms from a depressed and failed comedian, to a serial killer, as the movie hones in on various issues from poverty, loneliness and mental illness.
He can be both a protagonist or an antagonist, all depending on how you choose to view him throughout the film. I’ll get into this later, as I share my thoughts on how he is perfectly both at the same time.
This movie struck a cord with me for multiple reasons. As someone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder Type 1, Depression and Anxiety, I know what it is like to feel ostracized by society as they choose not to understand my experience. Furthermore, I know what it is like to be poor with very limited access to resources, which can make a mentally ill person’s life feel more bleak than it already is.
As I watched Arthur Fleck’s journey, it really made me reflect on my own. While my mother does not suffer from a mental illness as his did, mental illness does run on both sides of my family. This can be hard, because even though it is prevalent in my genetic background, it is still treated as a taboo topic and not discussed nearly enough. Often times, some family and friends will still attempt to gloss over my mental health struggles with suggestions to pray, get some rest and just “relax.” If only it were that simple.
Arthur went through the film demanding answers as to why he was the way he was, and this struck a cord with me the most. He sought answers from his mother, his father and his peers as well – though, the answers he received left him worse off than not knowing at all. Once discovering the truth, Arthur’s turn to a life of murder and crime seemed seamless; it was as if he had finally found himself and his happiness, and it gave the audience an eery feeling on what to think about that. Was he a bad guy, or just a lost soul that went unheard for too long? That question is a deep one – and the answer is entirely up to you.
Most relatable moment? When Arthur lost access to therapy and his mental health resources, I will admit, I cried. I bawled like a baby. Y’all don’t know how many times I have been in those shoes. From having my Medicaid cut off multiple times to losing jobs and ultimately losing healthcare access, I could relate in that moment. Up until this point in the film, Arthur was on the right track. He was trying. He was fighting. He was seeking help. Yet still, all his efforts proved to be in vain. And that, was something that I could understand more than anything.
Most enlightening aspect of the film? Arthur has dreams to become a comedian, though he worked as a clown. During the awkward scene in the comedy club as he struggles to crack a good joke, Arthur endures even more inner pain. I could relate, as an entrepreneur with dreams to become successful at something I love. Though, sometimes my own goals feel impossible to reach. You wonder if you will be mocked. Misunderstood. You wonder if everyone will hate you and your work. These things go through your mind. Yet, you keep on trying.
Best climax of the film? Arthur gets a phone call that is about to potentially change his life. Murray Franklin wants him on his talk show, and while Arthur has already been spiraling, he takes up the opportunity, as it gives him hope that his dream is finally coming true. Finally, Arthur will be seen. He feels wanted. Important. He feels like he matters, for once in his life.
However, things take a dark turn when Murray takes a second opportunity to mock Arthur’s comedy, and that’s where thing get bloody.
Before shooting Murray Franklin in the head on live TV, Arthur delivers the best line of the entire film that stayed with me long after the credits rolled: “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? You get what you (expletive) deserve!”
That was the climax for me.
Now, I, myself, wouldn’t have shot Murray in the head. However, I could definitely understand that entire statement and all the feelings attached to it. What DO you get when you have a mentally ill person crying and begging for help, yet no one will stop and listen?
Want to know the reality of that question?
Sometimes, you do get turned serial killers wrecking havoc in society, becoming the bad people that belong behind bars.
You do get the criminals that we are told to be afraid of and/or hate. That’s exactly what you get.
Arthur Fleck represents not only many real-life individuals on the brink of turning their sadness into dangerous rage, but he represents the average sad person just looking to be heard. He represents me and you.
I think this movie also shows the importance of taking heed to mental health issues as soon as possible. Rather than mocking someone for being different, sometimes, letting them be heard can make a world of a difference.
But until the entire world understands that,
we will just keep telling each other to –
“Put on a happy face…” 🤡
– R.K.B. 2020