In Defense of the Joker

I saw the Joker movie this week and guess what? I walked out with all my mental faculties in tacked! Almost like I just saw a movie and then got on with my life!

I realize that there are some people who need to stay away from certain forms of stimuli, because of past trauma or impressionability. I can think of more than one friend who would be negatively affected by the tragic, gritty, realistic depiction of mental illness in this film. This is not a film for everyone, and that’s okay.

This is a good movie. I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie on par with Psycho. but it’s a really good movie. Phoenix did a great job as a troubled man, and the whole cast and crew deserve a ton of praise for all their work.

Fair warning: minor movie spoilers and lots of talk about mental illness and child abuse coming up.

This is a story about what it would take for a man to become a killer clown. Arthur Fleck has some mental health problems, and even mentions that he’s been institutionalized before. Fleck is not a bad man, he is a broken man, a man caught in a trap. Working as a party clown he gets attacked on the subway one night. Arthur snaps and kills his attackers. Arthur feels a rush of excitement at having control over something in his life. He never wants to give it up.

When Thomas Wayne mentions in an interview that “These clowns don’t make anything of their lives.” We can’t help but side with Arthur a bit. Arthur is too mentally unstable to have a decent paying job, and the only loved one he has, his mother, is manipulating him. He really doesn’t have a way out of his circumstances.

While his exact issues are never directly stated, Arthur clearly has Pseudobulbar Affect. A side affect of neurological conditions that makes people burst into sudden, uncontrollable, fits of crying or laughing. This makes the Jokers laughing fits both unsettling and tragic.

Arthur eventually learns that his mother has been manipulating him his whole life. She’s delusional about Arthur’s father being a local celebrity. She even did jail time for child neglect and let her boyfriend abuse him. . . and she got little Arthur back!

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: No father could treat their kid like that and ever get custody again! Women get away with BS like this a lot in the real world “my boyfriend hit him, not me!” Bull*&!@. No father could get away with that excuse and I don’t think mothers should either!

I’ve worked in special education. I have seen kids who suffered from abuse and neglect (and I live in a small town, so what does that tell you?) I’ve have seen the kind of stuff people get away with and keep custody of their kids. Let me tell you: the reason public schools are going down hill in America is because schools have to spend their budgets on things like cloths, food and counseling so that these abused and neglected kids can build some semblance of a life for themselves.

My point is that there are people in the real world like Arthur Fleck. Ever hear of Ed Gien? Are psychotic killers the fault of bad families? Or the failure of society to take care of each other?

It’s always a mixture of factors, and I really like that the film doesn’t forget that. I like that his mother wasn’t this sweetly saint of a woman. She has issues of her own, and it becomes clear that she used her son as a pseudo-husband (There seams to be only one bedroom and one bed) even if there was no sexual abuse going on, it’s clear that she relied on him to be the “man of the house” which is linked it mental issues in adult life.

The film explores some political issues, without hitting you over the head with a message. They address the fact that Arthur can’t legally own a gun, but he can easily get his hands on one. They also address that he wasn’t violent until government cutbacks meant he lost access to his medication.

This is not really a Batman movie at all. This is more like a modern day Psycho. It’s a good Gothic, tragic fall kind of story.

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