Movie poster from Joker movie with Joker outside leaning back with arms spread wide

“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society who abandons him and treats him like trash?” asks Joker. Directed by Todd Philips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Joker was a sweaty and melancholy telling of how Batman’s most iconic nemesis came to be. We’re not here for spoilers though, although I strongly recommend the reader to go and find the punchline of this joke. Too often in reality we see mentally ill loners being abandoned and treated like trash.

People suffering from mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than they are to perpetrate violent crimes, “Severe mental illness is also more prevalent among homeless people than in the general population”  (Greg A. Greenberg Ph.D.Robert A. Rosenheck M.D., 2008). In “Joker” not only do we see violence agaisnt the mentally ill, we also see workplace discrimination, and social ostricization; “The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” reads a page of Joker’s diary. Imagine living in a world in which everyone expected you to act out of character. How long could you play the role expected of you? How long until you behave like yourself? Could you withstand being insulted, beaten, and fired for the way you naturally cope with stressful situations? For me it’s biting my fingernails. For Joker, it’s uncontrollable, blood curdling laughter.

In an era plaugued by terrorism en mass as well as singly, we can’t afford to continue treating people suffering from mental illness like trash. Mental illness is just one piece of the puzzle that Joker puts together for the audience. The film creates an eerie, almost grimy feeling of loneliness for the viewer. Being alone is an innate human fear, like a child in the dark, an adult left isolated for a long enough period of time will become increasingly feral. Only after the Joker's cries for help go unheard time after time does he finally snap.

If this movie has any impact on you as a viewer I hope it encourages you to appreciate that others may be suffering in debilitating ways that you can’t see. We all struggle internally at times, and if we could give others the benefit of the doubt, without stigmatizing, or disrespecting another’s struggle