Joker Sparks Discussion on Mental Health and Violence 

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Joker Sparks Discussion on Mental Health and Violence 

Photo courtesy of Joker Movie Instagram account

Photo courtesy of Joker Movie Instagram account

Photo courtesy of Joker Movie Instagram account

Caitlin Richards, Editor-in-Chief

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Joker was released on Oct. 4, breaking box office records and has already received positive responses from movie critics, but is also stirring up conversations and receiving divisive reviews because of the way Joker portrays violence and mental health with a dark tone. 

Joker takes a deeper look into mental health as it is categorized as more of a psychological thriller instead of just a suspense thriller, such as other horror movies that were recently released. Because of Joker having disturbing and violent content, the movie is R-rated making it the first live-action Batman film to receive an R-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.

William Peace University Alumnus, Jacob Ennis, went to see Joker the night it premiered at the Brier Creek movie theater.  

“I thought the movie was well done,” said Ennis. “It captured the transition to the iconic villain in a very honest way, and shed light on the underlying illness that the Joker character suffered from.” 

Video games have been the focus of conversations highlighting violence and if shootings are increased due to more violent video games. With Joker being a violent movie, some are worried the movie may spark more shootings.

“I don’t think the movie will cause any more shootings than what will already occur. The movie is intense at times when you see just how unwell the Joker is as a character, but I think there was more of a feeling of condemnation when the Joker began to retaliate with violence rather than a feeling of praise,” said Ennis. 

As Joker is showing, security is ramped up at certain movie theaters across the country as precaution after the 2012 mass shooting occurred at a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Because of the 2012 shooting, that movie theater has chosen to not show Joker. 

“Having extra security present in the theater felt almost unwarranted,” said Ennis. “The extra security added an extra layer of uneasiness to the entire movie viewing experience simply because I don’t think that the movie itself required such a presence.” 

In recent years, mental health illnesses have been talked about more, as there have been an increase in shootings, suicides, and depression across the U.S. 

According to Mental Health America, “Youth mental health is worsening. From 2012 to 2017, the prevalence of past-year Major Depressive Episode (MDE) increased from 8.66 percent to 13.01 percent of youth ages 12-17. Now over two million youth have MDE with severe impairment.”

Joker has already struck conversations about the meaning behind the movie. Without giving too many spoilers away, the movie takes place in Gotham City in the 1980s in the midst of crime, unemployment, and poverty. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), has a mental health illness and gets beat up and bullied. 

Arthur has trouble fitting in because of his uncontrollable laughter, which is part of his mental illness. He goes off of his medication, and his social worker that he sees for his medication and illness stops working with him due to lack of funds. Arthur decides to give his all to be a stand-up comedian. 

Arthur lives with his ailing mother, Penny (Frances Conroy) and they watch a talk show with host Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro). Arthur has fantasies of winning audiences and getting Murray’s attention by making them believe that he takes care of his mother.  

When his stand-up comedian journey fails, he becomes violent and is a harm to the public. He is seen as the victim in the movie, diving into why a broken man became broken in the world around him. Arthur becomes violent, trying to escape his reality and blames the way he’s behaving on his living situation, trauma, and illness. 

Joker may have been “predictable” to some, but Joaquin Phoenix was praised by viewers for his performance of Arthur Fleck, also known as the Joker, and the way he portrays mental health as it continues to rise. 

 

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