The Film Blurs The Line Between Truth And Reality Which Confuses The Message
Donald L. Diefenbach, professor of mass communications at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, who has written extensively about perceptions of mental illness in popular culture, says he was heartened to see a “deep and thoughtful” character study with Fleck as the initially sympathetic protagonist. But the message is complicated by a sense of unreality through “Joker.”
Key points in the film are clearly part of Fleck’s delusions, such as his first meeting with his hero, talk show host Murray Franklin , who praises Fleck for taking care of his mother. Likewise, whole scenes of violence against Fleck’s perceived enemies might be part of his imagination. The ending even suggests that much of the movie could have been imagined by Fleck.
“I dont even know what in this film actually happened. How much is it real, or in Arthur’s thoughts having a fantasy?” Diefenbach asks. “A lot of this is messing with us. Arthur doesnt know the difference between truth and reality, so you as the filmgoer dont know either.”
As a result, it’s “hard to judge” how people are taking the overall message, Diefenbach says, “Because I dont know if everyone is receiving this film the way I was.”
Joker Described Chronic Depression
Arthur Fleck described chronic depression, saying things like, All I have are negative thoughts, and The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
Chronic, ongoing depression is sometimes called dysthymia. Depression is characterized by low interest, poor sleep, sometimes irrational guilt, low energy, poor concentration, increased or decreased appetite, and suicidal thoughts. Sometimes I have seen chronic and difficult to treat depression in people with chronic trauma, borderline personality disorder or a history of a traumatic brain injury. We know he did have a TBI and childhood and subsequent trauma, which along with his dynamics with his mother led to chronic depression. However depressed patients are not more violent than the general population.
Diagnosing Joker’s Mental Conditions
Although Arthur’s disease remains unspecified throughout the film, we can make some conclusions if we take a look at Joker’s symptoms and mental condition throughout the film. During the therapy sessions, Arthur describes his complaints as loneliness, isolation and constant negative thoughts. An entry in his notebook states that the worst part of having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t. We know that the character attends therapy sessions for a long time and that he is prescribed several psychotropic medications. He even had sufficient insight to say, I need my medication to be increased. Unfortunately, we have very little information on his family history since he was abandoned as a child. His foster mother has delusional disorder and probably a personality disorder and she underwent in-patient therapy. Arthur was brought up by a foster mother and did not have a father figure. The foster mother herself describes him growing up as a fun and kind boy, but later he was abused and beaten by his adoptive parents and even had a severe head injury. Thus, we can find a number of risk factors for mental disorders in our fictional patient’s case history.
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As A Psychiatrist I Was Blown Away By The Latest Joker
Like many others, I recently went to watch Joker aware of the controversy surrounding the film:is it an irresponsible portrayal of mental illness likely to incite copycat violence, or a cinematic masterpiece and powerful political statement?
Being a psychiatrist, I abhor negative depictions of the mentally ill but as an ardent Batman fan I was hopeful. As it happens, I was blown away. Joaquin Phoenixs towering performance and Todd Phillips masterful direction undoubtedly helped, but mostly it was the way it approached mental illness.
Joaquin Phoenix plays the eponymous character in Todd Phillips’ Joker.
The film poses an important question vocalised in no uncertain terms by the Joker at its climax. “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 f—in deserve,” he proclaims as he murders the talk show host before him.
Although this response and the violence in the scene are vicious, it is a stark metaphor for the disastrous consequences that can arise if we do not give mental illness the importance it deserves.
Dr Kamran Ahmed is a psychiatrist.
What It Got Wrong:
Mental Illness Inherently Leads to Violence
Arthurs character is already violent, but his violence is exacerbated when he stops taking his medication, implying that mentally ill people are inherently violent. Studies show that people with severe mental illnesses are in fact more vulnerable to violence from others than the general population – people with severe mental illnesses are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 3% to 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with severe mental illnesses.
Dr. Amanda Mark elaborated on the fact, saying that being mentally ill does not make you more violent – it is due to the current situation and prior circumstances of a person, such as the abuse theyve faced and the bad luck theyve had, which causes them to be violent.
Pozios, a critic of the film, said “It’s like went on his killing spree because he is ‘crazy,’ that’s the conclusion audiences come to, which is unfortunate. It reinforces perceptions people might have which are way overblown.”
Vagueness of His Disorder
Many psychologists have different interpretations of the Jokers mental illness in the movie, but one conclusion many have come to is that his psychiatric illness was used as a mere plot device.
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How Did Jokers Childhood Trauma Influence His Behavior
He experienced childhood trauma and then continued trauma in how he was treated throughout his life.
He continued to have an odd relationship with his motherone example was him giving her a bath, another was coauthoring her narratives . Early on as a young child, he clearly sided with his aggressor , while she neglected him and let others abuse him. Instead of being angry, he found it more adaptive to align with her, nurture her, and be her caretaker. His anger, resentment, and unhappiness was deep inside him. When trauma occurs at a young age, it often is not represented in the mind as a narrative, or something that is remembered like one thing leading to another. In his conversion his anger turned from being inward against himself, showing up as depression, to being outward to the point of a murderous rage when he kills his mother.
What It Does Well:
Devra Gordon, a Northern Virginia social worker, said that Joker takes an honest look at the daily life of a person struggling with mental illness, and the breakdown of social support for those who desperately need it.
“It depict how one day you have a program, and the next day you dont. Thats accurate. And you see how that impacts the people you serve. Its enormously frustrating. Were dealing with peoples lives.”
In addition, Dr. Amanda Mark, a clinical psychologist, stated that throughout the movie, it was readily apparent that Arthur was overwhelmed due to his complex medical history and the increasing demands made of him. Running alongside this, he had next-to-no support system, and what little access he had to resources quickly diminished. This demonstrates the hurdles that people with mental illnesses have to go through daily as well as the unknowing cruelty and insensitivity the public enacts on them. This point is also backed up by Psychologist Roblyn P. Lewter.
Lastly, it showed the impact childhood trauma could have on a persons mental health, with the movie emphasising that the environment and the experiences Arthur went through were the reasons he grew up to be who he is.
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From Flawed Man To Cartoon Supervillain
In conclusion, it would be worthwhile to recall an episode from the film. When Arthur’s diatribe is booed on the Murray Franklin Show, he tells the audience that humour is subjective. Likewise, any considered response to divergent interpretations of Arthur Fleck’s diagnosis forces specialists to acknowledge their own subjectivity.
What Types Of Psychiatric Issues Did Joker Have Or Not Have
The movie did a good job of not putting his violent acts as a consequence of his psychiatric influences. Often movies or politicians make the mistake of depicting the psychiatric issues as the thing that leads to great violence. Only 5% of violent events in the US occur from someone with mental illness .People who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than people who do violent acts.
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Diagnosing An Iconic Comic Villain
The Joker is an iconic villain and arch-rival of Batman in DC Comics. In recent years he has been brilliantly portrayed on the big screen by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and most recently by Joaquin Phoenix in the film Joker. Because the Joker is perhaps the most high profile, enigmatic and beloved comic villain of all time I find it interesting to consider his possible criminal motivations and the pathologies of his mental state.
When discussing the Joker character, authors, critics, comic fans, and the general public often refer to him as a psychopath. As a criminologist who studies mental disorders, I would say that whether or not the Joker really is a psychopath depends upon which of the two memorable film depictions of him mentioned above you are watching.
In The Dark Knight, the Joker is a loner, glib, unemotional and very violent. These behavioral traits are very consistent with psychopathy. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , released by the APA in 2013, lists psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders . The APA estimates that approximately 1 percent of U.S. adults are psychopaths.
At one point in The Dark Knight, the Joker asks, Do I really look like a guy with a plan? In fact, the Joker did have a well-developed plan in the film but ironically it was to create societal disruption and chaos for his own amusement.
Did Joker Have Had Schizophrenia Or Schizoaffective Disorder
Usually in schizophrenia, the most common auditory hallucinations are things that are derogatory and insulting, but he seemed to have more positive fantasies or delusions with hallucinations that show his desires for power and connection. People with schizophrenia in a psychotic place hear things like you are stupid or you are gay. Patients also sometimes believe they are someone powerful, either the devil, Mary , or Jesus. These delusions protect themself from the sobering reality of being homeless.
It is hard to know where reality existed in this film. What is known is that he was on medications, and that at some point, the funding ran out and he was therefore forced to stop his medications. It is tragic that the people who most need help often dont have the resources to get them.
Finally, patients with schizophrenia are often more the victim of violence rather than the perpetrators of violence.
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My Reflections On The Movie
As a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and someone who cares about suffering people, during the movie I felt a mix of nausea, disgust, sorrow and pleasure. Afterwards, I had a headache, but in the best way possible. Maybe this paper is to help me better understand this movie, with the dark lighting, grim ambience, filthy apartments with no skyline, and unsettling music. It left me feeling unsettled, angsty, and maybe, if you are reading this, you have some similar emotive responses leading to your curiosity about his diagnosis.
A friend told me, If a movie makes you feel something, good or bad, its done its job. Its not about whether you like it or not, its about if it worked to make you suspend disbelief that that person or those people were actually going through that thing. And Joaquin Phoenixs Joker did that. He was incredible. Maybe the complexity of the story and the things I will discuss here are in part the reason it is the top profitable comic book movie of all time.
He Had A Clear History Of A Traumatic Brain Injury
Arthur carried a card with him to inform those around him of his pseudobulbar affect, which mentioned that he had a history of TBI. Arthur Fleck seemed initially to have an almost childlike intelligence, disorganized life, and a below average IQ. He used simple language. His sketchbook seemed chaotic and also childlike. Traumatic brain injuries can leave someone with increased depression, anger, loss of cognitive function, and also pseudobulbar affect, so it is likely his traumatic brain injury continued to influence his psychological state.
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Plot Twist: Is Joker Harmingor Helpingmental Illness Stereotypes
Movies are designed to reel the audience in and offer an escape from reality for a couple of hours. They give a glimpse into the mind of the characters onscreen. Movies also allow viewers to reflect on their own feelings and experiences. When a movie evokes current events, it can provoke emotions and reactions ranging from glee to anxiety.
Joker is one such film.
It is one of the most talked-about movies of the past year. Joaquin Phoenix earned the Best Actor nod at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, and the movie received 11 Oscar nominations, with 2 wins.
However, a debate among mental health advocates has erupted. Is Joker harmfulor helpfulto mental health conversations?
Here Are Two Examples Of Mental Disorders The Joker Does Not Have
- Schizophrenia, a severe mental illness that sees individuals experience thought disorder where they are not able to think clearly or logically, delusions where they believe things that aren’t true, and negative symptoms like not having the motivation to engage in anything productive. “Clearly, the Joker does not fit this mold,” Cohen said. “He is a very lucid thinker, can pull off incredibly complicated, well-orchestrated villainy, is highly motivated, and is able to interact with others at a very high level . In addition, he shows no evidence of delusional thinking at all.”
- Bipolar disorder, which is a condition characterized by “manic” and “depressive” episodes. When manic, someone with bipolar disorder will be incredibly energetic and impulsive, speak quickly, and excessively engage in behaviors like having sex and spending huge sums of money. “In contrast, the Joker shows excellent self-control,” said Cohen. “He can be swift when he needs to be but he can also control his behavior and ‘act’ whatever parts suits him. That is not at all consistent with bipolar disorder.”
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Is Joaquin Phoenix Left Handed
Joaquin Phoenix is not left handed. For those of us who have seen the recent Joker movie, this answer may leave you a bit confused. Suffice it to say that Joaquin Phoenix is an amazing actor, even when it comes to what hand he uses to write. Joaquin Phoenix does in fact use his left hand in the movie Joker.
Arthur’s Daily Struggle Is Accurate And Powerful Experts Say
One strong positive cited by experts: “Joker” takes an honest look at the daily life of a person struggling with mental illness and the breakdown of social support for those who desperately need it especially that pivotal scene with the social worker trying to help Arthur.
“It depicted how one day you have a program, and the next day you dont. Thats accurate. And you see how that impacts the people you serve,” says northern Virginia social worker Devra Gordon. “Its enormously frustrating. Were dealing with peoples lives.”
Gordon was blown away by Phoenix’s “phenomenal” performance, nuanced right down to his fingernails, which were anxiously chewed to the nub a symptom she sees in those with mental illness. She was heartened to have a mass audience experience this world.
“People who have mental health issues are suffering, and we dont do well as a society where people are suffering,” Gordon says.
Psychologist Roblyn P. Lewter at Virginia’s Stratford University says “Joker” provides a powerful view into the “daily struggle for so many people with mental illness to conduct ‘regular’ lives, and how knowingly and unknowingly cruel and insensitive the general public can be. That tends to only exacerbate their mental health symptoms.”
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Mental Health In Joaquin Phoenixs Joker
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Even Labeling Him A Psychopath May Be Reductive
Psychopathy isn’t an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, but basically falls under the criteria for antisocial personality disorder.
Like many personality traits, psychopathy is a spectrum. About 1-2% of men and 0.3-0.7% of women in the general population are estimated to be true psychopaths, but for the rest of us, we fall on the scale somewhere lower down.
It’s associated with charm, manipulation, callousness and the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong but having little care for the rules in practice. In short, a psychopath has no empathy for other people and acts on their impulses and calculated decisions for their own advancement alone.
Read more: The main differences between male and female psychopathsPsychopathy is sometimes mistaken as a person being “criminally insane,” Cohen said. Hannibal Lecter, for instance, was kept in a mental facility under the watch of a psychiatrist.
“But really, when a person is a psychopath, they are not mentally ill, except in a philosophical sense,” he added.
“What I mean is that philosophically, we can argue that a person who deliberately disregards morality is acting in a manner that is ‘insane,’ that the behavior is totally contrary to all that most humans believe and the rules that make society work. But from a psychiatric perspective, these people do not have a disease. The psychopathy is a personality trait.”
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