Few films in the past five years have divided critical and audience opinion to the extent of ‘Joker’. Comments on the film have ranged from “It laughs at disability” through to “It is a dangerous exploration of mental health”. However, the truth is ‘Joker’ opens an uncomfortable door into societies views on criminality, isolation and mental health. A door that society has struggled to negotiate for generations; but deserves exploration.
In a world where our concept of good and evil is starkly defined. We often find it easier to believe in the concept that some people are inherently good and others pure evil. With this in mind our society rarely allows for the grey areas that exist between both. In other words the reality that we live in a world where good people can do bad things, and bad people can be product of the society they live in. In effect these grey area’s challenge our more comfortable perceptions. Uncomfortably asking us all to explore our own role in creating the good and bad of the world we live in.
Joker is controversial and divisive due to its bravery in opening these very doors we keep shut. Examining how a man can descend into darkness due to the social constructs surrounding him. How alienation can lead to belonging in the most dangerous of areas. And how society can choose to ignore and ridicule those who don’t fit its model of perfection.
There are challenging themes of mental health wrapped into ‘Joker’, but we live in a society where untreated mental health conditions can and sometimes do lead to crime. Equally there are challenging themes of social isolation and victimisation in its narrative. But once again, we live in society full of people who suffer victimisation and isolation daily. People who do not fit the narrow social constructs of what society deems as ‘normal’.
If Joker makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s supposed to. If it makes you feel empathy for the Arthur, it’s supposed to. And finally if it challenges your views on the black and white nature of good versus evil, it’s supposed to.
Director: Todd Phillips