*Warning: Spoilers ahead.*
My favorite line from Joker was shown in Arthur Fleck’s notebook:
“The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
This movie tried to be the perfect mix between bringing awareness to mental illness without condoning violence. This stigma that mental health issues cause acts of violence is far from what should be taken from seeing Joker, yet, is hard to steer away from. Arthur Fleck’s crimes are in no way justified by the way he was treated. His first crime crossed the line between self-defense and murder and spiraled into a homicide spree. Yet, usually, the audience is left feeling bad for him. But why?
We all have things to learn when it comes to different types of mental illness and generally how to treat others. But the message behind this movie isn’t at all to relate people who suffer from mental illnesses with violence. Instead, it aims to shed light on the everyday struggles of someone suffering and how, as a society, we can be better.
Prior to watching this movie, I always thought of myself as someone who was open-minded and was generally kind to the people around me. But after, I realized I need to take a step back and put myself in others’ shoes more often.
Just as the Joker told Murray, people like you and I don’t know and don’t care what it’s like to be “that” guy. If something doesn’t affect us, we don’t think twice about it. “If it was [someone like Arthur Fleck] dying in the street, we would walk right by.”
Because…what does it matter?
While watching Joker, I kept putting myself in the shoes of the people who hurt Arthur. Would I have done something like that? Would I have hurt someone in such a manner? Have I hurt someone — suffering so deeply — in the past?
All of this had me thinking. Yeah, Arthur made some really poor decisions. But was it his fault? Was it his fault that the government cut his funding and he was unable to have access to his medications? Was it his fault that the people around him constantly beat him up both literally and mentally? Was it his fault that he had a mental illness? When his social worker told Arthur that they don’t give a shit about people like him, she wasn’t exaggerating. They really don’t and has anything changed?
I would like to believe that it has. But individually, everyone needs to make a change. We can’t blame the system when we haven’t made a change inside of ourselves. We always hear people preaching about being kind to others online but do they truly do it?
In everyday life, walking past so many different faces, seeing our classmates, do we realize that there are people all around us internally fighting battles that we know nothing about? Because online, it’s easy to say we do. It’s easy to think we don’t judge others and that we are all kind and patient. But the harsh reality is that we aren’t. We aren’t.