joker It was the movie that saved 2019 from being just another year in cinema. The film is directed by Todd Phillips, and stars Joaquin Phoenix (who plays Arthur Fleck) in a stunning performance that won an Oscar for Best Performance in a Leading Role. It is based on the popular DC fictional character, the Joker, which has been adapted numerous times in comic books, TV shows, and movies. Phillips’ adaptation of this character is very special and takes a very different tack in portraying DC’s most iconic anti-hero.
Thanks to this particular incarnation, the viewer gets a closer look inside the Joker’s psychological workings. They meet his psychiatrist and social circle and how he fits into it, his career and romantic aspirations, right down to the family dynamics that could have shaped the iconic phenomenon the Joker has become. This is a movie where the hero (usually Batman) is unburdened by the hero trying to thwart his own actions. It’s a movie in which we see more internal conflict than external, more psychology than action, and more surprises than we expected.
The ending is the most surprising part, but it’s also the part that best explains what all the scenes in the movie were leading up to. To this day, there is conflict about it. Some might consider the final scene of Arthur Fleck, handcuffed in a mental institution, as revealing that the previous events were nothing more than the creation of the patient’s troubled mind. Another reading of the same ending indicates that although Arthur is not a reliable author, some of the events, such as the murders of the three men on the train, his mother, and Murray Franklin, are indeed true.
Whichever scenario the viewer tends to choose, the ending has an insight into the psychological torment of the protagonist and helps shed light on certain aspects considered obscure about this titular character. Here are some psychological inferences about the Joker offered at the end of the movie.
Failure to find meaning in his life
Many therapists equate mental illness with living a meaningful life. They consider that finding meaning stabilizes mental illness and mood disorders. The idea is that if the patient lives a meaningful life and if he becomes purposeful in his actions, the bitterness of having to get up in the morning for a life he hates will slowly disappear and the nihilistic ideology that is gradually deepening the crisis will subside. .
This idea of meaning is also portrayed throughout the film, as Arthur writes in his notebook “I wish my death were more important than my life”. We see this quote twice, once in the first scenes where Arthur is talking to his psychiatrist, and then around the end of the movie when he crosses it again while looking through that notebook for a joke to tell on Murray’s show. This issue of meaning is placed in the most important and strategic parts of the film, reflecting its centrality.
It cannot be denied that Arthur’s actions are not motivated by meaning. He takes care of his ailing mother, not so much out of love as out of duty, and feels an inner frustration for her. His aspiration to become a stand-up comedian does not, in its own sense, reflect a purposeful quest. Being in the spotlight is just a way to compensate for the neglect this uncharismatic and shy character endures from his family, co-worker, and society at large. It seemed that Arthur was living life, rather than living it. This bleak view of life created a nihilism in him that was difficult to overcome.
Since meaning is something you seek rather than something you find, Arthur failed in that responsibility that led to his killing spree that created the Joker we know today. At Murray’s show, Arthur looks at his notebook and the quote stops him for a few seconds. It is as if seeing what he wrote released the final inhibition that was preventing him from reaching his full anarchic and criminal potential.
His inability to overcome the past
Part of the mental anguish is not knowing when (or how) to move past a harmful past. Many things are not up to us – like our nationality, our parents, much of our childhood being monitored by parents and because we have very little agency during that stage of life. The past is a powerful entity in human life. We’ve seen it destroy some lives, and we’ve seen it build others. Arthur gave full agency to his obsession with his past. Although one can understand a person’s desire to know where he came from, Arthur was particularly stubborn and decided to let himself be defined by the fact that he was an abandoned child and had drawn the wrong conclusions about himself and others. He states his opinions very bluntly on Murray’s show, accusing almost everyone of being “awful.”
If we look deeper into what lies behind this anger, we find a wounded past, whispering in Arthur’s ear how fundamentally unlovable he is and how his parents’ abandonment of him as a child would lead to him being rejected by the entire world. . To some extent, self-pity is a normal reaction to unfair situations in life; However, when it becomes a way of life, it begins to awaken other psychological problems such as depression, anger, and antisocial beliefs and behaviour. The weight of the past is seen not only through the Joker’s final killing spree but also throughout the film in his lack of self-esteem, his attachment to his abusive mother whom he refuses to let go of, and his unwillingness and inability to form meaningful bonds with people.
Arthur eventually comes to terms with his past by eliminating it in the most violent of ways which reflects a very unbalanced relationship with it, he ends up eliminating a physical representation of his past, but still carries it with him wherever he goes, like a ghost that refuses to leave.
From narcissism to psychopathy
Arthur was diagnosed by several psychiatrists and psychologists who watched the movie as someone with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). Some features of this disorder include an overestimation of one’s own abilities, a lack of empathy, and a craving for public attention. Arthur easily meets these criteria. He’s a comedian who writes really bad comedy but still manages to find it funny, which indicates an overestimation of his own skills and an inability to put himself on the spectrum. His lack of empathy is evident in the way he treats his victims by killing and objectifying them. Finally, his addiction to the audience’s attention does not end as he accepts to be in a show despite knowing that the host’s only intention is to make fun of him. What the finale tells viewers, however, is that his narcissism transformed or was actually masking a deeper penchant for violence.
The killer’s psychology is still shrouded in mystery despite all recent psychological studies and attempts to identify it. The ending reveals certain aspects of the protagonist’s personality disorders and allows the viewer to have a certain sense of resolution and closure, but it is not wise to claim that such a complex psychological profile can be discovered in one movie – hopefully, Joker 2 Will bring more ideas in this regard.