Joker. No Laughing Matter.
Updated: Aug 18
This isn't any old superhero film.
This is the story about the Joker and the world that made him.
This is the tale of villainy, pathos, violence, and agony.
This is the narrative of the mentally ill, socially isolated loner whose disenfranchisement leads him to commit violence.
Arthur is a walking time bomb waiting to explode—all it took was some significant life stress, beatings up, losing a job, and you’ve got nothing left but Joker in him.
Of course, not all of us are psychopathic, violent murderers. But surely there are some aspects of the film that we can relate to and learn from.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
The Joker may view himself as a joke.
But our lives are no joke.
And these are some of the areas of the film we may identify with.
1) Our Identity
From Arthur to The Joker, he has slowly taken on the persona of the new identity.
Arthur Fleck, the name given, is pathetic. The name that he hated himself. Arthur Fleck cannot hold down a job. His speech is riddled with a childish timbre and unpredictable bouts of laughter. He lives with his mother in a dilapidated place, and he goes about the city of Gotham with his emaciated frame and serpentine posture. He lacks proper social skills, and his mental illnesses are worn on his face.
The Joker, on the other hand, is competent — evil, yet so maniacally skillful that he left you impressed.
The Joker is born when poor Arthur finally fights back against society’s unfair, cruel treatment towards him.
We are what we believe we are.
We are who we embrace ourselves to be.
Who do you see yourself as?
2) Our Thoughts
Arthur proclaimed: All I have are negative thoughts.
He had not been happy one minute of his entire life.
How we think influences how we feel.
How we feel affects how we behave.
How we behave determines how the result is.
Change our thoughts.
Change our feelings.
Change our behaviors.
Change our outcome.
3) Our Communication
“You just don’t listen, do you? You just ask the same questions every week.”
Arthur is a man who is struggling in life and needs help, but the world around him is uncaring. When he visits his social worker, he communicates the frustration of that feeling.
The social worker’s role is supposedly to alleviate some of his emotional pain and sincerely listen, yet he felt the same feeling of being ignored and overlooked, with the social worker simply doing her job for the sake of it. She is convinced that people like herself and Arthur are not cared for by society.
How many of us have ever experienced feeling like what you’re saying to others goes “one ear in, one ear out”?
You cannot not communicate.
The meaning of your communication is the response you get.
We are constantly communicating through what we do or do not say, regardless of whether we notice it or whether it is deliberate or not.
So be mindful of the messages you are sending to others, be it in the verbal or non-verbal form.
4) Our Vision
Arthur’s mother always tells him to smile and put on a happy face, telling him that his purpose was to bring laughter and joy to the world.
And so Arthur dreams of a career as a stand-up comedian.
He says that everybody is telling him that his stand-up is “ready for the big clubs”.
His mother then asks: “What makes you think you could do that? Don’t you have to be funny to be a comedian?”
To be put down by a loved one who is close to you and doubted is especially harsh.
What do you do when your dream and vision are being tarnished by the harsh reality?
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
5) Our Choices
“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I'll tell you what you get. You get what you deserve!”
Arthur Fleck gets to be on the Murray Franklin show when a video of his dire stand-up gets mocked.
What happens next is a disaster that is aired on live television - he murders Murray Franklin and addresses the citizens of Gotham, pushing the impoverished ones into a rebellious frenzy.
It may seem that life is unfair and cruel to Arthur, and thus he ended up the way he was.
Throughout his life, Arthur did his fair share of running, chasing after the hooligans who stole the signboard, fleeing from the detective and police, seemingly running away from all his problems.
You can run, but you can’t hide. And ultimately Arthur had to face his problems and make the choice.
It's amazing how fast and far one can run when our mind and will are focused.
In all seriousness, one has to find healthy methods of facing their problems head on. There's no shame in finding help or confiding in a close friend or family member.
We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we are able to control how we respond to them.
Do you respond or do you react?
People are always making the best choice available to them.
You make your choice, and you face the consequences.
6) Our Father
Arthur did not have a father.
He and his very frail mother are the only ones living together in an apartment.
He thus idolizes comedian and talk show host Murray Franklin. The idolatry goes as far as Arthur seeing Franklin as a father figure in his life, when he envisions himself on stage with Franklin and the latter defending Arthur from being mocked by the audience and expressing that he would give up his success as a talk show host for a son like Arthur.
His mother also tells him stories about the rich and powerful Wayne, for whom she once worked for almost 30 years ago. Arthur eventually discovers that he is the love-child of Thomas Wayne and his mother. Upon this discovery, he confronts Wayne only to learn that he is in fact not Wayne’s son and that his mother was delusional.
“I don’t want anything from you. Maybe a little warmth, maybe a hug, dad, maybe a bit of common decency!”
In the heart of Joker, he longs for a father.
In the heart of all of us, we long for a father.
That is the importance of having a strong father figure in our lives.
Fathers are as important as mothers in the development of a child’s well-being. Fathers are makers and enforcers of rules and providers of a sense of both emotional and physical security. Studies have reflected that supportive and loving fathers positively contributes to a child’s social and cognitive development.
‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
7) Our Reality
Joker at times blurs the line between real life and fantasy. And we are left to wonder what really happened and what only took place in the head.
There are moments in the film where reality and fiction become indistinguishable: his relationship with Sophie, and his appearance on Murray Franklin's show.
Is it a reality or is it a fantasy?
All of us have our vision and dream. But there are times where we have to do a reality check.
In terms of our vision and dream, we should set SMARTER goals.
A vision and a dream without a goal is just a wish.
“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.”
That's life, and as funny as it may seem.
Some people get their kicks.
Stompin' on a dream.