No joke: “Joker” tackles themes of mental illness and poverty in America


A shot from the movie “Joker,” portrayed by actor Joaquin Phoenix.

Owen Parker, Lifestyle Editor

Warner Brothers’ studios have quite a history with the mythology of Batman. They have released movies such as “The Dark Knight” and “Batman v Superman.” Although those movies were wildly successful, none of them have quite as much of an impact as “Joker.”  

“Joker” was directed by known comedy director Todd Philips and starred lifetime actor Joaquin Phoenix.

The film follows Arthur Fleck and his descent into madness through his transformation into the Joker. Arthur’s many struggles are highlighted in the film: his financial instability, mental illness, and failed comedian career in Gotham City. As the film progresses, the audience can see how these factors push him to inevitably become the Joker.  

“Joker” has set a bar both for superhero movies and for the film industry as a whole. The film is so great because of the profound messages and realistic tone. However, despite this widespread success, it has sparked controversy amongst reviewers and the general audience. 

Many see this film as overly violent and a misinterpretation of how mental illness should be treated. In addition, many are also fearful of possible radical reactions to the movie’s underlying message: the 99 percent violently rising against the one percent. However, as of Monday, October 14, 2019, there have been no violent reactions reported. 

Philip and Phoenix’s intention was not for the audience to see the film as an origin story but for audiences to interpret it at deeper level. The main interpretation by reviewers and moviegoers is the many struggles of being part of the 99 percent.

It is a movie that is considered a social commentary about today’s society and the growing divide between the wealthy who control almost all the money–otherwise known as the one percent–and the working-class citizens who control and have practically no money–also called the 99 percent.

However, “Joker” is riddled with different themes and ideas, and its many interpretations are entirely up to the viewer and how they see it. 

To me, “Joker” is so brilliant because Philips and Pheonix were not afraid to take risks. I appreciate how Philips decided to make a movie that differs from other movies in the genre by making a movie with a deeper meaning about society and the diversity of people that it affects. Additionally, I liked the inclusion of realistic violence in the film, because it is impactful, and it adds something shocking that drives the story forward in the film.

I also really love the movie because it had an actual effect on me. I have never seen a movie that has caused me to have an emotional and thought-provoking reaction like I did when I saw “Joker.” In fact, when I got home from the film, I took time to think and mull over what I had just seen because of the pure intensity and provocation of the film. 

Overall, this movie is fantastic and insightful in so many ways. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend you go and see it, even if you might be scared or apprehensive to. While you are there, think about the world we live in today, and about what Philips is trying to tell us.

I give this movie a 9.5 out of 10; I recommend you go and see it as soon as you possibly can.