The Joker is an origin story set in a dirty and dangerous version of New York City that has, at its core, a message about society’s dark response to mental illness.
The movie was attended by undercover police forces concerned about the violence it could inspire. In Colorado, when a prior Batman film Dark Knight Rises was released, a shooter opened fire in a theatre, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others.
The Joker’s backstory starts as Gotham City sidewalks are overrun with bags of rotting garbage due to a sanitation strike, setting the mood for Arthur Fleck’s descent into criminality.
Fleck has a strange neurological condition that makes him laugh even when it’s not appropriate, leaving him the object of endless ridicule, embarrassment and humiliation. He is beat up, unloved, abandoned by almost all—including a poorly funded mental health system. These events are responsible for creating the mass murderer we know.
The movie almost asks the question: Is society responsible for creating its own mass-murdering monsters?
Instead, the movie seems to stop short.
Which makes us ask: Should mental illness have been included in the Joker’s backstory?
Geek out on the Joker’s mental health disorder.