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Joker: disturbingly relevant

  • Published at 06:37 pm December 18th, 2019
Joker official website

Reflections on DC Comics movie Joker

When you try to depict the reality in a film without hurting anyone’s feelings, you have got to use tools of exaggeration. The art of it has to be abstract, lest it ends up feeling like a boring documentary on facts and obvious truths. But a good test for how great a movie is to see if it leaves an impression on the viewer. Joker leaves quite an impression and the feeling lurks long after the credits had rolled. The title character is individually a little bit of all of us, while also being a representation of the mass as a whole.

More often than not I’ve held unpopular opinions about many movies. I’ve learnt to walk out of theatres quiet one time because I’d done my research on actress Sharon Tate’s true case and understood Once Upon a Time in Hollywood better than others that felt lost. This time however, I saw the audience sitting in silence throughout the film and even as everybody walked out at the end, the melancholy kept hovering. A few whose patience ran thin said it was dramatic and had been unnecessarily stretched out like a Bollywood film. But the majority disagreed.

When the art created is from the other perspective, the lessons we take home from it are of empathy. But with Joker the lesson was more than just empathy. The anarchy in it might not be the best catalyst for the already adrenaline fueled rebels of this era, but certainly there was a little bit of satisfaction felt at the rise of the oppressed.

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day was suicide prevention. Every forty seconds of that movie, there was a chance someone somewhere out there was committing suicide. It begins with an abusive or neglected childhood, grows worse if there’s bullying in school or society. Add to that betrayal from friends and family as you grow older, and in my opinion you can then no longer blame the person for their misery, be it self-harm or harming of others. Should the system fail you too, then there is simply no coming back. A person can only take so much – is what I brought back from this movie.

I have heard people comment how someone was too much of a coward to commit suicide. I have heard people say how suicide itself was an act of seeking attention. But if so, why did the person need attention to begin with? Where did we fail him in our basic standards of showing empathy, of being a little humane, of maybe going the extra mile for at least one person in our entire lives?

A little bit of kindness, a few smiles and conscious thinking of who we are judging and why, and our comments in relation to that, can bring wondrous change to this world. If we could prevent these miseries in everyone around us little by little, then our fight against oppression will not have to be within masks of depression and outbursts in form of severe harm to ourselves or others. 

Joker is relevant because it instantly draws attention to the worldwide rise of mental health problems. It sounds like a humongous problem, and it is, but the solution begins really simply with each of us at our homes and surroundings. 

One clear sign that the movie has been successful in putting the viewers in the shoes of a person struggling with mental illness is how the audience in the cinema reacted. A lot of people laugh inappropriately during movies, or clap when the bad guy goes to jail, but this time everyone sat in silence and with every beautiful melody of the movie score and every scene enacted brilliantly by the actor, everyone seemed to have released a sigh that could only mean that they knew how the character felt.

The increased public awareness about mental health in recent years made the impact of the movie more potent. Of course, the masterful film making helped. As I ruminated over the melancholic story, powerfully told in Joker, I am reminded of the famous quote by author JM Barry: “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

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