Mental Health is perhaps at its peaks in terms of awareness. In the last few years, a number of high profile celebrities and films have paved the way for what has been an eye opening experience to fans and society alike. Rapper Kid Cudi came forth about his battle of mental health in 2015 after months of depression. Legendary songstress Mariah Carey came out as bipolar in 2018, 17 years after a very public breakdown in 2001 where she hid her illness due to fear of being rejected. In 2008, The Dark Knight was released and featured an epic performance by Heath Ledger, as he portrayed the villain the Joker. His critically acclaimed performance is arguably the greatest of the character in history, however, it came at a price. After being unable to focus on his life after the character, he committed suicide.
And then there is the critically acclaimed film making its rounds eleven years later focusing on the life and story of perhaps the most famous villain in all of comic history. Portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, the story of a villain’s journey to evil is a story that is barely visited in most superhero films. Specifically, if you travel back to the Batman films where we meet villains such as Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Penguin, etc., there’s a fraction of a backstory that is provided to show us an event that lead to or triggered this villain’s evolution. However, we have yet to see a full story on how this individual became who they are with such detail and persistence.
The story of Arthur Fleck is a tragic one in the wake of mental health awareness in 2019. He is the product of a mother who suffered from delusion and enabled his malnutrition and abuse from a tinder age. From being convinced that he is the son of Thomas Wayne (yes, Bruce Wayne’s father), and not being told that he was adopted, the journey Fleck embarks on is a tearjerker. He struggles to find footing and stability at his job, finds himself constantly attacked, has irrational laughter as a disorder, and never quite comes into his own as an entity…until he does.
The arrival of Joker in the film is the culmination of a man who has struggled throughout his entire life to find footing and becomes an anti-hero in a world of wealth and prominence. While its uncertain what the culmination of the film will lead to in terms of a sequel, it is clear that if nothing else, the film signifies a true reason for the troubled mindset that has become the antagonist for Batman. The film has given a face and voice to those pondering to find their own identity, and furthermore, gives an identity for people who previously never had their story told.