‘The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”- The Joker


Todd Phillips ‘The Joker’ has been one of the most talked about films this year and any conversation around Joker is arguably more exciting than the film itself. The subject mirrored in the joker film is mental health which has had some back lash from its audience due to the way the films depicts it.

I went to see the film after hearing the mixed reviews. One would say I was a sheep following the crowd, I am not a Marvel fan and had never really watched Marvel films. When watching the film I didn’t see mental health as being wrongly depicted. Instead I found the movie underlying the importance of mental health. I thought the film itself was just phenomenal.

If you have not seen it yet I highly recommend you stop reading this and DO!

The topic was very sensitive. I can understand why people felt they needed to walk out and I highly respect that. It certainly was a hard watch and some people may have found the content distasteful. If I’m honest when I read the tweets and reports that circulated the internet after viewing the film my opinion did slightly change.  I took on board others opinions and I was able sympathise with the backlash due to the insensitivity of the character.

I found that it did portray numerous negative associations-

  •  The idea that child abuse leads to mental illness and this is murderous in character.
  • That mental illness somehow equates to something of a superpower.

It has been argued that The joker is seen as a lonely character until he commits the brutal murders. The Joker character turns his own self pity into violence. This is then rewarded with love and support off which he’d been missing through the whole film.BH32

However, the main debate about the film is that the violence and the conversation around gun control has overshadowed an important message of mental illness. This has left those effected by mental health upset. In regards to USA gun crime there has been brutal concerns about the messages it has been transmitting. In regards to the shootings and the actions it might inspire. People may come away from the film with the wrong impression. This impression being to shoot those people who have wrongly treated them.


The Rich people in the film are seen as the villains they are seen to have exploited and abandoned the rest of society. Those have argued that this is not the case and is a false interpretation.

What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like garbage?”

“You get what you fucking deserve,”

The Joker shoots the wealthy television presenter. He claims the only reason he took him on the show was to brutally embarrass him.

Again, painting the rich negatively!

The opposite argument-

This side of the argument is how I myself view the film. I don’t usually go to the cinema or watch movies but The Joker film really does deserve some credibility on how it portrays mental health. Powerful is an understatement and in my opinion it depicts the raw reality.

I feel the film draws attention to the mentally Ill and their mistreatment and perceptions by the public. The Joker highlights a daily struggle by many suffering in which they feel they need to hide their mental illnesses so they are ‘accepted’ or in order to ‘fit in’. Only now in the last 2 or 3 years I feel there has been a push to remove the stigma around mental health. When I was growing up especially in secondary school mental health was not an issue discussed when it should have been!

The Joker film places strong emphasis on the cutting of social services and the impact of the most vulnerable suffering with mental health. In a climate of NHS cuts this is the harsh reality. We see in the film the results of prolonged and a failed attempt to help those suffering from mental health. The mental health services within the film failed not just The Joker but his mother too. The mental illnesses mentioned in the film are pseudobulbar affect and schizophrenia. These are two less common and talked about mental health illnesses. It opened my eyes to the wide range of mental health conditions we are not familiar with.

The joker sits opposite his social worker he is frustrated as she doesn’t listen to him. “They don’t give a shit about people like us”

This has started a debate on the need for better mental health services and a focus on those working within it. The Joker film encourages those to be more understanding of those suffering from mental health.

Adrian Rain Leading Neurocriminologist Considers The Joker film “a Great EducatioBH34nal Tool”

“We don’t want to stigmatise mentally ill people as being dangerous people. But we do know that mental illness is a significant predisposition to violence, which we have to recognise so that people can be treated.”

So I ask the question-
Are we easily offended by things that aren’t considered the norm?

I am respectful of others opinions but the advice I would give to someone that found the film distasteful is to see the film again!  Without the violence and minus the clown ask yourself the real question what message is the film really portraying?


Bridget Hughes is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram –, LinkedIn –, and Twitter – @bridgethughes14