When thinking about mental illnesses, it is common to consider its something that pertains to just one person. You think that you have the mental illness therefore it is something that affects you, that you have to deal with, and that only you have to keep in mind. It’s part of a stigma that has existed for years, if not decades, and continues to persist despite not being completely true. You see, while we have a lot to do with the illnesses we have, it is not just a one-way street. We may bear some responsibility for the development of these issues but we do not bear bear the complete blame for it.

We are a product of our surroundings and the world around us. It is a cliche at this point but our society is an influence in how we end up as a person. Other people’s attitudes, behaviors, and actions towards us help steer us on the path we are on, and can lend a hand in causing us to end up right where we are. Unfortunately, not many people are willing to understand or admit this. A lot of people are more willing to strip themselves of any blame in it rather than coming to terms with what they may have done. Just as we may have been afraid to look at the mirror when coming to terms with having a mental illness, people are reluctant to look at themselves to see how they have affected others around them. 

Which is why it is of the utmost importance for films like Todd Phillips’ Joker to be made. Now, we know that this film has been surrounded by its share of controversy for certain things, but underneath all that, is a film and a story that asks us to reflect on ourselves as possible victims but also as influencers. The film really isn’t about the mental illness of the character; we are not asked to put the blame for his actions on his illnesses. It is a factor and recurring presence in the story, but it is never portrayed to be the cause or vilified. Instead, we are shown how our world has forgotten these people, forgotten us. We watch as those in power and with the full capabilities to help, instead choose to live their own lives without thinking about those who are suffering. It’s really a poignant direction for the film to take, as it really is like the film is holding a mirror up to the audience. By utilizing a character who is so prominent and so well-known in popular culture, the audience is then shown that they are active participants in this story. We all know the character of The Joker and we all know the kinds of things he is capable of, but instead of us just seeing how these things came to be, we are, instead, shown how this character is a product of our world. It shows us a character that we are familiar with and comfortable with believing is different than us, and that’s where the genius of the film lies; it lures in the audience with the name of a popular figure and then forces them to see the results of their own actions. It’s powerful and even heavy-handed in its message, but that’s not a bad thing. On the contrary, it just drives the point home even further.

Discomfort Can Be Empowering 

It’s not a film that leaves you feeling good; we won’t lie about that and or pretend that it is some sort of inspiring message for us. But it’s real, and that’s important. The film isn’t for people who struggle with mental illness, it’s for the people who think they are blameless. It’s for the people who don’t realize these stigmas are damaging to the people and world around them. For someone who is struggling, that, in and of itself, can be empowering. We can finally feel like someone gets it and these stigmas are being broken down. We can feel like progress is being made. We don’t need to feel inspired; we need to feel like change is happening. 

At the end of the day, Joker is causing a conversation and that’s important. This film isn’t going to change everything overnight, and it never could. In order for these stigmas to really be broken down and for things to really improve, we have to keep talking. We have to keep motivating ourselves to create these kinds of stories and continue to look at ourselves to understand the parts we play. This film is hopefully the first step in a long conversation that our world can have where we finally start to accept mental illness and embrace those who are suffering. Even if you don’t enjoy the film, at least take solace in knowing that something like it exists and there are people out there fighting for you. 

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 or [email protected]