Connection & relationships

Why so serious? What the Joker teaches us

In true nerdy fashion, I’m sat in my pre-booked seat at 18:45 (because hey, you can’t leave it to chance to get good seats on the night), finally watching the heavily anticipated film, Joker. If you monitor ‘movie news’ you will already know it is being met with controversial reception. While I respect the opinions of those who walked away with a negative review, I personally loved it. My heartstrings were in a constant pull, I wanted to jump into the screen and give Arthur a big hug and in the spirit of honesty, tears coursed my cheeks on three occasions…that’s our little secret though! Do not fret, this is not going to turn into a movie review as such, what I want to discuss is the critically important message Joker highlights.

“Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” – Arthur Fleck

The biggest reason why audiences are protesting this film is its uncanny and spine-chilling parallels with our own reality. When a movie feels too close to home for its viewers, we must ask, does this say more about our world than the cinematic story? Because if you haven’t noticed lately, it is getting crazier out there. Somewhere along the road barricades were established; walls built to separate and divide us. Classified into groups according to society’s labels, our world does not seem so different from the DC universe that regarded Arthur Fleck as ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’.

Have you ever been deemed as an ‘outsider’ or ‘unsociable’ – with negative connotations – because of social anxiety? Have you ever been given a label that wrongfully depicts you? Have you felt limited or constrained within someone else’s idea? The problem with labels is, we are so much more than a single identity tag. Sometimes categories can be positive, for understanding and connecting purposes, just as long as they remain open-ended. Even if society does brand you, remember, you don’t have to identify with it. If we staple preconceived assumptions onto one another, we prevent ourselves from really knowing a person and unravelling their beautiful unique patchwork.

Consequently, this attitude leads to misguidance, mistreatment and misreadings. After all, the world isn’t black and white, it isn’t heroes fighting villains in Gotham; there are no heroes or villains, there are only people. Joker has spawned fear within people, the fear it’ll spur violence and trigger chaos. Of course, this is a reasonable concern, however, is this not a wake-up call? By blurring the lines between fiction and reality, does it not question our own apathy and passivity? Todd Phillip’s creation prompts us to reflect not only on the world but ourselves, provoking us to assess how we treat others and undoubtedly ourselves.

“You don’t listen, do you? You just ask me the same questions every week. ‘How’s your job?’ ‘Are you having any negative thoughts?’ All I have are negative thoughts.” – Arthur Fleck

*Movie switch-up*, if you’ve seen American Beauty, you may remember the powerful moment when Angela Hayes asks Lester Burnham, “How are you?” and he replies “God, it’s been a long time since anybody asked me that.” Now be frank, even if it’s just with yourself, how often do you answer, “I’m fine” or “I’m ok” when someone asks “how are you?” How many times have you actually meant those words? True, it’s unlikely you’re going to pour out your heart and soul to the stranger sitting next to you on the bus. Nevertheless, if we shut down pretences maybe we’ll discover people who care.

Honest communication is one, if not the biggest method, to access help for yourself and others. If we all put down our electronic devices once in a while, reigned in our straying minds and removed distractions, creating a space for authentic and focused conversation, we can make a difference. And not just hearing but listening to people – there is a difference. If you are someone who is feeling ignored and misunderstood waiting to be heard, I cannot stress this enough do not suffer in silence, chat to someone, speak your words without any facades. Life is busy and we are at times deaf to cries, nonetheless, there will always be someone who wants to listen and help – you are never alone. Raise your voice and open your eyes…or should I say ears, it’s time to start effectively communicating with one another, it’s time to be a helping hand or to reach out for one. On the other hand, if you suspect someone is suffering, contact them, remind them you are there and nothing has to be combated alone.

As the famous quote goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Carry this in the midst of your thoughts every day, recall it, repeat it and practice it. Joker explores all the puzzle pieces that contributed to Arthur’s breaking point, emphasising the toll of hurt, neglect and cruel behaviour. Tragically this is a harsh reality, there are people who live with vicious voices beating them down, internally and externally, feeling as though life is unrelentingly lashing them. If poisonous philosophies root themselves in a mind, inevitably, the individual will begin to believe them. Thus, I want you to promise me this, you’ll observe your thoughts, you’ll carefully consider your words and you’ll think before you act. You never know the impact your smile to someone on the street could have or a friendly conversation with a neighbour. Kindness is a chain reaction breeding more kindness. Also, don’t just be mindful of the fellow inhabitants on the earth, be mindful of yourself. It’s such a simple task that reaps beneficial rewards. We can all make bad choices, face bad circumstances, experience bad beginnings and bad days, we just have to remember they’re not the end.

 “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? You get what you f****n’ deserve!” – Arthur Fleck

In this suffering world, now more than ever, it is our duty to radiate kindness, compassion and love. When you wake up every morning, blind to how your day will unfold, no matter what happens, make sure you love, don’t let anyone fall through the cracks. No one is too lost to be abandoned, we can be a lifeboat for someone. If you learn anything from this ramble it is, leave behind judgement, prejudice, hate and apathy, replace all of that toxic negativity with a pure heart, an open mind, attentive eyes and ears, as well as a mouth to vocalise struggles and lend supportive words. Ultimately, where there are humans there is humanity.

“My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose: to bring laughter and joy to the world.” – Arthur Fleck

This quote speaks volumes and is a perfect conclusion. Whilst we cannot advocate ‘putting on a mask’ and pretending we are okay when we’re not, what we can take from Penny’s advice is that we are all capable of spreading laughter and joy to the world. We can do this by listening, by watching and by communicating. Our battles and pain do not have to defeat us, we can rise up and unite together to spread beauty and love across the world. You see, movies can teach us valuable lessons, they show us potential real-world nightmares, but just because a movie ended that way it doesn’t mean our world has to. If Joker taught me anything, it taught me the sheer importance of kindness, it’s that simple, and it’s time to put that kindness into action!

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