How Does The Movie ‘Joker’ Portray Mental Illness?

Appropriately Or Inappropriately?

While The Joaquin Phoenix Movie Poignantly Explores Mental Health, Much Debate Engulfs The ‘Correctness’ Of The Portrayal

Director Todd Phillips’ 2019 film ‘Joker’ bagged actor Joaquin Phoenix the Academy Award for playing an impoverished and mentally ill man with a penchant for nihilism.

Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck, is a poor party clown living in the fictional Gotham City.

He suffers from pseudobulbar affect (PBA)—a neurological condition that makes the sufferer laugh uncontrollably—and relies on social services for his medication. He also appears to suffer from a complex mix of depression, narcissistic personality disorder, and psychopathy.

A series of unfortunate accidents and a lapse in his medication triggers his descent into


Embracing nihilism in his new ‘Joker’ avatar, he goes on a killing rampage—inciting a riot and leading a violent countercultural revolution against the wealthy.

Phillips’ film, though praised for the depiction of men’s mental health, also faced criticism for its incorrect depiction of mental disorders, therapy, and the mentally ill. ‘Joker’ displays cognitive dysfunction and violent and chaotic behavior throughout the film.

When should a person start seeking therapy?

While the depiction of the psychology of a murderer is lauded, critics argued that the film equated psychopathy with mental illness and perpetrated  a false impression of the mentally ill as barbaric, violent, and dangerous.

This actively contributed to the layers of myth and stigmatization that already surround mental illness.

What are the signs of good mental health?

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