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‘Joker’ was ‘a betrayal’ of mentally ill people. Here’s why

Director David Fincher recently criticized ‘Joker’ for how it treated the mentally-ill.

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and BRON Creative’s “Joker,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and BRON Creative’s “Joker,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Niko Tavernise, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Director David Fincher recently criticized the 2019 Oscar-winning film “Joker,” saying that it was “a betrayal” of mentally ill people.

What happened:

Fincher recently told The Daily Telegraph that the success of “Joker” was somewhat of a surprise.

He said Hollywood studios “don’t want to make anything that can’t make them a billion dollars.” but he said “challenging” material can do well.

He then said “Joker” would have been difficult to make had it not been for films like “The Dark Knight,” which challenged the thinking of what superhero films could be.

  • “I don’t think ­anyone would have looked at that material and thought, ‘Yeah, let’s take Travis Bickle (from “Taxi Driver”) and Rupert Pupkin (from “The King of Comedy”) and conflate them, then trap him in a betrayal of the mentally ill, and trot it out for a billion dollars.’”

More criticisms for the film

Medical professionals Annabel Driscoll and Mina Husain told The Guardian that “Joker” was a film that was “not only misinformed but (it) further amplifies stigma and fear.”

“Joker” had a few major problems when it first hit movie theaters. The film dropped weeks after a slew of mass shootings ravaged the nation, specifically in cities Gilroy, California, El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“Joker” failed to address mental health issues in the right way when it came to its main character Arthur Fleck, as I wrote for the Deseret News. Here’s an excerpt from my piece.

“Toward the end of the film, Fleck decides he’s going to commit suicide. He’s going to exact violence on himself (although it teases that he may attack someone else) while appearing on a late night television show with comedian Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). On the show, Fleck rattles off his thoughts on the damage society does to someone like him — how he is ignored, stepped over, tossed to the side. He says Gotham City is worried about rich people dying, but ignores people like him. The speech is easily ignored because we’re waiting for the gunshot — we’re waiting for him to attack himself (or Murray). When the violence comes, his speech is forgotten. An important point about how society treats people is swept under the rug. We’re all waiting for the punchline, instead of hearing the joke.

“What could have made “Joker” a good film for 2019 would have been a better focus on the mental health issues it only briefly explores. If the film had made that final speech about society and mental health a big moment without the tension of impending death, then the message might have come across stronger.”