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Joker – Masterpiece or Danger? Based on the Biopsychosocial Model

As much as the individual’s own character and genetic predisposition, his/her family, the society he/she lives in and the media have so much impact on his/her decisions that as an individual, we have potential to be a criminal just like Joker. Oh, you’ll say it’s not that easy. So, why was that easy for the Joker? Let’s see…

WARNING: The article below may contain SPOILERS regarding the movie titled “JOKER”

As all of us know, ‘Joker’ the movie which was released on October 4, 2019. As an ordinary  member of the audience, I would like to say that I really liked the movie and the music especially. As a psychologist, I found Joaquin Phoenix to be very impressive with his acting, reflecting psychosis, behaviour disorder, emotional dysregulation and the traces of child abuse in his soul and brain. However, not everyone agrees with me. There are many people who criticize mercilessly, are disappointed and complain about the movie.

As far as I follow from Turkish and international media, I can gather these criticisms in two groups. I can call the first group as technical criticism of the film. For example, poor directing or poor scenario… I think it would be useless for me to write about the first group since I do not have enough knowledge of it, and I do not have enough movie-criticism background to be a critic. However, in this article, which will contain plenty of spoilers, I would like to examine the criticism in the second group: Whether the film glorifies crime, or it praises the criminalIs this film a masterpiece or does it pose any dangers? From my point of view, the film does not glorify crime; on the contrary, it shows the factors that lead to a criminal being guilty. I will try to illustrate and explain these factors through the film by the means of family, individual, society and media aspects.

BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL ANALYSIS OF JOKER

When examining someone with a variety of psychiatric disorders, such as the Joker, we need to take a multidimensional perspective. “The biopsychosocial model”, which is frequently emphasized in psychology classes, summarizes this perspective very well. As mentioned in many studies, in the biopsychosocial model, the person is balanced at biological, psychological and sociological levels. Sometimes biological, psychological, sociological stresses and / or triggers disrupt this balance and psychiatric disorders appears.

Then let’s start with the family. Imagine being adopted into a problematical family when you were a baby or a child. Of course, you do not know it until you are thirty or so, and you learn the truth in a painful way. Imagine that you were exposed to physical and psychological violence/abuse from your own family and that you read this violence from old newspaper clippings. Add the fact that the woman you know as ‘Your mother’ has psychosis and narcissistic personality disorder. You probably had a difficult life with your mother and scratched along. You have been living in a fusty and dilapidated apartment with your elderly and weak mother who has psychiatric disorder, and only you meet all your mother’s needs from giving her a bath to feeding her. You have been living in a ghetto which is rife with crime and unemployment, leaving segments of the population disenfranchised and impoverished, just like yourself.

Next up is society. As a result of physical violence when you were a child, part of your brain was damaged and you are laughing inappropriately on the bus, in the cinema, in your office when you cannot control your emotional reactions. You roar with unstoppable and frustrating laughter. Sometimes you are despised like a leper, sometimes you get beaten up for laughing out of place. The society does not want you; the society does not care or accept your mental disorder. And just like the Joker says, ‘people expect you to behave as if you do not.’  Society is cruel. Society has degenerated. Kids or gang in this society interfere with your earnings. Again, those kids beat you so badly for no reason – maybe just for fun-. Your employer does not care about you and the brutal beating you have received from those kids, but he does care about work and money and those two alone. He does not listen to you and he does not care about you.  Even your social worker / therapist does not listen to you and your frustration collapses. This movie presents a man-profile who is a lonely embittered guy, beaten up and abused by people around him, beaten down by society before violently striking back.

Let’s come to the individual part. We have no ideas on Joker’s genetic predisposition to his illnesses because we do not know of his biological family (we do not know if one of his family members has a psychiatric illness).  The only thing we know in the individual part is the Joker’s mental illness and his dreams. Now let’s get back to you again. Just think about that while your dream is to become a good stand-up comedian, you are a person who makes a living by clowning and then get unemployed. After that your comedy show goes poorly; you laugh uncontrollably and have difficulty delivering your jokes. Do you know what it is to live a life for a purpose? Do you know what the meaning of fail or being a failed stand-up comedian?

And the last ring is media. As you pursue the dream of your life, how fair do you think it is for someone or media to mock you? Then it causes to not leave you one more thing to lose. You are destroyed and devastated!

When we take into account to biopsychosocial factors, we have all the factors to turn the Joker into a criminal man. If we had these conditions, we would probably be a potential criminal like Joker. You can question that ever person who was wronged and excluded by society, who has mental illness or was abused by his/her family should take a gun in his/her hand to kill? Does he/she find a way to take revenge against them? Of course not! This is definitely not the message we should get from this movie. Stressing on it again: I do not praise the criminal. Instead, I propose to take some measures at the individual, family, society and media levels to prevent new Jokers from emerging in the society as well as proposing to establish social policies in this regard. For example, it should implement necessary practices to prevent child abuse so that it does not lead to mental disorders that is murderous in character, like the Joker.  We should question the place of media in our lives once again. In addition, as a society, we must repair our failing places with quality education and moral values.

Love,