I saw “Joker” last week. Before the (sociopathic) “Joker” became Batman’s notorious nemesis, he was just Arthur Fleck. Arthur has a backstory. He had an unhappy childhood.
I felt sorry for him.
I saw “Judy” last week. Judy Garland died of a drug overdose at age 47. Judy has a backstory. She had an unhappy adolescence.
I felt sorry for her.
I saw “Parasite” last week. Kun-sae went on a cleaver-wielding murderous rampage. Kun-sae has a backstory. He had an unhappy existence living like a rat in a sub-basement.
I felt sorry for him.
Everybody has a backstory. It takes interest and time to learn it. It takes compassion.
It doesn’t always lead to exoneration. But it can lead to understanding. And understanding can lead to empathy.
As the Buddha said: Be kind to everyone. You never know what another is dealing with.
I’ve been told that certain people on the other side are evil. Not merely incompetent, ignorant, or insecure. Evil. Irredeemably so. No backstory worth learning. No humanity.
Maybe so. I don’t know them.
But I know the Joker. I walked two hours in his floppy shoes.
He had no father to speak of. Mom’s boyfriend had cursed him, beat him, and tied him to a radiator. Arthur landed in an asylum. He got out never knowing what got him in.
He lived with his unhappy mother in a threadbare flat. Time and again, she’d say to him: “Happy, your purpose is to bring laughter and joy to this world.” (She always called him “Happy.”)
Ma, I’m not happy! I haven’t been happy for one minute of my entire life!!
And yet, he played the clown. (“Put on a happy face and smile.”) He tried to be funny.
You’re not funny. Your jokes aren’t funny. You’re a joke.
A person can take only so much. Only so much humiliation, rejection, and hurt.
Arthur had taken enough.
It was too late for therapy. It was too late for pills. It was too late for hugs.
It was time to be his magnificent, maleficent self.
Still, I lock my doors at night. And then look over my shoulder.
Each week I post one of Paula’s photographs on the home page. This week it’s Five A.M.
“They’re depraved causa they’re deprived.” Officer Krepke, West Side Story.
Thanks for this. Mental illness has some common denominators that shouted out in the film. Just not sure what order I would place the factors 1) Crazy genes are a huge factor (mother) 2) PTSD (abuse- neglect, abandonment and 3) Poor mental health care- they took his meds away and his therapist was dreadful. If there was ever a reason NOT to cut funding for mental healthcare -I would recommend this movie. It’s brilliant. And so was the acting.
Well said. I watched all of the films up for an Oscar. The Joker wins my award for best actor. He got dressed up and carried on as best he could. When I watch a film I become part of it. I don’t feel sorry for the characters, I feel empathy for each soul in pain. There was only one film that made me cry, Mr. Rogers.
Thanks! I don’t watch movies but am always glad to hear about them from others. It sounds as if Joker spoke eloquently about mental illness and the lack of services for those who suffer. Wish I thought that was going to change in our lifetime, but I don’t. All we can do is keep doing what we, as health care professionals can do and keep the problem out in the open.