The joker, Joaquin Phoenix speech at SAG awards, and mental health

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

“Joker” movie released in 2019, produced and directed by Todd Phillips, is about the infamous character of the joker from the comic book Batman (DC comic). Joaquin Phoenix has played the role of “joker” and Robert De Naro appearing at the end of the movie.

The movie revolves around the main Character Joker, who is suffering from extreme mental problems attributable to schizophrenia and PTSD and was on medication. Unexpectedly the doctor, who was taking care of him, can’t continue due to financial cuts faced by the program. Consequently, the joker couldn’t endure the medications, due to lack of money as he already was taking care of his sick mum. The only job he had was as a clown and the money cannot be enough for his medical expenses too. Without medication, he started to hallucinate and was unable to manage his regular life. The story continued as such, but in the end, he became paranoid and lost touch with reality. In the events, he rose up to protests, which later turned violent. Joaquin Phoenix did an amazing job portraying the character. The screenplay was written by Todd Phillips along with Scott Silver.

Joaquin Phoenix, who already got golden globe for his outstanding performance in the same movie, now was honored with SAG award for the best actor. He got nominated for upcoming Oscars too. In his winning speech, he immensely praised his fellow nominee, one by one. He referred to the fact of losing most auditions to Leonardo DiCaprio (Oscar winner and this year nominee too). He pledged humbly to Christian Bale (Oscar winner and this year Oscar nominee) to act bad for once for the sake of others. He admired Adam Drivers (Oscar nominee 2019) along with Taren Edgerton.

The movie remained an open debate on mental health. People who are born to psychologically disturb people or at least rose by them and couldn’t turn out to be healthier adults later in their lives, the chances of their success as regular citizens diminish as they go on staying in the same environment. If later in life, they face financial difficulties, not strong academically, or didn’t come out to be high achievers, it will become very difficult for them to cope and thrive.  The movie is an extreme example of him succumbed to his mental illnesses without support. The movie somehow emphasized the role of today’s society for the viewers to see as to how it’s becoming easier for us to let others down if people like jokers, who are not so-called perfect to cope are pressurized to thrive.

The manipulations and exploitation of others are becoming the norms of today. Severe mental illnesses are sometimes passed from one generation to another. The genes are the culprits, but in most cases due to certain changes in our lifestyles, people may have better chances of living a peaceful life. A good example is the Silver Linings Playbook movie (2012), in which the main character, played by Bradley Copper, suffering from bipolar disorder and how, after attacking his wife, he went to a mental facility and tried to manage his disorder after coming out of the hospital.

The celebrities are opening up about their mental health issues and due to this the stigma attached to mental health is slowly and steadily declining. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), mental health is "... a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities can cope with the normal stresses of life can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." The criterion for personal well being is not just how much he/she is earning, but how well prepared and aware the person is about mental health. The more we indulge ourselves in healthier activities, like exercise, reading, music listening, and helping others, the more we become useful to others and to ourselves.

In the developed world, societies are becoming very efficient, but somehow somewhere they are not considering “mental health” a real problem. A few days back a study came about child neglect stating that it reduces the size of the brain and affected kids can have smaller brain affecting decision making and managing stress later in their lives.

In the developing world, the problem is more severe because malnutrition contributes to more unhealthy persons in the society; which in retrospect creates ghoulish societies. People are tried to earn a lot of money, opt for higher education, just to be affluent, so that nobody can tell them that they are not good enough. In doing so, they may achieve success sometimes, but are they truly happy?

Some movies like Forrest Gump and Goodwill Hunting tried to address those issues at the forefront of the silver screen. In Forrest Gump, they showed how to be a happier and better person in life for which you don’t have to be born perfect. The main character “Forrest Gump” not just survives but thrives better than his peers; he just managed to achieve a simpler life. In Goodwill Hunting, Matt Damon's character suffering from PTSD after the sudden loss of his parents during his childhood in a car accident was coping with life as a guilt factor.

Somewhere these movies, celebrities, and life itself reminding us that most of the time the ball is in our hands. Whenever we get angry on puny things, while using anguish and coping with unhealthy relationships force us to put a façade and trick others into same anguish, when we don’t raise our voices in front of our bad bosses in fear of losing a job, when we lash out on our own kids; knowing that they are innocent we should look into our hearts and minds and try to evaluate our mental status and what adverse effect we are going to have after doing all of the above. It’s a thin line between sanity and insanity, kindness, forgiveness, perseverance, and awareness can lead us and our future generations to peaceful prospects. Whenever given a choice between right and being kind, always choose kindness!

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