3 Things to Like/Dislike About Joker’s Mental Health Depiction

Katie Gordon

Katie Gordon is a licensed clinical psychologist, writer, and co-host of the Jedi Counsel Podcast which discusses the science of psychology & mental health through fictional characters, current events, & interviews. You can follow her on Twitter at @DrKathrynGordon.

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8 Responses

  1. DensityDuck says:

    The idea that writers often have of mental illness is that it’s like turning the volume knob on your personality; either you have it turned up to eleven and you get the screaming highs and the crushing lows, the “shoot someone in the face then give his wife a flower” attitude; or you turn everything down to two and you aren’t bouncing off the walls but that’s because you haven’t got the energy to bounce off of *anything*. This makes sense, because most of their experience with psychologically-affecting drugs has been overall mood-altering stimulants or depressants; very few people take psychiatric pharmaceuticals for fun, so it’s no surprise that they can only conceive of things in terms of caffeine or alcohol.

    There’s also the surprisingly common Puritan philosophy of “you shouldn’t need external help to live”.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    I think I disagree with dislike #2. You say “I didn’t like that his medications appeared to act as a hindrance to joy and authenticity.” I remember him saying something like “I haven’t been happy for one minute my whole life” when he was sitting by his mother’s hospital bed. That wasn’t due to the medications.

    When he stopped taking them, that was also when things started to really go off the rails. Not only was that somewhere around the time that he started initiating violence, he did stuff like start feeling his arms and otherwise stimming more after he stopped taking them.

    For me, when I saw that he was going to stop getting his medication, I thought “oh, crap”. They weren’t really portrayed as interfering with his happy life. They were helping him carry on.Report

  3. Doctor Jay says:

    I thought Season 3 of Daredevil did a really good job of this kind of thing with its treatment of Bullseye, who was depicted as psychopathic, but high functioning and pro-social, at least until Kingpin came into the picture.

    In particular, it addressed the “not all good or all bad” thing well.Report

  4. I haven’t seen the Joker (but I might, after reading your and Jaybird’s reviews).

    Thanks for pointing us to that NYT piece about medications. I didn’t listen to the clips, but read the summaries. I do think side effects, like the one person’s apparently facing kidney damage, need to be added to the mix of why medication is good, why someone might not like it, and why, in that way, it *can* be a hindrance to happiness. Having said that, I have someone very close to me who is very much helped by medications. I do worry about how it may affect their health long term, but I’m glad the medications are available and they can afford them.Report