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Socialized Madness

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I am not sure I agree with John’s assertion that Joker is “brazenly honest” in its portrayal of mental illness. (Editorial note: “Brazen” in this sense means “shameless,” i.e. having a face made of brass and therefore incapable of blushing, so “brazenly honest” doesn’t really make sense, even in these troubled times.) I think it is a good film in many ways and appreciate its ambition, but its approach to mental illness struck me as not exactly dishonest but deficient. It is confused.

It also is formulaic: trauma x plus trauma y multiplied by social condition z equals atrocity a.

John describes the little sociological speech leading up to the film’s climactic murder as representing the title character’s “lone moment of lucidity in the film,” and perhaps it does — which is the problem. Mentally ill people who do horrible things generally do not have that kind of coherence, even when their delusions intersect with ideologies. Consider the case of John Salvi, the abortion-clinic shooter. He obviously cared a great deal about abortion, but his crimes were precipitated by a dispute at work (he was in training to be a hairdresser) and his political obsessions ran the gamut from fiat money (that inexhaustible source of........

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