Last week, I had the chance to check out “Joker,” the standalone DC Comics film that features an origin story about the well-known Batman villain of the same name. Before its release, it gained controversy over the revealed details of how much more brutal and violent the film was than any of the other films based on characters from DC Comics (as it did get an R rating from the MPAA). There also were supposed threats discovered by law enforcement which caused so much concern that extra security was available at several theatre chains. Personally, I enjoyed the film for what it was: a much darker and brutal origin story for the Joker, who was played by Joaquin Pheonix.
However, as I watched the film, I began to realize that there was more to this film than just another origin story for a comic book character. In fact, this film did something that I haven’t seen any medium do in years: show the warning signs of a potential psychopath.
Now, with the recent controversies, there was fear that people would copycat the brutal violence that is presented in the film, but this was before Joker even came out. Without spoiling the film too much (and using more from the trailers than the film), we see Arthur Fleck (who eventually becomes the Joker) suffer from an unstable mental illness which causes him to laugh during inappropriate times. We also see him bullied and abused by different individuals.
Why is this important? Let me use an example of a real tragedy that involved an actual psychopath.
On May 23, 2014, a young man by the name of Elliot Rodger stabbed three men to death in his apartment before driving to Isla Vista where he struck seven people with his car, injuring them, and shot eleven more, killing four. After a standoff with law enforcement, he crashed his car into a parked vehicle before committing suicide.
Before he went on his killing spree, he posted a video on YouTube revealing his intentions to kill innocent people as part of his “retribution” to “punish” those that he felt wronged him. Years after this horrible event, an anonymous source reportedly hacked into Rodger’s Google account to reveal private emails as well as an autobiographical manuscript (which he considered his manifesto) that revealed how he was bullied by classmates for being “mixed race,” neglected by his filmmaking father (who went into debt after making a failed religious documentary), and abused by his stepmother.
It was then revealed that since he was unpopular with women, he would allegedly throw coffee and dump drinks on couples in public, and was aggressive toward innocent people. It was also revealed that he was prescribed medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that he refused to take.
There were many warning signs with Elliot Rodger, and yet nothing stopped him from killing seven innocent people and injuring 14. For anyone who has already seen “Joker,” they can say the same about what happens in the film: the warning signs were there. Yet, what do people focus on when tragedies happen? Anything but the warning signs involving the perpetrator. People want to blame guns, violent videos games, violent movies and music. Yet, they don’t take the time to look into the perpetrator’s personal life. In all honesty, this needs to change.