This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from the film, ‘Joker.’ (Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
- Smile, because it confuses people. Smile, because it’s easier than explaining what is killing you inside.
Arthur is mentally unstable. He works as a clown to pay his bills and feed his elderly mother. His only escape from his unsatisfactory life is `Live with Murray`, a talk show full of bright lights and a happy audience amidst all the gloom of Gotham city. He dreams of participating in the program as an audience member, sharing his personal story and being cheered by other people`s applause and by Murray`s compassionate words that show he is proud of him. He looks up to the host Murray because he believes he is special and that one day he himself could become a successful comedian. He wants others to pay attention to him. But there is another reason why he looks up to Murray: because of his issues with father figures in his life.
The ideology of a ‘father’ has been important throughout history. From a religious point of view – `God as a father to all creation` – to the general Giuseppe Garibaldi, who unified Italy and had earned for himself the name of `Father of the fatherland`. At a young age, we are so fragile that we are scared of moderately-sized dogs and naïve to the extent that we don’t know why there are rainbow and stars. That is why we seek qualities that are strong, someone who could save us in danger, and who could teach us when in need. If these needs are not fulfilled, we attempt to find them in friendships and relationships later in adult life and constantly fantasize about them. And so, Arthur’s longing for a dad is wholly natural.
Thomas Wayne, Batman’s father, is a respected and wealthy man in Gotham City who has all the qualities that Arthur seeks in a father figure. Arthur read his mother’s letter to Thomas Wayne and accidentally found out that Thomas is his father. Despite his personal resentment against him for leaving a child and a mother, he feels relieved and decides to go to meet Thomas. Eventually, he finds out that he is not related to Thomas and that his mother has psychological problems. As Thomas suggested, Arthur goes to a hospital to track his mother’s medical history.
In the hospital, Arthur finds information concerning his real father and, more importantly, how his father ruined the boy’s mental health with his abusive behavior and how his delusional mother sided with the father and made her son put on ‘a happy face’ every time he was being abused, which led to adult psychological problems that made him unable to stop laughing uncontrollably, especially in uncomfortable situations.
Daddy issues may be a consequence of abandonment or of having a dad who is cruel or showing a lack of interest in his children. In Arthur’s case, he had had not only a cruel father but also those replacement father figures in his adult life left him humiliated or mocked him in front of people and took away his remaining hope. Nothing can hurt him anymore.
Arthur’s psychological problems are enmeshed with political reality. Gotham’s unfair wealth distribution, Thomas Waynes of the world, looking down on less fortunate people, cuts to the health-care funding for the neediest, all conspire to enrage people and stir them to rise up in protest to fight back and regain some of the control in their lives.
The move shows us `Evil is like a lottery – all too accidental. Given the right circumstances, anyone can break bad. Under particularly tragic circumstances, one may even discover that the only way to live with some control over their own life is to live as a cruel person`.