5 Key Themes and Messages in Joker (2019)

Joker is an exploration of the complex themes and messages that plague modern society. It highlights issues like mental illness, social inequality, violence, the power of perception and narratives, and the nature of evil.

Joker, released in 2019 and directed by Todd Phillips, is an exploration of several thought-provoking themes and messages that have earned the movie critical acclaim and made it one of the most talked-about films in recent years.

The story follows Arthur Fleck, a struggling comedian who descends into madness and ultimately becomes the iconic villain, the Joker. Through his struggles, we get a glimpse into the complex themes and messages the movie presents. I have covered the themes and messages in The Batman (2022) already so today, I present you with an in-depth analysis of the 5 key themes and messages conveyed by his arch nemesis Joker in this article.

1. Mental Illness and Society’s Treatment

Joker’s Mental illness is one of the most prominent themes in the movie. In particular, the movie focuses on the way in which society treats people with mental health issues.

Arthur Fleck’s struggles with his own mental health, as well as his mother’s, are evident throughout the movie. He suffers from a condition that causes him to uncontrollably laugh at inappropriate times, making him an outcast in society. We see how the mental health system in Gotham City fails him and how his therapist is unable to properly understand his issues. As a result, he is unable to access the medication he needs, causing him to descend further into madness.

The movie powerfully highlights the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as society’s tendency to ignore or neglect those with mental health issues.

joker movie violence
Joker is beaten by teenagers

In the above scene, Arthur is violently beaten by a group of teenagers while they mock his uncontrollable laughter. This demonstration of how people with mental health issues are treated is a haunting reminder of the reality of this stigma.

2. Social Inequality and Class Divide

Joker also examines the issue of social inequality and class divide in the fictional Gotham City. Arthur is part of the underclass, living in a run-down apartment with his mother and working as a clown. The city is rife with social and economic inequality, with the rich living in luxury while the poor struggle to survive. This inequality is revealed in the protests and riots that break out in the city, which are a reflection of the anger and frustration of the underclass. 

The movie also highlights the power of the wealthy and privileged to maintain their status and keep the poor in their control.

One scene shows Thomas Wayne dismissively referring to the protests as the “clown’s” rebellion, demonstrating the arrogance and disregard of the wealthy for those less fortunate.

3. Violence and Its Consequences

Violence is another key theme in Joker, and the movie explores both its consequences and its causes. We see how violence can be a result of social and economic inequality, mental health issues, and a lack of access to resources. Arthur’s descent into madness is marked by acts of violence, and ultimately, he becomes a symbol of chaos and anarchy in the city. 

The movie also shows the consequences of violence, both for the victims and the perpetrators. One scene in particular, where Arthur shoots Murray Franklin on live television, is a powerful representation of the devastating impact of violence. It also shows the consequences of taking justice into one’s own hands.

joker final scene
Joker Shoots Murray Franklin in the Finale

In a weird way, the movie is more of a psychological horror than just a psychological thriller. In addition to the crazy violence, there are various other aspects, such as the bleak atmosphere, sound design, uneasy feeling, and more, that make Joker feel so scary.

4. The Power of Perception and Narratives

Joker examines the power of perception and narratives and how they can shape people’s views. Throughout the movie, we see how people’s perceptions of Arthur change. At first, he is seen as a sympathetic and pitiable character, but as his actions become more extreme, his perception shifts. 

The movie also emphasizes the power of narratives, and how they can shape public opinion and behavior. In one scene, protestors in clown masks confront the police, a powerful representation of how narratives can influence the masses. The Joker comes to be a symbol of rebellion for the underclass, and his actions inspire others to take up the cause of the oppressed.

The movie also highlights the role of the media in creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes of the mentally ill. In one scene, Murray Franklin interviews Arthur on his talk show, showing how the media can manipulate and exploit vulnerable individuals.

5. The Nature of Evil

Finally, Joker delves into the nature of evil and whether it is a result of external factors or an inherent quality. We see how Arthur’s descent into madness is a result of his traumatic experiences and his mental health issues, but the movie also raises the question of whether he was always capable of such extreme violence, or if it was a result of his circumstances. 

The movie also challenges the traditional binary of good vs. evil by portraying the Joker as a sympathetic character at times. The scene where he dances down the stairs after his transformation is a powerful representation of the character’s complexity and how he is both a victim and a villain.

joker dancing

The movie challenges traditional narratives and binary classifications and forces viewers to question their assumptions and beliefs. Joker is a powerful commentary on the world we live in today. I, for one, can not wait to see how Joker 2 turns out.

Saurav B.

Saurav is the main content creator at Film Finesse's blog and YouTube. He has six years of experience as a content writer, including writing screenplays for short movies and videos. He has 5 years of experience as a research manager, along with a degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering.

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