Forget about putting Arthur Fleck into the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ box. I personally think that this movie isn’t about seeing what is good and what is evil. I also think that we have to throw out all morality out the window when analyzing this movie and sympathize with him. If we were to view it with our sense of morality and utopian ideal, of course the definite answer will be ‘killing is not right even if you find it pleasurable and it meets your self-interest’ or ‘killing people who have caused your depression is not the answer’. It’s a rule that is already set in stone. However, I don’t think that is the point of the movie. Therefore, we have to view Arthur’s actions like that of a psychiatrist who is willing to listen to a mentally ill patient’s side of the story. After all, this movie is about him. The title of this post, which is also a quote directly taken from the movie, reflects the manner in which how we should analyze what Arthur is going through – which is by being subjective.
There is a little detail in the movie that I find intriguing. The funny (pun intended) thing about society is that they tell us to smile often. Phrases that indicate ‘smile always’ is plastered throughout the movie but the irony is that mere written and verbal phrases do not seem to help. This is one of the little details that intrigued me in the movie. It is a form of toxic positivity. Of course smiling activates our happy hormones called endorphins, but external factors do not seem to support for such an action to be continued without effort. It will only result in a discontinuation of the feedback loop. Furthermore, the politicians are corrupt, the rich is exploiting and marginalizing the poor, the economy is breaking down, people are losing their jobs, etc. Being sandwiched among these types of world problems, is there still room for happiness and feeling content? Does smiling really help? Is that the only advice and support that a broken society has to offer?
Negative thinking can lead to self-destruction. One of the ways to have a healthy mind is to remove all negative thoughts that have caused us to think of such thoughts. However, it is easier said than done. As for Arthur, he didn’t remove the negativity in his mind, he removed all of the things that made him thought of the negativity by ‘physically removing’ those who have caused those negativity. Only after that did he finally find pleasure in his mind. The irony is, what he found pleasurable was pain for others. This is where his subjectivity about the situation lies.
When there is nothing funny or pleasurable left to see, in desperation for laughter and humor, when only chaos and destruction are the only things that are at our vicinity, with the ability of our minds to interpret and perceive things however we want it, chaos can be seen as a comedy to someone. Hence, comedy is subjective.
In the end, Arthur Fleck finally became Happy (a nickname his mother gave him).
p/s: I do think that certain types of audience will have certain types of responses after watching this movie. Those without any knowledge of mental illness or mental health awareness will see this movie as Joker being crazy and not having the sense of control, while those with the knowledge of mental illness or mental health awareness will try to slowly understand where Joker is coming from. However, this movie just implies that as a society, sometimes being kind and empathetic is the least that we could offer to people with mental illness.