The new Joker movie came out this weekend.
It pushes the outer edge of superhero movies into a new darker world that has never been seen or experienced before.
Instead of seeing Gotham through Batman's eyes, we now get to see Gotham through Joker's eyes.
And it all begins to make sense.
(I'm going to likely tell spoilers in this piece. So, read ahead with that in mind.)
Look at this screenshot from the review site Rotten Tomatoes:
The critics are against it and the audience loves it.
This is so important because of course the critics (the man) are against this movie. The movie is against them.
The movie is a dark anthem for the people in a world where the government is against them... just like real life. The government doesn't care about them because they prefer to focus on the low hanging fruit... the wealthy people.
Get the wealthy people in and push the deviant people out. That's the essence of the American experiment in the 21st century that has been brewing since the 1980's. Reagan decimated mental health services. Clinton destroyed welfare and shipped all our jobs out of the country with NAFTA.
There are so many components to this American condition that are creating a brutal existence for so many people. In this case the focus is on the area of mental health.
This movie is as much of a slow, burning grind through the mental health system in America as it is the Scorsese-esque reboot of Taxi Driver for this generation.
If you think this movie is "boring" as some professional reviewers have called it, you are exposing yourself as a person who finds the reality of the marginalized Americans who are poor, mentally ill and disdained by their country as boring. This is why Joker is angry. The people on the inside find his condition and world he is trapped in "boring."
Batman's father calls them "clowns."
Dan Horrigan, Akron's mayor, calls them "living beneath human dignity."
Joker is an extreme, blown out fictional icon of the manifestation of marginalization in America.
This is what happens when you don't help the people in your country that need help.
Just as we don't have a vigilante super hero like Batman in real life, fortunately we don't have a vigilante super villain like Joker. But we do have the millions of people that are on the Joker's spectrum due to untreated mental illness.
Fortunately, they don't go on murderous rampages. They typically act out mostly in ways that hurt themselves.
But it's all the same thing.
You are walked step by step through what I've seen many people live in real life America.
Americans with SERIOUS mental health issues are left stranded in the "greatest country in the world."
Do you know what a pink slip is?
I've tried numerous times to "pink slip" people.
Here's how it works:
Someone is clearly, seriously mentally ill. To the point that you are deeply concerned they are going to hurt themselves or someone else.
So, you call the police and let them know you are working with a person you feel is dangerously mentally ill.
They send out a special investigator that is trained on these matters.
75% of the time the person snaps out of it. They play the role of a sane person. (This makes the insanity experienced by the outside viewer even more head spinning.)
The special investigator will tell you straight up that this is what often happens. The person knows how to answer the questions so they won't be taken into custody.
Most of the time the investigator shrugs their shoulders and tells you to call again if the person acts out. (You only have to call a couple times before you stop calling, trust me.)
But every once in a while the person is so bat-shit crazy they can't keep it together. The investigator comes, the person can't resist telling them about the rock they are convinced is from the moon is instructing them to kill people.
So the system works! The person is "pink slipped" and taken away... for 3 days.
3 days is how long they are gone. In 72 hours they are right back with me, maybe a little more calm for the moment. But here's a news flash: you can't fix a dual diagnosis of drugs and schizophrenia and bi-polar and explosive anger in 3 days.
The person is told to come back for treatment. Sometimes they go. Most of the time they don't.
Just as Joker says in the movie: They feel better in their insanity. That world makes more sense. I can't say I blame them. The world of reality often seems more insane than a murder-instructing rock from the moon.
People often ask me why I still do it.
I've been punched, stolen from countless times. My porta potty was burned down. Someone is currently using a back patio as a bathroom. Human shit piles are big and disgusting.
I do it because the system is WAY more fucked up than the people that are acting out as products of the system.
The way we treat the mentally ill, the homeless and the addicted is the true madness. I am not overstating anything by saying America does not care about these people. We have a one size fits all solution as a society for them: jail.
We lock them up for short stints at a time. They get no treatment. They get no counseling. They are just warehoused for 30, 60 or 90 days and then sent right back into a world of systemic poverty, drug dealer cruelty, and an ocean of hopelessness.
This is their life. Mental illness, often self-medicated, acting out, going to jail and repeating the cycle all over.
Joker is my guy.
Joker is a person who has been betrayed by the system.
His actions cannot be justified. But they are clearly understood.
I'm so deeply thankful for this movie because it brings empathy to the marginalized mentally ill.
My hope is that people who hate the homeless and hate the addicted will soften after seeing this movie.
Joker is so much worse than a homeless person or an addict. But the cause of his actions come from the exact same place.
If you watch this movie and can say, "I see how the system can make a person like Joker," my sincere hope is you can then say, "I see how the system can make a homeless person or a drug addict."
We will never solve addiction or homelessness by blaming the victim. By blaming the addict or the homeless.
Yes, their actions are their own. They are responsible for their actions.
But their circumstances come from a deeply flawed, broken, corrupt system that hates them and just wants them to disappear so we can get back to the regularly scheduled programming of loving on rich people.
I stand with the Joker. I am his advocate. I am his narrator. I am the person who will fight for all the Jokers of the world because they are just troubled people that the system has forgotten and society has been trained to hate or scorn.
(Incidentally, I also happen to believe we really need a person like Batman in the hood. The police do nothing about drug houses. I also stand with Batman. Unfortunately, unlike Joker, he's actually just pure fantasy.)