Films misinform about mental disorders

By Gustavo Buenrostro

With the release of “Joker,” it’s a good time to remember that people with mental disorders and illnesses are not dangerous, and the stigma that they are is a bad thought process.

“Joker” is about a character who starts to descend into madness as he realizes the world is not the greatest to people like him. The film shows Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, to have a few mental disorders. 

Narcissistic personality disorder is one that the film names. Arthur clearly has a type of psychosis, but the film never explains which one it is. 

He does show the symptoms of a psychosis like delusions of grandeur and hallucinations. to name a few. 

The character in the comics and movies is dangerous and is shown to be violent. This gives the impression that everyone who has mental disorders are like that, but that is far from the truth. 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, those with mental disorders and illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violent actions than be the cause of them. 

Arthur in “Joker” is actually shown to be more clear-headed and sure of what he is doing than those who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. He clearly knows that what he is doing is bad and chooses to still do so. 

In the film, he says that he is tired of pretending that he doesn’t think it’s okay. He knows and just doesn’t care. People who are tried for murder and use the insanity plea usually don’t know the difference. 

An article called “The Insanity Defense,” written by Charles Montaldo, defines what the legal definition of insanity is. 

“Although definitions of legal insanity differ from state to state, generally a person is considered insane and is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of the offense, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, he was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his/her acts,” it says.

Arthur clearly knows what he’s doing when he commits the murders in the film, yet the film treats him like an insane person, which he may  have not been entirely. 

It’s bad when films like these come out, because it further pushes the narrative that people with these disorders are going to be violent. 

The public will have negative thoughts about these people because of films like this that don’t take the care of distinguishing what someone who has mental disorders are and someone who just has a negative view of the world. 

Films have often been bad at representing people with mental health problems and misinform their audience. A lot of the time, it’s to service the plot because the truth is much more mundane than what writers would like it to be. 

The lack of care that writers put in writing scripts with mental illnesses is what further pushes the stereotypes of people with mental illness. 

Bryant Horowitz, an assistant professor at East Los Angeles College with a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience, said that films like “Joker’’ tend to get the mental illness wrong because it doesn’t work for the plot. 

“Films get mental illness wrong because it doesn’t work for the narrative. They don’t have an obligation to be accurate. They have an obligation to entertaining,” Horowitz said.

When watching films like this, it’s always safe to assume that the film is probably getting it wrong. 

It’s good to look up these illnesses and disorders if someone is curious to be better informed because there are still a lot of people that don’t know the reality of mental health. 

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