A Joker lurks inside us

Insanity! Such a small word, and yet so powerful. So lightly used by those who do not realize its import, and so devastating for those who live it. What is insanity? A different point of view can be insanity. A different outlook? Inability to adapt to the society at large, is that insanity too? Maybe it is.

Is it an objective definition? Can you measure insanity? Weigh it? Transport it? Liquify it? Evaporate it? Or is it a subjective definition imposed by the ‘sane’ majority over the ‘insane’ minority. Is it a majoritarian imposition? Can it be crystallized in a laboratory? Can it be cured? What causes it? Is it genetic? Is it brought on by circumstances? Or maybe it is both, like most things in life are. 

So little is needed for someone to ‘turn’. One picogram of serotonin or melatonin or dopamine more or less, and you turn insane. These are powerful substances. Stuff made by the Gods. They can alter one’s concept of reality, their dreams and aspirations, their value system, their needs and desires, their view of the world – these are all subjective issues, impermanent, determined only by which chemical is running around in your neurons. 

Scratch the surface – and it lurks inside every one of us. Who? The Joker.

Saw the 2019 movie, Joker, recently. Written, produced and directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, the movie is an attempt to look at the Joker from another perspective – HIS perspective. It dwells into the cause of his ‘turning’, why he is susceptible, what pushes him? Does it try to justify the persona of the Joker? Maybe. Is it successful? Probably. But what is more important than the way it projects the Joker is the way it makes one look at the reasons of the Joker’s ‘turning’. 

The gist of the movie is in the question that the Joker asks of Murray Franklin, a talk show host played by Robert De Niro. ‘What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?’ is the question that hangs heavily in the air, and you find yourself answering involuntarily – ‘The Joker’. And it is true. 

Like most illnesses, there is a genotypic and a phenotypic component to insanity and a ‘trigger’. To get lung cancer, for example, one has to be genetically predisposed to cancer, has to smoke day in and day out, and one day, one fine day, that last puff of smoke just triggers it. There you have it – lung cancer or the Joker, take your pick. 

An amazingly powerful movie, but not for the ones who want to watch the movie for a good laugh. It will leave you feeling morose, melancholy and, and this is the most frightening part, a little ‘loose’, and on the edge. You will be able to sympathize with the Joker, but still see him as the criminal that he is. And that is the great genius of the direction. A must watch movie!!!

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By Divya Narain

Additional Professor in Plastic Surgery, doting father, loving husband, newbie author. Love travel and literature. Love reading religion, politics and history!

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