While the “Joker” movie continues to slay box office records, one of Oklahoma’s leading mental health advocates is concerned that the film may also wrongly lead some to link mental illness with violence.
Mike Brose, Mental Health Association of Oklahoma chief empowerment officer, said: “It’s an incredible piece of art. The acting is unbelievable.
“But it’s presented in such a way that it definitely gives a completely false impression of what goes on with a person battling mental illness.”
Violence committed by someone with a mental illness, even in an untreated state, is extremely rare, he said.
In the movie, the Joker is played by Joaquin Phoenix, who puts his own twisted spin on the comic book supervillain.
Phoenix is brilliant in the role, Brose said, but if moviegoers come away thinking “that’s the way people are who have an untreated mental illness — that’s just not true, not accurate.”
“Being in the profession, I can see through that,” he added. “But it could be very misleading to the uninformed.”
Brose said “Joker” stayed on his mind for days after he saw it recently with a friend.
“On one level it is about someone who has been traumatized,” and allows you to feel the Joker character’s pain, he said.
“But as the movie wore on, his psychological well-being began to deteriorate at a rapid rate. Then it became for me as an advocate extremely painful and difficult to watch.”
Brose said he didn’t have the same problems with Heath Ledger’s Joker role in “The Dark Knight,” although he did find it “really disturbing.”
“That was more of a horror movie … that character of Joker was all evil, all bad, and it was more of a superhero-type setting. He was like a terrifying cartoon character.”
Brose said as a mental health advocate he has to keep up with how the issue is dealt with in film and television.
“Sometimes my position requires me to know what’s going on in the culture,” he said.
He said the organization has worked hard to change false perceptions about mental illness, and must remain alert for anything that could hurt progress.
“People are talking about this movie,” Brose said. “There’s a lot of conversation about it.”