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Tags: joker | mental illness | david fincher | todd phillips

Director Blasts 'Joker' for Portrayal of Mental Illness

fincher in a black shirt and hat speaking at an event
David Fincher (David Livingston/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 16 November 2020 01:38 PM EST

David Fincher believes the DC Comics film "Joker" is a "betrayal of the mentally ill." The blockbuster, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, raked in more than $1 billion at the box office last year and earned two Oscars from 11 nominations. Despite its success, the Todd Phillips-directed film's success was met with backlash for its portrayal of mental illness. Among its critics, Fincher hinted that the movie exploited the mentally ill for money while piggybacking off the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, which tie in with the plotline of "Joker."

"Nobody would have thought they had a shot at a giant hit with 'Joker' had 'The Dark Knight' not been as massive as it was," the "Fight Club" director said in an interview with The Telegraph published Friday. "I don't think ­anyone would have looked at that material and thought, 'Yeah, let's take Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin [characters in "Taxi Driver" and "The King of Comedy"] and conflate them, then trap him in a betrayal of the mentally ill, and trot it out for a billion dollars."

Fincher, whose next movie "Mank" is coming to Netflix, added that Hollywood studios "don’t want to make anything that can’t make them a billion dollars."

"None of them want to be in the medium-priced challenging-content business. And that cleaves off exactly the kind of movies I make," he said. "What the streamers are doing is providing a platform for the kind of cinema that actually reflects our culture and wrestles with big ideas: where things are, what people are anxious and unsure about. Those are the kinds of movies that would have been dead on arrival five years ago."

"Joker" tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a former mental patient who becomes a villain in the Batman saga. Some have praised the film for sparking conversations around mental health — a topic often downplayed in society — but medical professionals fear "Joker" may only add to the stigma.

"Research clearly indicates that individuals with mental illness are no more violent than the population as a whole. In fact, persons with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes than to commit them," Dr Ziv Cohen, a criminal psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Cornell University, pointed out to Insider.

"Fully alive characters, like people, can never be reduced to a simple diagnosis," he added. "For example, when we give someone in psychiatry the label 'bipolar,' that doesn't mean that we are reporting on the most interesting thing about that person. It's just one aspect of that person, and rarely fully explains behavior."

Phillips addressed the backlash last year in an interview with TheWrap.

"We didn't make the movie to push buttons," he said. "I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, 'Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.' It wasn't 'We want to glorify this behavior.' It was literally like 'Let's make a real movie with a real budget and we'll call it f---ing Joker.' That's what it was."

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TheWire
David Fincher believes the DC Comics film "Joker" is a "betrayal of the mentally ill." The blockbuster, which stars Joaquin Phoenix, raked in more than $1 billion at the box office last year and earned two Oscars from 11 nominations. Despite its success, the Todd Phillips...
joker, mental illness, david fincher, todd phillips
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2020-38-16
Monday, 16 November 2020 01:38 PM
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