Creating a villain for the sake of opposing the hero or heroine is easy. It’s harder to create a three dimensional character who is still a villain, but is just as human as the hero or heroine.
The new movie, Joker, is a standalone/maybe prequel in the world of Batman. Set somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a Gotham City plagued by crime and poverty. Arthur earns his living as a clown for hire, though his professional goal is to be a stand up comedian.
He lives with his mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Controy) in a beaten down apartment. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), a Johnny Carson like late night talk show host. He also suffers from mental illness and has daydreams of dating his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz).
Over the course of the film, Arthur slowly transforms into the villain that we know of as the Joker.
I admire that director Todd Phillips and his co-screenwriter Scott Silver tried to tackle the very complicated ideas of mental health and economic disparity. However, I found the violence to be a little much for my taste. The film was also a little on the long side.
Since the release of the film last weekend, there have been some concern that the portrayal of Arthur’s mental illness might be a trigger for those who suffer in real life. While I can completely understand that concern, I am also concerned that some in the audience might come out of the theater with the general idea that everyone who suffers from mental illness has violent or criminal tendencies.
Life has a way of throwing us curve balls when we are least expecting or liking them.
Nina Hill is the titular character in the new Abbi Waxman novel, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. Nina Hill is content with her life. The daughter of a single mother, Nina lives with her cat, works at a local bookstore and spends her free time at book clubs and pub quiz tournaments.
Then she is thrown for two loops. The first loop is that the father she never met dies and wants to bring her into his large extended family. The second loop is her attraction to Tom, a member of a rival quiz team.
I loved this book. I loved that I totally understood Nina’s perspective and why she reacts to the changes in her life. I also love that Ms. Waxman approaches mental health in a way teaches without preaching or standing on a soap box.
The first step to conquering any issue or problem is to talk about it. The problem is that this first step is often the hardest.
Thursday was World Mental Health Day. It was a day to highlight the importance of mental health, regardless of whether one is mentally healthy or lives with mental illness.
I wish that we could talk about mental illness in the same manner that we talk about other illnesses. I wish that mental illness was treated by both the medical community and the general public as other illnesses are.
But they aren’t. Mental illness is often maligned and used as blame for events that in reality has little or nothing to do with that event. It’s an easy out instead of taking a hard look at what is the real cause of the event.
We need to openly talk about mental illness as we would talk about other illnesses. We need to respect those who suffer and understand that their illness is no different than any other illness.
Until then, the idea of mental health will continue to be maligned and misunderstood.
All faiths have a build in method for which the members of the faith confess and absolve themselves of their sins and their mistakes.
In Judaism, the High Holidays is not only the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It is a time to review what has has transpired in the past year, accept that we have made mistakes and make the promise to hopefully learn from those mistakes.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am not particularly religious. But as I have gotten older and I have grappled daily with depression, I have come to appreciate the mental health aspects of the High Holidays.
The Tashlich service is simpler than Rosh Hashanah, but in my mind, just as important. To make a long story short, it is a ceremony in which prayers are made and bread is thrown into a open body of water, simulating the throwing one sin’s away.
As I completed Tashlich yesterday. I felt a sense of relief. My least favorite (if there is one to be had) aspect of depression is the constant reminder and regurgitation of past mistakes. Though I will never be free of these mistakes, Tashlich provided the opportunity for the emotional release of the errors from the past year, if only temporarily.
On Tuesday, Yom Kippur begins. It is an intense 25 hours of prayer and fasting. To say that it is not easy is an understatement. At a certain point in the day, it is mind over matter. But it is worth it. The emotional freedom that comes with completing Yom Kippur is akin to a weight being lifted off one shoulders. For a moment, it is as if my depression does not exist. But I know that the moment will pass and my depression will come back as it always does.
For those who celebrate, have an easy fast and may you be written in the book of life for the coming year.
Sometimes it seems like everything and everyone is conspiring against us. Nothing goes right, no matter how hard we work and/or pray.
According to author and speaker Gabrielle Bernstein, nothing is as bad as it seems. You need only to trust the universe and have a little faith that things will work out.
Her most recent book, The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith, was published at the tail end of last year. In the book, she writes that it is possible to let go of fear and embrace life to the fullest. Guiding the reader from fear to faith, she uses real life examples, prayer and meditation to help them release what is holding them back.
Unlike many self help books, this book is neither out there or too hippy dippy. The author does not judge her reader, she speaks to him or her as if speaking to a friend. Her advice comes from love, experience and encouragement. Though she speaks of faith, she speaks of faith in a spiritual sense without relying too heavily on any specific religion.
As someone who lives with mental illness, I absolutely loved this book. I loved that I felt like I had a way to release my feelings in a much needed healthy and emotionally profound way.
At some point in our adult lives, we have to take responsibility for our actions.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is the directorial debut of writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo. Based on the story of a friend of his, Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is in her late 20’s and living in New York City. She has a job, but it is neither professionally or financially fruitful. She drinks too much, sleeps too much and is overweight. Her life, in short, is a hot mess.
Hoping to score a prescription of adderall, Brittany visits a doctor. Instead of receiving the prescription, the doctor recommends that she lose weight. She initially balks, but follows through and starts running. She is encouraged by her neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) and Seth (Micah Stock), whom she met in her running group.
The running opens the door to other goals, including running a marathon. But doubt and insecurity gets in the way. Can Brittany succeed?
This movie has it’s pluses and it’s minuses. On the plus side, the characters and the narrative are realistic. Brittany speaks for many people, regardless of size, who are hindered by unseen emotional scars. We live in a world which is dominated by social media. The image that many of us put on our profiles may not reflect reality and may cause those who look at our profiles to compare their lives to ours.
On the minus side, the film is a little longer than I think it should be and is a little predictable story wise.
Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is presently in theaters.
Mental health, like any disease does not discriminate between rich and poor, black and white, celebrity and non-celebrity.
Five years ago today, mental health took the life of one of our most beloved performers: Robin Williams.
He was more than a comic who could do impressions. He could play drama, he could play comedy and everything in between. Underneath all of his performances was a huge heart that was evident to anyone in the audience.
This past week, his eldest son, Zak, spoke to CNN about his father.
When it comes to those who are no longer with us because of suicide, there are always questions that start with what if. While the question is certainly valid, at a certain point, we need to ask other questions. I firmly believe that we need to not only accept mental health issues as a valid disease, but treat it as a valid disease.
When confronting a problem, the first and hardest step is to ask for help. The issue with mental health is that many are afraid to ask for help because of the backlash they may receive.
Mental health and the diseases that fall under the categories of mental illness are real. The sooner we accept that, stop stigmatizing mental illness and open the doors to treatment, the better our country and our world will be.
Jeffrey Epstein is a coward. He knew what he did was wrong. He knew that when he went to trial, he would have to look at the women who he took advantage of as young girls. He knew that he would pay for his crimes.
Instead, he took the easy way out. In taking his own life, he took away the opportunity from his victims to obtain justice for what he did to them. Though he will not be sitting in a jail cell for the rest of his days, I hope that judgement comes on the other side.
May he rot in Hades for what he did to those women.
This past weekend, as we all know, was one of the bloodiest in American history. Two mass shootings killed 31 people (as of Tuesday) and injured many more. One of the first questions that many ask is why this happened.
Some may state that the accused shooter was mentally ill.
I, like millions of others around the world am mentally ill. It has been my unwanted companion for far too long. I have yet to (and it is unlikely that I ever will) purchase a gun for the sole purpose of killing innocent people.
I wish our leaders would stop pointing fingers and ask the hard questions. At this point, as a nation, experienced too many mass shootings to point fingers at outside influences. That is taking the easy way out.
Video games are not the cause of mass shootings. Neither are the Internet or mental illness. It is our lax gun laws that cause mass shootings. It is the NRA and the gun lobby who have some of our politicians in their back pocket.
I feel like right now, this nation is at a turning point. We can continue on the same path that we have been going on and lose more innocent lives. Or, we can finally take a stand and ensure that this generation does not become the generation that is killed by mass shootings.
He sounded Presidential, but in reality, he was the same hypocrite on a different day.
He talked about ending racism, white supremacy and unifying the country. But his words are sound and fury signifying nothing.
He talked about the mental health of the accused gunmen, which personally offended me. To say that the accused in both shootings are mentally ill, without knowing all of the facts is derogatory to all of us who have the unwanted friend that is mental illness.
He also talked about how violent video games contributed to real life violence. This has been proven wrong time and again. And yet, politicians will use that an excuse for the lack of real reform of gun laws.
Just after the Columbine massacre, some were saying that the music of Marilyn Manson was to blame for the shooting. I wish those in the leadership positions, whether in a religious role or a political role, would put on their big boy/big girl pants and take a real look at what caused the accused to kill innocent people.
Those of us who are of a certain age and older remember the dark days after 9/11. Then President George W. Bush stood on top of the rubble with his arm around a first responder and addressed the nation. Putting aside partisan politics, he also spoke of unity and coming together. That speech felt authentic. Yesterday’s speech was not.
May the memory of those murdered be a blessing and may we finally enact sensible gun legislation so we never have another weekend like we just had.