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.
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.
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.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
When it comes to one’s career choice, many are influenced by their parents or other family members. But going into the family business is not as easy as it seems. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, District Attorney Peter Stone (Phillip Winchester) is a second generation District Attorney. His late father, Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) was also a New York City District Attorney.
D.A. Stone’s introduction to the characters and the audience is via his father’s funeral. He became the District Attorney after the previous D.A. Barba (Raul Esparza) resigned. Like many new relationships, there was some initial tension with the SVU detectives, who were used to Barba and his perspective of the law. But that tension disappeared as Stone became another member of the team.
Over the course of his time with SVU, Stone revealed more about himself than his knowledge of the law. He had a promising career in baseball before an injury forced him to change professions. He has a sister who lived with mental illness, she died in his arms during a police shootout.
In the courtroom, Stone is a professional, but he is also imperfect. He is accused of rape, but the charges are lifted when the real rapist, a friend of Stone’s is arrested. He also was able to take down a rapist who his father was not able to. In his final character arc, he put his career on the line to stage a prosecution in order to win what seemed to be in an unwinnable case. When his plan is revealed, Stone resigned. His heart and his morals were in the right place, even if he stepped over an ethical boundary.
To sum it up: Stepping into the career shoes of one’s parent or family member has it’s own set of challenges. But D.A. Stone is not one to simply stand in his late father’s shadow. He is a brilliant lawyer in his own right and thoroughly human.
Which is why fans still appreciate him, even if his time on SVU was all too brief.
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.
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.
From the eyes of the general public, when one is a celebrity, life is nothing short of perfection. Everything (and everyone) that we ever wanted or needed just appears in our lives. Our problems melt away like ice off a cold beverage that has just been removed from an ice filled cooler.
The truth is that celebrities are human beings just like the rest of u, who by some twist of fate, became famous and earn more money in a year than most of us earn in our entire lifetimes.
Back at the end of May, the YouTube channel Absolute Motivation released a video entitled “Matthew McConaughey – This Is Why You’re Not Happy | One Of The Most Eye Opening Speeches“.
What I love about this video is that Mr. McConaughey speaks to all of us. He challenges the viewer to consider their definition of happiness and joy. It’s not the perfect solution to making our mental health issues disappear. But it’s practical and given the complicated world that we live in, it might be the answer we are looking for.
When a loved one dies of a physical health issue or a random accident, the common response for the deceased loved ones is sympathy. When a loved one dies from suicide due to mental illness, the common response is not always sympathy.
In 2017, Dr. Jennifer Ashton thought that she had it all: two happy and healthy children, a career as a respected physician and an amicable relationship with her ex-husband. Then her ex-husband committed suicide.
In her new memoir, Life after Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort and Community after Unthinkable Loss, Dr. Ashton writes about the unexpected death of her ex-husband and how it changed her life. In this deeply personal memoir, Dr. Ashton takes the reader through the bumpy road from grief to acceptance. She also includes the stories of other women who have lost loved ones to suicide and how they learned to cope with their new reality.
I found this book to be one of the best books on mental illness that I have read in a long time. When we talk about suicide, we often talk about the person who took their own life, forgetting that their loved ones are dealing with an unimaginable loss and questions with answers that are not so black and white.
I recommend this book not just for those who are suffering from mental illness, but for those who love them. If nothing else, it will hopefully open the door to a conversation and perhaps save a few lives.