Joker distorts link between mental illness and violence

The critically acclaimed film Joker is playing to packed cinemas, but its portrayal of mental illness is worrying 
Picture shows a scene from the movie Joker in which the star, Joaquin Phoenix, wearing clown makeup, is looking at a mirror on which has been written, ‘Put on a happy face.’ The article argues that Joker’s portrayal of mental illness is worrying. 

The critically acclaimed film Joker is playing to packed cinemas, but its portrayal of mental illness is worrying

The world of cinema has long used mental illness as a focus for a riveting story. Who can forget the stellar performances of Jack Nicholson in The Shining and, of course, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

In one he descends into some vague but violent disorder and terrorises his family, and in the other he plays a ‘sane’ interloper in a 1960s state asylum, dominated by the brutal Nurse Ratched.

Influence of popular culture on public opinion

The depiction of electroconvulsive therapy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is believed to have dissuaded many from receiving a treatment that, the evidence suggests, can be beneficial. Ultimately, Nicholson’s free-spirited character is subjected to a


Want to read more?

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Nursing Standard
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?