The Terrible Condition in Joker is Real

by Romana Greene
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The latest Joker movie has been hailed as an exceptional movie by most critics. The movie is a gritty portrayal of the descent into madness and a far cry from the formula that many superhero films have followed to date. In the film, Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck. Fleck suffers from a condition that means he is unable to control bouts of laughter. We won’t post any spoilers but let’s just say this issue is one of many problems that Fleck appears to have. What may be surprising to many is that the condition is real.

Fleck goes through many awkward moments in the movie when at inappropriate moments he appears unable to stop his laughter. He even presents a small card to strangers at times to explain why he is acting in such a strange manner; an uncommon condition. The condition exists in real life and is called Pseudobulbar Affect.

Pseudobulbar Affect is caused by a problem with the frontal lobe and the brainstem. It causes those who suffer from the issue to lack the appropriate tools to regulate how emotions are expressed. It causes people to laugh uncontrollably for long periods or cry. The condition can be very strange for those who have it as it can last for many minutes. This means that while friends continue to have a very normal conversation the person has to just watch and cry hysterically. 

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When asked about the condition both Phoenix and director Todd Philips admitted it was a huge inspiration. When Philips first contact Phoenix about the role he showed him a tape of a patient suffering from uncontrollable laughter. Phoenix has gone on to say that he didn’t play the Joker suffering from this condition exactly. He thinks that maybe the condition is a useful way for the Joker to explain his behavior but that in reality the Joker may just find twisted and sick moments truly comical and is now lashing out in uncontrollable laughter fits due to trying to suppress his sick thoughts for too long. 

The movie will engage you from start to finish. It is a shocking portrayal of how suffering can lead to madness and yet a superhero movie at the same time. Enjoy.

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