Feminism And Social Imbalance

Feminism and Social Imbalance


Feminism itself has come to be defined as something universal that applies to women as a whole. For many people, and men in particular, this has split the mainstream and all-too-common understanding of the idea into two primary divisions. There is the “girl-power” side that stereotypes the feminist as an angry misfit unnecessarily stomping their foot for the same economic, political, and social respect that men have. The other side calls for individual women to work through obstacles of systematic disprivelage, viewing feminism as a type of death to chivalry and simply too radical and emotionally charged. These two shallow conceptions in themselves are missing a true awareness of systematic discrimination. While women have been victim to subjugation throughout history, reacting in various ways, it is important to evaluate feminist theory in its current state with reference to the social forces it is combating (Hooks, 2000). When I discuss this topic with some of my male friends, most of the time I hear gross accusations about how all feminists are lesbians, or trying to challenge the nature of human relationships, or that they all hate men for controlling society. What is missing is any application of knowledge about the historical dichotomy of power between men and women that is much larger than our self-important minds can grasp. Nor is there an appreciation for feminist thought as something with a developmental life span longer than many of our lives. The following story gives an example of how sexist power relations have existed throughout history, helping illustrate the feminist movement as more of a result of historical circumstances than a senseless expression of anger. In the time period when hunting and gathering were relied on for survival, women were clearly the dominant sex in the social construction and were viewed as having an inherent claim to social supremacy. As time went on and their power turned into pervasively cruel and oppressive tendencies, along with alarmingly creative torture techniques, men rebelled and began to take control in the dichotomy. This role-reversal is a tale as old as time itself- working cyclically throughout time in various nations, cultures, and forms. At its most fundamental level Feminism is a necessary effect of a power imbalance that has simply become too ingrained in the socio-political sphere. This works on several levels ranging from the archetype of a white woman who marries rich and is limited to being an active decoration of the household to the archetypal young black woman forced to find a “sugar-daddy” in the face of unforgiving economic imbalances. Whether or not everyone is aware of it, the current social construct is not a system that breeds equal standing and opportunity despite every person being granted equal rights.

In my experience the common perception of feminism from a young male’s point of view is that it is made up of women angry at men for causing their oppressed existential position. Even worse, many feel that they want to be more like men. This conception misses the heart of feminist politics as being about the fundamental rights of all persons, ranging from the ethics of common law to the fulfillment of equal rights in their entirety. As a movement its core goals are to end sexism by combatting the exploitation of sexist relations and the oppressive forces that create these injustices on both a micro and macro level. It is not anti-male, but rather a remedy for all issues arising from gender norms that operate in a binary system. This leaves those who experience the world outside of a culture’s narrowed theoretical framework to be subjugated into an unequal quality of experience (Wilchins, 2002). In the United States, women have been constrained to incredibly mundane expectations of behavior and a subdued place in the social structure since the nation’s birth. While the word “feminism” reflects the movement’s core responsibility to advocate the rights of all women and contest patriarchal sexism, the movement has evolved into an organization of protest to social imbalance as a whole. In the article “The tyranny of gendered spaces- reflections from beyond the gendered dichotomy” Petra L. Doan demonstrates how systematic categorization acts as a type of tyranny that limits people to gendered expectations. She argues that gendered ways of thinking have become inherent to our mental experience, using those who identify as transgendered or intersexed to bring back into our awareness the threat to humanity gender limitations poses. Doan defines tyranny as “the exercise of power which is cruelly or harshly administered; (usually involving) some form of oppression by those wielding power over the less-powerful” (2010). Western society has a continually developing “tyranny of gender” that views behavior lying outside a given gender expectation as something necessarily negative. Doan discusses this with her experience in gendered spaces and the impact it had on her as an LGTB individual. She was only able to be at one with her true self in “secret spaces” that were relaxed enough to not make her navigate around her transgender identification. In other words, she felt the necessity to deploy a false self in order to feel compatible with most social settings. This account is a testimony to how one’s mental network can range beyond the gender dichotomy and thus force an individual to filter out essential aspects of their true nature. This causes a kind of spiritual death when one cannot behave in accordance to their inner mental workings, highlighting sexual identification as more dynamic, active, and indicative of behavior than it appears. By recognizing the ways transgendered and/or intersexed communities recognize personal gender in its greater context we can better understand how they navigate space than their sexual orientation can. LGBT communities are clearly the most victimized group of people as a result of gendered ways of thinking, taking root in the same social disjuncture that feeds into sexism. By deploying a critical lens in examining gender as a whole the elements that are most telling about the threats of sexist tendencies become clearer.

In “Feminism is for Everybody: passionate politics” Gloria Jean Watkins (better known as bell hooks) fleshes out feminism as a theoretical field. Her emphasis on race and racism points to the power imbalance underlies all points of societal oppression. She outlines the developmental timeline of women in respect to all of civil rights activism, saying that most white women chose to “ally” themselves with white men in facing the idea of black men gaining the right to vote while they could not. They unified under the still very alive concept of white supremacy and ignored race as something compatible with gender. Notions of race in the feminist movement were illogically brushed off as attempts to push the conversation away from gender. By denying the presence of race the field failed to appreciate difference as something layered and in need for a critical lens, stunting the growth of the still growing field of civil rights. As the communities banned together, looking at female status as a whole allowed the movement to take foundation in the larger conditions that result in sexist discrimination. This impactful shift in thought helped feminism become a type of catalyst for women to speak out about the quality of their lived experience. Despite being unified under a sexual orientation, “sisterhood” if you will, the notion of liberation from social injustice became the true heart of feminism. This spawned from the uniracial point of solidarity that moved gender discussions away from being two ends of a single binary pushing against each other; instead, the bonds between white women and women of color served as an example of where the movement should lead. Without a theoretical framework that considers women’s experience as a whole it is difficult to isolate the consistencies of struggle that unify the issue in its totality.

In order to isolate the social conditions that lead to sexist conditioning and sexism there is a need for a shift in attention toward the female group in its internal diversity. With this lens we can isolate the regulations that reflect oppression in its sexist capacities and is consistent among women of various contexts. While multicultural psychology does not have an established set of structured principles, its aim is to unpack the underlying ideologies that guide social behavior in regard to sub-grouping. As a field, though, it is not without core ideas in guiding research, there has simply been no establishment of universal terms recognized by the field as a whole. One conception of MCP’s principalities highlights the notion of “embeddedness,” which is the idea that people’s experiences are embedded in a variety of levels of experience and contexts extending from microscopic to macroscopic severity. Thus research needs to take root in their “totality and interrelationships” (Davis, Okazaki, Giroux 2014). Another pillar is to view psychological experience as influenced by “the dynamics of dominant-subordinate relationships among different groups and identities” (2014), calling for a methodology that best reflects the lived realities of the group being studied. Finally, the lens used needs to be qualitative in nature because of the rich and complex ways minority groups have experienced the world throughout history. With these principles we are able to isolate the conceptual consistencies that make up the sexist worldview. My method will be focused on the relationship between dominant and subordinate sub-groups, highlighting the ways discriminatory practice effects they quality of one’s worldview. The subject of the study is centered on feminism, from which I will attempt to identify how different groups of women understand the movement and why. There will be two groups of women studied: the first will be students randomly selected from the campus of (the predominantly Caucasian populated) Duquesne University, and the other from the Smoker Friendly cigar shop where I work on weekday afternoons. The female customer base is predominantly black, many of whom take residence at the homeless shelter next door. The two primary distinctions are matters of race and socio-economic class, the first group being predominantly white women from an upper-middle class background, and the second being primarily black women who most likely have lived below the poverty line for most of their lives. My goal is to divulge into the theoretical levels feminism is at work through the lived realities of women on the polar opposite ends of lived experience. The results will be demonstrated in descriptive literature, reminiscent of a conversation or discourse analysis, in an attempt to cultivate the imperative to raise critical consciousness. I will ask 10 (or as many as I can convince to discuss it at length) women in each setting a few questions concerning their understanding of feminism, the first being to define the term, and then to describe the attributes of the stereotypical feminist. I will then ask whether she believes to have control over her position in the social hierarchy, followed up by the extent to which she believes patriarchy to be responsible for the given belief. One might speculate that the Duquesne student will attribute the patriarchy as an inhibiting force can lower the ceiling of potential for women in certain fields while making the achievement of any success in most fields more resilient than to men. They may be more prone to feel in control of their social position due to the accessibility to resources and belief in the American pillars of hard work, individualism, and free-enterprise. While this is solely speculation, it reflects the stereotypical (and firmly grounded in reality) underpinnings of the inhibitions for a female in a male dominated society. The second group, which I am far less capable of fully relating to than my already shallow conception of a Duquesne female’s experience, might note the idea of the “strong, independent black woman,” which I hear at least four to five times a day in conversations at Smoker Friendly, that doesn’t need a man to take care of her. Their frame of thought in answering the questions is most likely to be centered on the notion of survival or fulfillment of basic needs. Due to the context of feminism, I would guess that this group would actually be more convictive in their understanding of the self and social positioning. An important aspect of this is understanding each woman from both groups in context to their current socio-economic position. While some women proudly support themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally without a male counterpart, others might admit that circumstances simply do not allow them the capabilities to survive without the help of a man. This is an important variable in that it shows the importance of class structure and economic position in a woman’s self-understanding, exemplifying preexisting social conditions as reinforcing beliefs in sexist practice. If a woman is struggling to survive and is accustomed to perceiving the world as a male dominated society, she is bound to be more likely to give into this sexist structure as a survival technique opposed to patriarchal influence. On the other end the independent woman that answers she has control over her social position may be referring to her position in position to the black males in her daily experience and thus possess a different framework of understanding. In conducting this research I hope to demonstrate how these two groups of women understand themselves in context to the social structure they identify with, highlighting the quality of condition that is leading some women to overcome sexist discrimination while others are buried under pervasive stigmas. This is a crucial area of study because of the opportunity for solidarity among women; if points of consistency in experience are found across contexts, relatability of experience can help unify the movement as a whole and turn focus to where sex discrimination is most threatening and consequential.

While the fundamental nature of the feminist movement is the empowering of women and a revolution of their subjugated position in society, the most trialing aspect is the proliferation of males engaging in sexist behavior. Men tend to commodify and sexualize women- a prevailing issue that is seen every day from subtle to outlandish occurrences. They have also fallen into the tendency to view women as valuable in their capacity to watch after the children, wake care of the household and kitchen duties, and ultimately be the stereotypical “angel of the household” that prevailed in the 1950s. This has been the categorization of women in America since long before the conceptualization of “The American Dream” that further perpetuated to stereotype. These ideas have implemented a sense of male entitlement in their conduct toward women, making behavior that should not be socially acceptable seem commonplace. On a micro level it has become common practice to treat a woman disrespectfully, stare them up and down, and/or treat their efforts in academic disciplines as less valuable; even worse, it has become socially excusable in that it happens so often it is not worth immediate acknowledgement. The issue with these tendencies is that it creates an atmosphere that allows sexist behavior to seem admissible, giving it fuel to grow into larger issues such as domestic violence. This relationship can be shown in the spectrum between the Duquesne female who understands the patriarchal presence in her societal pursuits, and is accustomed to being around college students of similar backgrounds, paired with the black woman living at the homeless shelter who experiences patriarchy in regard to basic survival needs. When studied together there is greater access to how feminism is understood on both an individual and collective level, acknowledging the ways other social imbalances contribute to feminist theory. This will help achieve the aforementioned points of solidarity that can connect the totality of female experience while distinguishing other social factors that contribute to and intensify the issue. There has been a limited amount of authorship concerning how issues at a micro level effect the macro issues of domestic violence and rape culture. This study will help target the importance of every social tendency that feeds into sexist culture by animating the individual’s responsibility to counteract it by becoming aware of the implications.

Harry C. Triandis presents collectivism as the idea that social patterns are made up of tightly linked individuals that are motivated by the fundamental aims and livelihood of the group they identify with, and individualism as viewing social patterns as consisting of individuals motivated by their personal needs and desires (Triandis 1995). Triandis also attributed societal frameworks with possessing a “horizontal dimension” that considers the importance placed on the equality of people, and a “vertical dimension” that considers the organization of a social dynamic in its social divisions and inner-competitiveness. Additionally, people are “categorized… as allocentric (having collective tendencies) or idiocentric (having individualistic tendencies)” by Triandis (Davis, Okazaki, Giroux 2014). These conceptualizations speak to the importance of context in understanding an idea as large as feminism, needing to understand the person in relationship to the self and the community. These ideas reinforce the demand for a qualitative lens, involving techniques of conversation and application of socio-economic context. To use a survey or questionnaire would be unindicative of the information needed for a clear picture to the exact nature of social imbalance at work. This falls in line with the aforementioned “embeddedness” that views people as embedded within a complex of individual and contextual forces that are being constantly negotiated.

Study of the individualism-collectivism construct by definition searches for knowledge beyond what “individual-level research” can offer. Yamigishi (1999) argues that the individual-collective cannot be isolated as a correlation but “instead are dependent on the level of trust that is fostered by the structures of a particular society, a conceptualization of individualism-collectivism that is on the culture level instead of the individual level” (Davis, Okazaki, Giroux 2014). In other words, the dynamic is something interwoven in a combination of people’s way of behavior and their social context. In his textbook on Social Psychology, Keith Tuffin (2012) gives an example of a study that demonstrates the value of taking a critical approach to research. Tuffin uses the example of a study that critiqued a study using traditional techniques against one conducted through critical research aims. The traditional study they chose sought the correlation between “self-blame and the future avoidability of rape” (Janoff-Bulman 1979). It concluded that women who believed they could avoid rape in the future were also more likely to blame themselves for the rape happening. Elements such as how the participants define self-blame, the context of the research, and/or whether or not any of these women believed rape to be avoidable in the first place (though this might exceed ethical boundaries) were not considered. Wood & Rennie (1994) attempted to answer some of these issues by studying what self-blame and the other core verbiage mean to the participants through a discourse analysis. They noticed that a vast majority of rape victims alternated in attitude and conversation technique as they “negotiated victim and non-victim identities” (Tuffin 2005). This negotiation of identity is referring to the fragility of the conviction that can sway one way or another based on what the individual chooses to believe opposed to what he or she feels. The negotiation itself tells us about the intermingling complexities behind anything associated with something as horrifying as rape. Experiences of this level of emotional severity are not consolidated the same way other memories are- they persist in a malleable state of consolidation that is constantly changing in impression. While this study is not necessarily directly associated to feminism in research aim it still speaks to the shift in focus needed to gather authentic data. By utilizing a qualitative lens my aim is not to isolate a variable but demonstrate the underpinning realities that make feminism a necessary response to social imbalance. By isolating consistency according to context the data comes alive as to represent the underlying dynamic at work.

While the use of a qualitative lens is useful it is also heavily dependent on the researcher to find all variables necessary for conducting research with accuracy. It is a fruitful resource in its critical capacity to prove the inherently paradoxical elements in quantitative research on the grounds of the traditional objective, experimental lens being paired with the highly subjective human being. Where my research falls short in its aim to use feminism as a medium for illustrating the issues of social imbalance as a whole. The word “feminism” itself carries heavy, politically sensitive connotations that are bound to contribute to the subject’s answers. There is also an underlying assumption that the Duquesne women necessarily have a wider scope of societal understanding of feminism than the women in Smoker Friendly. There is an ethical sensitivity at work here as well in the racial and classist dichotomy clearly being used, especially considering I am a white male who cannot truly relate to the totality of experience of any woman. Any research is bound to be over-shadowed by this surface-level bias of class and race. Not only can I not fully relate to the uniquely female experience, I have never been victim to the struggle of living day in day out being solely motivated by survival. This may impinge any research’s capacity to reach people on a profound level but the study in itself holds independent value in my perspective because of a lack of attachment to feminism. Since many women personally use feminism as a unique resource for empowerment it can be difficult to deploy an objective lens in studying it. This is not to say that my perspective is somehow “better” but can offer a unique contribution as a man deeply alarmed by the social position of women within the spaces of my experience. Finally, there is little note of what needs to be done to alleviate the issues at hand, mostly due to my belief that social change necessarily takes root in the individuals that make it up. In spite of these shortcomings the research aims reflect the goals it will attempt to achieve; to promote a point of solidarity for women, advocate knowledge about the severity of social imbalance and the feminist role within it, and illustrate how feminism acts as a profound resource for the establishment of higher ethical values in the system as a whole.





Works Cited

Wilchins, Riki. “It’s Your Gender Stupid.” GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary. Eds. Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Ricki Wilchins. Los Angeles:Alyson, 2002. 23-32.

Hooks, B. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

David, E.J.R. Okazaki, S. Giroux, D. A Set of Guiding Principles To Advance Multicultural Psychology and its Major Concepts.

            Doan, P. (2010). The tyranny of gendered spaces – reflections from beyond the gender dichotomy. Gender, Place & Culture. 635-654.

Tuffin, K. (2005). Understanding critical social psychology. London: SAGE Publications.

Leong, F. (2014). APA handbook of multicultural psychology. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.



Joker Case Study

Joker Case Study



He’s Not Joking
In the world of super-villains there are a few that stand out as particularly interesting cases among the rest. In the Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight, “The Joker” is featured as Batman’s primary adversary. This film depicts him with a gritty and dark edge that heightens his reputation as a psychological enigma. In attempting to understand and diagnose him, it is critical to take all of the empirical evidence with a grain of salt due to his unpredictable and tricky modes of operation. I will attempt to untangle the chaos of his psyche by outlining his limited narrative history and by using evidence presented in the film in an attempt to understand the “why” behind his words and actions. The most intriguing aspect of this character is his reoccurring testament that he is not crazy, despite his purposeful inclination to appear as such and impose chaos. In this paper I will illustrate and elaborate on the notion that The Joker might suffer from psychopathy and/or antisocial personality organization, attempting to make this special case more relateable and psychologically accessible.

One of the most perplexing issues in attempting to understand The Joker is how little is known about his past. It is critical to consider that most deductions about his psychological history come from hints in dialogue primarily by The Joker himself, who is an unreliable source due to his deceptive nature. What we can induce from the plot of the story, and Joker’s role within it, is that he has a long-standing history of crime that extends miles further than the film alone. He first appears in the story as having it in for former gang members he may have worked with, suggesting he has become quite at home on the other side of the law. He is easily distinguishable because he always appears wearing face-paint that resembles a clown, has sandy, dyed greenish hair, and usually has a goofy suit on (a “clown suit” if you will). He (reportedly) was recently captured by the Gotham City Police Department as the result of an undisclosed crime. There are hints that he was put in jail as well as indications of being put in a psychiatric facility, making his status in the eyes of the law a mystery. There are no dental records, DNA matches, or fingerprints in the Gotham City Police Department’s (GCPD) records.

Most descriptions of his past come at moments of the film of high emotional tension, again diluting the authenticity of the Joker’s claims. At one point he fakes his own death in order to breech the home of a rich gang member who put $500,000 on the Joker’s head, surprise attacking him and breaking into a monologue about his father while holding a knife in the man’s mouth. Joker describes his drunken father attacking his mother with a knife and trying to attract attention to save her. His dad, apparently, put a smile on Joker’s “serious” face by slicing his cheeks accordingly after doing the same to his mother. At the very least we can deduce that The Joker hated his father, who had a particularly brutish and violent nature. In his crashing of Bruce Wayne’s (who is secretly Batman, and the multi-billion dollar man of Wayne Enterprises) fundraiser for Harvey Dent, he makes another account of his wife having her face cut by a group of crooks that she was in debt to. He claimed to respond to the incident by slicing his own cheeks into a smile as to assure his wife that he did not care about her appearance. He explains how his plan backfired, the scars disgusting his wife too much to stay with him. This has likely left him in a psychologically distraught state to be ever-reminded of every time he looks in the mirror. These conflicting stories hold some consistencies that may be helpful, such as being accustomed to being a victim at the hand of those he was most closely attached to. Also, both of these occurrences reflect extremely noble and courageous actions that resulted in heart-wrenching consequences, holding the theme of doing what he thinks is right being followed by a tragedy. The GCPD have two working theories about the Joker’s criminal past that potentially hold merit: The first is that he was connected to the mob through the Haley Brother’s Circus where he may have been a former employee. He may have suffered some injustice from them, which can potentially be linked to his original capture, and spurred him to seek vengeance. The second theory is that he is suffering from acute PTSD from being a former soldier, which would explain his high effectiveness, calm and controlled manner, and skill with a variety of weapons. The first scene of the film showed Joker robbing a bank used for the mob’s money laundering, at the conclusion of which he looks at the bank manager and states, “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger” (Nolan, 2008). This suggests that he has a history of experiences that haven’t killed him, but may as well have in that it pushed him to become lost in the chaotic elements of the world.

A much larger and more reliable set of empirical data can be accessed through the Joker’s ways of thinking, in his system of chaos, and trademark signatures. The villain marks his territory through the joker playing card, a fitting and somewhat obvious signature for his external persona. What makes Joker special, though, is that nothing is as simple as it seems; this card resembles him not only in appearance, but in that it is the 53rd card in the deck that neither fits in nor makes in sense in regards to the rest. Neither the card nor the man hold any special function when mixed in with the others. At his core The Joker resembles the rebellious part in everyone that is heavily reprimanded when expressed or indulged in. The most foundational element of his psychology is the willingness to completely disregard society’s governmental laws, common laws, and ways of thinking. What makes this character powerful is his extreme nature and unconditional desire to destroy the fabric of society as a means to showing people who they really are- in this case, he is interested in the darkest parts of the self. The controlling thesis of all his actions is an unwavering belief that the most concrete and authentic truth of life is the continuum of chaos. This irony is present in his “joker” persona, relying on deception as his primary tool to bring into awareness the idea that things are not always as they seem (Nolan, 2008).

Within the laws and ethics of the common world Joker is the full embracement of the purest form of evil. As a result he is often mislabeled as psychotic, but his ability to understand and manipulate the deepest of human emotions implies that he either sees these emotions as irrelevant or experiences them in a distorted way. If Joker did not have emotional capacities he probably couldn’t manipulate the emotions of others with such ease. He understands the power of emotions such as fear, which is shown when he sets up two boats that are given the choice to either detonate the other or be blown up themselves. This is can be related to Joker’s complete lack of fear, revealed in moments where he laughs in the face of death. He seems to be playing a game that suggests he once had the capacity to fear but lost it somewhere along his developmental life-span. It is almost as if he is capable of emotionality but can somehow choose not to take it into consideration. Whether at the hand of his father or his wife he was somehow traumatized by seeing the deep evils in those that he loved most, leaving him unable to cope with reality and thus creating a new identity and way of experiencing the world. This can explain why he can show subtle emotions such as frustration when being called crazy yet disregard other emotions and not hold any attachment to his bodily self. His contradicting testaments hint that he could be recreating his story on a daily basis, allowing him to constantly repress his true past. This experience or experiences can create a steep mental decline that is defined by madness and melancholy, driving him to the other side of the law and eventually to being an autonomous agent of chaos. He displays brilliant organization and control that seems to be incredibly clear-minded and quickly calculated. The Joker reflects a psychopathic personality in his lack of empathy, but shows no sign that the state of his psyche is impairing his functioning- in fact, it helps him function. This is related to his lack of fear because he doesn’t have “empathy” for himself either, having no attachment to the self and thus doesn’t fear the consequences of life threatening situations. This is clearest when he hands a gun to Harvey Dent and has him hold it to his (Joker’s) head. This is particularly bold because Joker indirectly burned half of Dent’s face off and murdered his beloved girlfriend. The catalyst for him mission to impose chaos is to prove that even the “best of man” (Nolan, 2011) can be easily corrupted, which Dent is the perfect candidate due to being a highly skilled agent of the law. This is again translated by the aforementioned metaphor of the two ships that hold the trigger to destroy the other. One boat possesses crooks and criminals while the other a group of common-folk. The Joker sets this up to try and prove that the dark elements of mankind is equally present in all types of man. While Batman seeks to establish order where Gotham’s governmental system is failing, Joker is seeking to reinvigorate the chaos. This is show in his meeting with a group of gangbangers about killing Batman in order to regain control of the streets. Joker highlights how Batman has forced them to meet and act during the day, essentially calling them powerless cowards. There is something about the “bad” side of the law being ruled by fear that is too societally pleasant for Joker’s tastes, thus wanting to reestablish the prowess of the gangsters. The mob members do not see the ultimate chaos that the Joker is actually seeking- a goal that is resembled in his words “everything burns” (Nolan, 2008). In his way of thinking the common men of today’s world are the true non-conformists because they set up systems and schemes to hide the fact that chaos cannot be conquered.

The Joker shows all the symptoms of an antisocial personality, having a pervasive pattern of violating the rights of others and not conforming to social and lawful behaviors. This is supported in his long-standing criminal history and by his actions in the film. The film begins with the ensuing of a robbery by Joker and his crew at the mob’s primary bank. All of the “checkbox” signs of antisocial personality is here, starting with clearly engaging in unlawful behavior (McWilliams, 2011). He shows his deceitful nature in killing his co-workers and even having them kill each other, convincing all the others that they will simply be cutting out an extra share of the money. This is also an extreme and obvious case of recklessly disregarding safety, aggressiveness, and indifference toward hurting others. His lack of remorse in his cruelty is almost playful; he shoves a grenade in the Bank Manager’s mouth that turns out to trigger as a harmless gas. This shows that he doesn’t necessarily “get off” on hurting others, but is indifferent to it in the framework of his game. He is operating from a sense of supreme morality that he believes to trump the fabric of established society.

Attempting to understand the Joker in the context of defense mechanisms is tricky because he never seems to be concerned with any worldly force acting upon him. Nancy McWilliams’ perspective on the nature of a defense mechanism helps this term become more applicable to The Joker in saying, “The term defense is in many ways unfortunate. What we refer to as a defense in adults begin as global, inevitable, adaptive ways of experiencing the world” (McWilliams, 2011). A defense, as coined by Freud, aids a person in deflecting deep rooted anxieties or situations that provoke anxieties. It is possible that Joker is in a constant state of projecting this alter ego as a type of defense mechanism, perpetually expressing repressed feelings and emotions in his Joker persona’s words and actions. Stresses suffered in childhood more than likely pushed him to a mental state that is continually operating outside of conscious awareness, detaching himself enough to disregard his negative emotions. His use of face-paint, dyed green hair, and odd clothing is a symbol that this man has adapted by withdrawing from reality and taking on a new state of being. Joker is a special case because he feverishly rejects the systems and manners of what we call “the real world” and seems to be attempting to substitute it for his “fantasy world” by blurring the line between the two. He is on a mission to destroy the structures that keep order and sustain society in order to force people to face the darkest side of themselves and create chaos; as Wilfred (Bruce Wayne’s noble butler) states, “some men just want to watch the world burn” (Nolan, 2008).  The Joker not only withdraws from the present reality, he is using his skill set and brilliant criminal mind to try and recreate the foundations of everyone else’s reality.

Joker is self-defined as “an agent of chaos,” which for him has no bounds and bears no moral consequences. He is greatly excited when his pranks work, showing that he enjoys “getting over on” others. His unquestioned willingness to kill in an alarmingly casual fashion reflects a devaluing of other subjective realities, furthering the notion that he believes to be operating from a sense of supreme morality. An essential element of Joker’s understanding of the world is that humans will always try to enforce order on chaos; if Joker resembles the ensuing chaos of the world, he finds a perfect counterpart in Batman. He is devaluing others and idealizing Batman as having special value, often citing how the two are the same and are destined to play “this game” (Nolan, 2011) until one or both are dead. The key to understanding The Joker is to target why his motivations are this extreme and what he is trying to repress. Stresses suffered early in childhood most likely led Joker to use these primitive defenses, the ultimate sign being his guise as a “clown” suggesting that he is somewhat attached to the preverbal phase of development. My best guess is that he’s been “scarred” by the caregiver enough to lose worry for his bodily existence and has become lost in existential chaos. He may be motivated to get others to become lost in the chaos with him so he can once again connect with people. He emotionally detaches himself from people who live in the common reality, allowing him to use the guise of The Joker (implying humor) to make light (in an incredibly twisted way) of the cruelties involved in his mission. Humor as a primary defense mechanism fits here because it “clearly maximizes our capacity to tolerate psychological pain,” (Fitzpatrick, 2015) contributing to the understanding of Joker existing as a “joke” that is counteracting his equally twisted and dark psychological pain.

The tragedy in exploring the Joker’s psychology is the sympathy felt for him for being subject to unimaginable psychological torment. He is not only scarred from his own experiences of pain, but the pain of those he loved and the twisted way he needed to adapt to a terrifying world. There is something about his underlying anger that exceeds physical pain and suggests that he was forced to stay silent while watching his mother be beaten, or he could be “cut up” again or even potentially lose his life. He was forced to embody a twisted and backward chaos that culminates to reflect a psychopathic and antisocial personality disorder. My suggestion for treatment is to admit him into a maximum security psychiatric ward (because that worked brilliantly the first time) with special precautions to keep him contained. The problem with attempting to treat The Joker is that his brain developed to think and feel in a backward way, leaving his psychological torment and long-standing adaptive measures to fully engulf his heart. He learned to think and respond to the world in a specific way that cannot be touched or reversed because it is the most foundational aspect of how he experiences the world. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any technique to account for this psychological state; for him as an individual, not considering that this is clearly not a preferable option for the sake of not destroying the world, the best form of therapy is to keep playing his game with Batman. Whatever supreme “moral aim” that he seeks will not be deterred, but he seems quite amused and functional as an agent of chaos.

The Joker is one of the most brilliant fictional creations in recent history. His modes of operation “qualify” him as being a psychopath and having an Antisocial Personality Disorder, but there is something more about his character that makes people believe he possesses some type of supreme clarity and control over what is in and around him. He embodies the darkness and chaos of existence and is seen as being engulfed by a fantastical netherworld. Yet his aura of purpose and confidence in his truth truly does blur the line between what is known and what is believed. The best evidence that reflects just how real and powerful the abstract quality of chaos “embodied” by The Joker truly is, is resembled by the tombstone of Heath Ledger.













             McWilliams, N. (2011). Psychoanalytic diagnosis: Understanding personality structure in the clinical process (2nd ed.). New York, New York: Guilford Press.

Nolan, C. (Producer). (2008). The Dark Knight (Recreation/reinterpretation of “Batman”) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2008). Warner Home Video.

Fitzpatrick, T. (2015). Psychological Disorders [PowerPoint Slides & Lecture]. Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.


This being the first article posted on this webpage I will introduce my aims. The social sciences have adapted across history according the most pressing social issues of a time period. They work on both a micro and macro level to facilitate understanding and knowledge about the social system and those who make it up. While most media outlets depict modern issues as something outside of the individual’s reach, “On The Road” is an effort to supply a fresh yet critical perspective on societal functioning. The most unused resource for social discovery often lies right before our eyes; in deploying a critical lens to modern issues we can counteract the social imbalance and injustice that underlies them. This will appear in a variety of storylines and platforms just like another news network would do. The only difference is the critical lens I will use on common entities of everyday life.
Example #1: The lottery system is as prevalent as ever in the United States. If one man approached a stranger and asked, “if you give me five dollars, you have a 1/20 chance of getting your money back, a 1/30 chance of getting $10 back, and 1/100 chance of getting $50 or more back, but 9/10 chance of receiving nothing,” the offer would most likely be refused. The lottery is set up to change this answer through the manipulation of the human capacity to hope paired with the very structure of social imbalance. The current lottery system dresses itself up in order to overshadow the fundamental business model. The fact of the matter is that for many people in the United States there is little to no hope for achieving financial success. This is where the lottery comes in: for those who don’t have a steady enough income to save money over time, let alone maintain a respectable standard of living, there is a greater chance of dwindling away what little they do have out of superficial and ultimately absurd hope. At its core the lottery system is nothing more than a disguised tax that makes the poor even poorer. 

Let’s take a look at the statistics for the Powerball: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronald-l-wasserstein/chances-of-winning-powerball-lottery_b_3288129.html

Most understand how incredible the odds are against winning the Powerball, or any other lottery game, yet still play it on a daily basis. The fundamental issue is that it reflects a more fantastical version of the American Dream that isn’t grounded in reality.

While the original American Dream depicted a life built on discipline and savings for the promise of a better life, the lottery system is based on the hedonistic elements of the dream, or what F. Scott Fitzgerald named “the short-winded elations of men.” There is something about the immediacy of the lottery system that tempts the hedonist dwelling in each and every one of us. The idea that a single scratch off ticket being sold for $1-$20 or a certain number combination bought for $1-$2 can bring financial abundance beyond ones wildest dreams keeps people coming back for more.

This issue is also embedded into the everyday life of those who participate in it, giving it an emotional appeal in its capacity to be personalized. For example, if a given scratch off ticket is on ticket number 17, and person “X”‘s lucky number is 17, he or she is more likely to purchase the ticket. The issue here is that person “X”‘s logic is unquestionably 100% based on superstition. As Anny Tzivanaki says, “Buying a lottery ticket is not any more a single transaction point defined as selecting a set of numbers, and buying for the right to participate in upcoming draws. It is beyond that and foremost a joyful game, where the choices of the player selection have a direct significance in the player’s life.” In other words, the numbers chosen are most often emotionally attached to the individual, highlighting the superstitious qualities of the system as a whole. On the occurrence of winning this superstition is reinforced and thus poising a person to play again; if not, and the individual gives up, it is most like because the house has already won too much. It is a vicious cycle that directly targets those who see success as a meager dream while digging themselves deeper into their lived nightmare.

This is most significant to those below the poverty line because of the failure of the American Dream for those who lack opportunity to pursue it. In a 2006 study from Cornell University, research found that more than 21% of people thought that lottery was the most practical medium for attaining wealth. We can speculate that those who have already acquired wealth make up at least a majority of the 79% who claim other means as more practical. For many saving enough money to achieve what they want simply seems impossible.

When a system that is set up to make you fail is seen as the most practical path for attaining wealth for more than a fifth of our country, a serious reevaluation of the nation’s economic schematic is not only necessary but an ethical imperative. 

More information about this can be found here: http://stoppredatorygambling.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Survey-21-percent-say-lottery-is-most-practical-path-to-wealth.pdf . This is not only a testament to the people who play the lottery, but the social imbalance that makes it seem to be the only hope for a better life. The primary goal in diminishing the lottery system is to fill the neurological void of hope with something more constructive. Ideally, the dependency on mechanisms of hope can be replaced by mechanisms of self-fulfillment.


Art Voice



A few words in the name of the individual spirit as a part of a greater whole.

For every voice read and heard on the television, radio, internet, or paper, there is another voice filtering and directing each message reported. This contagion is spreading rapidly and seems to be absorbing independent, unique media voices and outlets. The deterioration of the independent voice calls for the individual to seek out undiluted reporting- the only way to gain a cultured and unmonitored perspective of surrounding life.
The Buffalo news site “Artvoice” (http://artvoice.com/) provides a dynamic perspective to local news. This site highlights exciting events and developments in the Buffalo area including life in the city, restaurant events, bands, and politics. Artvoice separates itself from conglomerate stations because it provides video and objective information in politics, for example, recording both sides and publishing arguments supporting each side. Additionally, there is an equal amount of emphasis on local bands and restaurants as widely known ones, highlighting local talent and ownership as a part of the unique Buffalo experience. One article discusses a local “mix off” coming soon between two bartenders who are deemed the best “mixologists.” The reporting romanticizes the quirky adventures to be had in Buffalo, promoting the appreciation of peoples’ talents and events that are at the heart of Buffalo.