Today’s article is a little different from previous articles and I’m sure you can tell that from the title. For today’s article, we’ve decided to analyze Arthur Fleck AKA Joker from the movie Joker using Karen Horney’s concepts of neurotic trends and neurotic needs.
The concept of Neurotic trends talks about basic attitudes that were given to us by Karen Horney which branch out into 3 further types. These were; moving towards people, moving away from people . Each of these trends had their own respective characteristics. Neurotic needs fell under the concept of Neurotic Trends.
The neurotic needs that Horney discussed were; neurotic need for affection, power, to restrict one’s life within narrow borders, need for a powerful partner, need to exploit others, need for recognition, need for personal admiration, need for personal achievement, need for independence and need for perfection.
In the context of our character, Joker, I think the most evident neurotic needs are neurotic needs for affection, neurotic needs for power and neurotic needs for social recognition and prestige. As our character goes through major character development (from Arthur Fleck to Joker), the needs change. The need for affection fall under the neurotic trend of moving towards people while the needs for power and needs for social recognition fall under the neurotic trend of moving away from people.
When Arthur is Arthur in the starting he is in need of affection. He faced a lot of neglect and abuse in his childhood. When he grows older, he starts craving affection in the form of a partner. He starts getting attracted to his neighbor to a point that he starts seeing her everywhere even when she’s not there. He starts hallucinating her presence and it is very real. It is real to a point that he starts imaging her existence in one of his shows as well and only makes jokes while look towards her direction. And he imagines her laughing really hard on them as well. He also treats her mother with a lot of affection even when his mother didn’t give him any when he needed it. His way of affection resembles that of a 12 year old. He gets excited to see her when he comes home and says hi to her. This shows that the character here is willing to move towards people. In a scene they also show that when he travels in a bus, he tries to make a kid laugh.
Now as time passes, and he’s now near the stage of becoming joker, his neurotic trend changes. It goes from towards people to against people. This is due to the fact that Arthur believes that everybody out there is awful. Awful enough to make someone crazy. He starts hating the rich for the power they hold and starts craving that. During that time, he has the neurotic needs for power and social recognition. In one scene Arthur shoots 3 people in a subway train which gives him a sense of power. It gives him a realization that he finished the trouble with a few bullets only because those three men were teasing a woman on the train which bothered Arthur. This shows that because of this, Arthur starts moving towards his needs of power. He gets an idea that he could gain power if he becomes influential by doing something big. Here comes his needs for social recognition and prestige.
In the movie, after killing those three men his actions unintentionally starts protests and riots in the favor of Arthur and against the rich which also help him gain power and recognition. People dress up as Joker to the protests in which two police officers were harmed as well. Later on in the movie, Arthur is invited to the Murray Franklin Show in which he admits that he killed those 3 men and that people only care about those three men because they worked in Wayne Enterprises and also because Thomas Wayne spoke about it and kills Murray too with a bullet after saying some stuff about how a matter is only important if the rich talk about it. By confessing the murders and by shooting Murray in the head between a live show, Arthur is fulfilling his needs of power. Through these actions, Arthur thinks that he can gain more recognition which is why they are also fulfilling his needs for social recognition.
That was my analysis on Joker based on the theories given to us by Karen Horney. In the comment section below, let us know if you like articles like these and leave a character of your choice if you want us to analyze it!