Joker Doesn’t Belong In An Asylum, According To Real Psychiatrist

The Joker belongs in jail, according to real-life psychiatrist Dr. Eric Bender.

By Jennifer Asencio | Published

Dr. Harleen Quinzel and her colleagues may have diagnosed the Joker as criminally insane and locked him up in Arkham Asylum, but we fans know that particular psychiatrist is famously unreliable when it comes to Batman’s archnemesis. Thankfully there is real-life psychiatrist Dr. Eric Bender to analyze and diagnose the villains of the famous institution in a video on YouTube for GQ. Dr. Bender’s assessment is that Joker doesn’t belong in Arkham or any other asylum and should be in a prison.

Dr. Bender explained his analysis of Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Riddler, and several other guests of Arkham Asylum from a professional perspective, using Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight as his subject. While the Joker has been played by many actors such as Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, and Cesar Romero, The Dark Knight version of the Joker has been critically acclaimed, even earning the late actor a posthumous Oscar in 2009. This is also the most serious version of the character until Joaquin Phoenix’s turn in the role in 2019’s Joker, with Heath Ledger imbuing the film with depravity, mayhem, and chaos.

However, despite being an in-depth look at the Joker’s psychotic behavior, Dr. Bender maintains that Joker is very well aware of his actions and their consequences, disqualifying him as a candidate for Arkham Asylum. While he acknowledges that the Joker may have anti-social personality disorder on top of being a psychopath, it is the line between right and wrong that has convinced him that the Joker “belongs in Blackgate Penitentiary.” However, he sees no evidence of mental illness in the Joker’s behavior.

Other than the Joker, some of Arkham Asylum’s inmates do have significant mental illness, according to Dr. Bender. Two-Face, for example, was already in the throes of an obsessive-compulsive disorder when he had his horrific accident, and Harley Quinn, through years of abuse and neglect, suffers from histrionic personality disorder and possibly some depression and anxiety. However, as a self-professed “agent of chaos,” Heath Ledger’s Joker was much too lucid to be considered mentally ill.

Dr. Bender may have a different opinion if he analyzed Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, as the character was specifically mentioned as having mental illnesses connected to abuse, neglect, and dysfunction and could easily have been committed to Arkham Asylum. However, the fact that Arthur Fleck slipped through the cracks of society due to a breakdown in social assistance and mental health support is part of the story of the 2019 rendition. If the Arthur Fleck Joker had found his way to a place like Arkham, perhaps his crime spree would never have taken place.

In the segment about Harley Quinn, Dr. Bender makes reference to “folie aux deux,” or “shared madness,” which is when two people share the same delusions and illness. Since the subtitle of the next Joker movie, with Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn, is Folie aux Deux, perhaps the Arthur Fleck character will find his way to Arkham Asylum after all. However, the Heath Ledger version of the character was a dangerous psychopath that belonged in jail, and that is coming from the professionals.