What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner? (Quote)

In this guide, we will discuss the famous quote “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner” from the Joker (2019). We will also discuss some scenes from the movie that can give us a context to understand the Joker’s behaviour even if he is still up to date, a very complex character to analyze. Moreover, we will see some additional quotes that we believe may spark your curiosity and may make you wonder a bit more on the matter.

What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner?

The full quote goes as follows, “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society who abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you what you get. You get what you deserve!”. You may know already we are talking about the quote from the film ‘Joker’. For those who haven’t seen it, this movie depicts one of the most famous Gotham villains of all times. But what did the joker mean when he said it? For some it might be pretty clear after pulling the trigger at the talk-show host, others are still left wondering.

Well, let’s start by adding some context. Joker’s backstory certainly takes a dark turn when dealing with mental illness and societal injustice. The film adaptation tells the story of amateur comedian Arthur Fleck who lives in a tiny apartment of Gotham city, with his mother Penny Fleck. He lives a simple life and he works as a party clown but needs to visit a therapist due to his tumultuous past and his continued struggle with mental health problems. 

He gets bullied and beaten by a gang of boys on the street and then his life starts to go downhill. Getting fired from his job he falls into depression and shortly, he is attacked a second time while riding the subway. However, he pulls a firearm and accidentally kills his attackers. But his attackers weren’t just common criminals, they were young men that belonged to rich families. However, the fact that he murdered his victims while wearing a clown mask seems to feed the imagination of the public. 

The act itself is understood as an act of rebellion against the rich leaders of the city who are basically doing nothing to help balance the disparity between classes. More people start using clown masks to support the killer who they believe to be some sort of bringer of justice while Fleck, who has a dream of becoming a comedian soon finds an opportunity through a failed stand-up comedy routine that causes his depression to get worse, becoming violent and suicidal.

Point of no return

While he gets invited to his favourite talk show to broadcast how miserable he is on live TV and intending to commit suicide firing himself in the head there is a twisted turn of events. Fleck ends up killing the show’s host Murray Franklin and police take him into custody while he is greeted by people with violence and chaos in Gotham’s streets.

The films end with a scene where Fleck is dancing on the hood of a police car that is currently burning and then gets locked up in Arkham Asylum. 

We could ask ourselves, could society have done more for Fleck to prevent all this chaos and the atrocious crimes he committed? Moreover, can we assume in the Joaquin Phoenix version of the Joker that he was pushed to becoming violent and a murderer due to societal neglect or he was just insane? There have been many portrayals of the Joker’s personality throughout the years and have changed since the 40s but for the purpose of this blog, we will refer to the most recent film.

Moreover, we are left to wonder what could have happened if we acknowledged ‘mentally ill loners’, what if we didn’t turn our backs on them or treat them like ‘trash’ because they are just different from us. I imagine we would be surprised about how many mentally ill loners are out there waiting for society to ‘see them’ and notice them.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that we don’t maybe know the struggles or others nor we dare to ask and sometimes we don’t even ask. A “bad day” for someone, can represent the trigger, the button that makes them ‘snap’ and forget about any socially acceptable behaviours or norms.

The ‘savants’, the ‘outcasts’ and the mental health stigma

We understand how this is a criticism of our society, how people who experience mental illnesses still, up to this day are alienated and forced to stay away from society because they simply don’t meet their standards. However, we know that not all mental illnesses are the same and not all of them include the type of behaviour displayed by our complex character.

For instance, if we consider people who have been diagnosed with autism, we could see how they lack the social skills to interact with the world around them but they have many other unique abilities. However, we may see how this film adds more to the stigma that already exists around mental health and that is the stereotype that links mental illness and violence.

The ‘Joker’ has certainly sparked the need to talk about mental illness. There are many theories around the mental disorder the Joker has such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Other people believe that labelling as a psychopath may be reductive. However, what is very curious is how aware he is of his mental health, carrying a card that explained a particular aspect of his illness that said:

“It’s a medical condition causing sudden, frequent and uncontrollable laughter that doesn’t match how you feel. It can happen in people with a brain injury or certain neurological conditions. Thank you”. However, we are left wondering if it was part of his condition or it was just part of him. 

We see how Arthur had finally gotten the attention he desperately seeks and finally so ‘he existed’. People started to notice him and a large proportion of society started to understand and support his way of thinking and now he was part of ‘something’, a group that did not abandon him nor make him feel like trash. Was this the positive attention he needed? Probably not but we could probably imagine what would have happened if he didn’t kill those men on the train. 

Other Joker quotes

Here are other Joker (2019) quotes from the notebook and the film that may help us approach his way of thinking and explain some of his behaviour, without justifying it.

  • “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
  • “I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.”
  • “You know what’s funny? You know what really makes me laugh? I used to think that my life was a tragedy…but now I realize…it’s a comedy.”
  • “You don’t listen, do you? You just ask the same questions every week. “How’s your job?” “Are you having negative thoughts?” All I have are negative thoughts.”
  • “You know, you used to tell me…that my laugh was a condition. That there was something wrong with me. There isn’t. That’s the real me.”
  • “Is it just me….. or is it getting crazier out there?”
  • “She always tells me to smile and put on a happy face.”
  • “My whole life, I didn’t know if I even existed. But I do. And people are starting to notice.”
  • “I haven’t been happy one minute of my entire life.”
  • “Everybody is awful these days. It’s enough to make anyone crazy.”

Why is this blog about What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner important?

Even though the movie is fictional, it carries a powerful message that could make us think it is not too far from reality. The main message is received and noted not only in regards to economic rifts and the role society has but also the stigma and misconceptions (and probably lack of support) around mental illness. Mental ill loners are put on the spot and dragged into the light instead of having to hide from society in fear of rejection.  

Yes, some people do need a little extra help to cope with their lives and some of them become very dangerous but it doesn’t mean that it is a universal rule that all mentally ill loners are violent and murderers. We believe society has a way of pushing people’s boundaries and when someone snaps it is very difficult to go back.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!


Dodgson, L. (2019, Oct.) Trying to diagnose the ‘Joker’ shows what the film gets wrong about mental illness, according to a psychopath expert. Retrieved from insider.com.

Magicalquote.com: “Joker quotes”

Eisenberg, J. (n.d.) “What Do You Get When You Cross a Mentally Ill Loner with a Society Who Abandons Him ..?” retrieved from medium.com.

Hameury, C. (2019, Dec.) Joker: What you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash. Retrieved from ledger.mcgilleus.ca.

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