... So that You may be kept informed

UK: Ledger's Joker 'promotes mental health myths'

Wed Aug 19 05:31:01 EST 2009

LONDON, Aug 18 AAP - Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning role as The Joker in the latest Batman blockbuster has been criticised for promoting a misleading and prejudiced view of schizophrenics.

A report by a British academic for two British charities says Hollywood films often show characters with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses as either stupid or evil.

Peter Byrne, a consultant psychiatrist at Newham University Hospital in London, writes that Ledger's role in the 2008 Batman film The Dark Knight was a low point in depicting mental illness.

The violence and humour shown in the movie were based almost entirely on a misunderstanding of schizophrenia, he said.

"Batman describes the Joker as a schizophrenic clown, and when the film's second hero Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face and embraces evil, the familiar stereotype of schizophrenia is activated," Dr Byrne said.

"The incorrect stereotype in both cases - to a lesser and greater extent - is that schizophrenics have multiple-personality disorder and that the second personality is always evil.

"This is omnipresent in cinema misrepresentations - the psycho killer is immortal and sadistic, motivated by madness."