Choose A Film Or Book

This assignment provides an opportunity to apply psychological theory in the exploration of a book or film. Choose a film or book of special interest. The book or film should have content that can be meaningfully explored through application of psychological theory and research. You may want to look at some of the later sections in the course that deal with emotion, motivation, personality, the development of the individual over the life span, health and stress, and psychological disorders and treatment, so that you have a more complete idea of different concepts that might apply.

This paragraph provides you with some example topics and guidelines to help you consider how to approach this task. First, you could pick a movie or book in which the main character suffers from a psychological disorder or is merely trying to cope with the everyday stress of life. In doing so, you could discuss defense mechanisms or refer to developmental stages in the person’s life that might have been important, or consider the effects of abuse, alcoholism and addiction, etc. Or you could approach the subject matter from different perspectives—psychoanalytical, biological, behavioral, cognitive, and/or sociocultural. Additionally, you could discuss the role emotion, memory, or motivation plays in the character’s development, or the importance of the environment, and influences such as racism and sexism. A sample paper is provided as well to guide you in formatting, organizing, and writing your paper.

This is a research-based paper, and the film or book provides only the backdrop for research on a psychological topic. You should use at least two psychological, peer-reviewed references (textbook can be used but does not count towards the peer-reviewed references required). The paper should be 1,200 to 1,500 words, about 5 double-spaced pages. The final paper portion of the assignment is worth 65 points and will be graded according to the attached rubric. This assignment will be reviewed by Turnitin and generate a similarity report upon submission to LEO. A new similarity report will be generated every time you upload the assignment until the due date. Please use this similarity report to improve your paper as plagiarism will NOT be tolerated. Please see my instructions on using Turnitin for additional information.

A Look into Schizotypal Personality Disorder as Illustrated in Joker [student name] [Psychology 100: Introduction to Psychology] Dr. [Instructor Name] [date]

A look into Schizotypal Personality Disorder as Illustrated in Joker

Joker depicts a man who is seen struggling in a world that has no regard for him and his mental state (Cooper, Webb, Koskoff, & Phillips, 2019). Arthur Fleck, who is later known as the Joker, portrays a unique character, as he is seen battling various social, emotional, and mental health stressors stemming from schizotypal personality disorder. Throughout this paper, I will explore the symptoms, causes, lifestyle impacts, and treatment of schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) through the main character, Arthur Fleck.

Movie Summary

The movie takes place in Gotham City in the early eighties and paints the town to have a dark, dainty cloud watching over them (Cooper et al., 2019). During this time, not only is it dark and gloomy, but crime and poverty are at an all-time high. Arthur Fleck, the main character, is a troubled man, who is seen struggling to make ends meet both in a physical and mental sense. He works for a clown business and finds joy in coming to work every day to make people smile. After a long day at work, when he comes home and is left alone to his thoughts, a different side gets portrayed.

Arthur suffers from a mental illness. One of the main traits that he tries to inhibit is his uncontrollable laughter when is he uncomfortable or nervous. This makes social interactions with people almost agonizing to witness. One day while at work advertising a store with a sign, a group of teenagers start harassing him. Later, they take his sign while repeatedly kicking and punching him in the face. In this scenario, Arthur’s reaction is laughter (Cooper et al., 2019). As the audience is witnessing this, we begin to empathize for this character because we are able to understand just how cruel society can be.

One day, Arthur and his neighbor were in an elevator, and after a brief interaction, Arthur becomes very infatuated with her. This isolated incident leads him to create the illusion that he is involved in a romantic relationship with said neighbor. Later, he begins to spend his free time following her. Not long after, she begins to find out and confronts him about his actions. Any normal person would be very outraged and slightly revolted knowing that they have been stalked by someone they’ve barely even spoken to. While she is confronting him, Arthur admits to this. Her reaction isn’t as one would expect; she is very calm and seems to have no issue with this. Towards the end of their conversation, Arthur invites his neighbor to his first comedy show that he will be performing in. In this scenario, she seems to be very charmed by his demeanor and accepts his invitation. During Arthur’s performance, he becomes very uncomfortable and starts laughing hysterically and is not able to complete his act (Cooper et al., 2019).

After Arthur’s failed comedy show act, it was not long after trouble finds him. On a subway ride home one late afternoon, Arthur notices four men harassing a woman. Instead of intervening, he starts laughing uncontrollably which draws the men over to him causing a fight to ensue. Once again, we as the audience are able to witness this vicious incident and empathize for this character and understand why he was pushed to becoming the notorious villain later known as the Joker. The group of men soon beat down Arthur, and we see him fight back as self-defense. Later, Arthur pulls out a gun and murders the group of men who violently beat him, which later causes a great deal of media attention (Cooper et al., 2019).

The murder on the train station that Arthur committed becomes a major turning point in the movie. We first see Arthur as a socially awkward loner turn into a completely new person, one that seems very authentic. This new image of himself makes him feel more comfortable. Once Arthur admits to the murders, he decides to appear on a nationally syndicated television talk show. At this point, his style and look have dramatically changed. While on the show, there was a bit of a disagreement between Arthur and the talk show host. Arthur felt as though the media was covering this story heavily because of the men’s upper class status. He felt that if he were one of the men, his story would’ve fallen through the cracks and been dismissed. This created tension in the room; Arthur starts grinning and states, “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?!” (Cooper et al., 2019) and shoots the talk show host live on national television. The media responded by giving him praise to showcase the division between the upper and lower class, though the movie ends with him in what appears to be an asylum.

Research Summary

Schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) is a type of personality disorder that is said to be very similar to schizophrenia in terms of psychotic features and social impairments (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The difference between schizophrenia and SPD, however, is that individuals might experience less cognitive deterioration, deficiency of social skills and possibly fewer episodes though the dysfunction is more global and stable over time (Walsh, 2017). In order to be diagnosed with SPD, an individual must experience symptoms such as odd beliefs, speech, behavior or appearance, paranoia, social anxiety and inappropriate responses (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Ridenour, 2016). Individuals suffering from SPD can also expect to have a difficulty forming relationships with others.

Researchers suggest that SPD can be the result of environmental factors in early childhood (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Ridenour, 2016). Some research has shown that children and young adults who were later diagnosed with SPD have shown behavior that wasn’t like others their age. These children and young adults showed major differences such as lack of social skills and firmness compared to their counterparts (Ridenour, 2016). Childhood trauma and environmental factors have a high association with SPD as well. Such childhood trauma may include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, physical and emotional neglect, and/or general household dysfunction (Ridenour, 2016).

While environmental factors play a role in the development of SPD, biological factors are also relevant as well (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Coccaro & Siever, 2005). Research has found that individuals who have been diagnosed with SPD generally have also had a close family member diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Brain irregularity has also been found in individuals suffering from SPD; this irregularity is found in the temporal cortex (Coccaro & Siever, 2005). This irregularity found in the temporal cortex causes selective attention which can interfere with social and emotional functioning (Walsh, 2017). Additionally, aggressive outbursts and violence could result (Coccaro & Siever, 2005), making it difficult for individuals with SPD to form relationships with others, maintain a job, or follow the laws of society without treatment.

One case illustrates the impacts of SPD on functioning within society. In Overstreet vs. Wilson (2003/2012), Michael Overstreet kidnapped and murdered Kelly Eckart. The counsel called up three mental health professionals to testify on behalf of Michael Overstreet. Eric Engum, a neuropsychologist testified that Overstreet suffered from SPD and informed the jury that it is one of the most serious of personality disorders. Engum also stated that daily stressors caused Overstreet to experience hallucinations and episodes. Due to these episodes, Overstreet was not able to adhere to the law due to being impaired.

Treatments for SPD can include a mixture of medication and psychotherapy based on individual temperament and what would work best for each person. Psychotherapy is a treatment option that can encourage patients to discuss their problems in a one on one therapy session while also addressing a course of treatment (Saylor, n.d.). Psychotherapy can be broken up between cognitive- behavior therapy, supportive therapy and family therapy. While there are no medications specifically to rectify SPD, doctors can provide patients with antidepressants and antipsychotics to aide with different symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Psychotherapy is also prescribed to individuals suffering from SPD because it confronts this disorder head on and teaches the client and his or her family skills to cope with the diagnosis and its symptoms.

Application of Research to the Movie

Throughout Joker, it is clear that Arthur Fleck suffers from mental illness. Some of the symptoms he displays include laughing when he is uncomfortable, inappropriate social interactions, delusional thinking, violent outbursts, odd behavior and appearance, and mood symptoms. We also see these symptoms progress in severity over the course of the film and represent enduring traits as opposed to brief psychotic episodes that would be present in schizophrenia.

In order to understand how Arthur Fleck may have developed SPD, we must look at his past and family. While we don’t learn a lot about his family, it does appear Arthur Fleck comes from a very underprivileged background. Living in Gotham City, where crime rates are through the roof, the world does not sit back and take a second to help people that might be going through a hard time. Instead this society places the mentally ill under lots of discrimination and rejection.

In the beginning of this film, we see Arthur reporting to the medical clinic to grab his medication, only just to be told that his medication won’t be covered anymore. So it appears he was trying to manage his symptoms with medications, but was unable to do so, which led to a worsening of his condition. Due to Arthur’s environment and lack of attention to his illness, this may have caused him to go off the deep end with some of his actions.

Social stigma and discrimination that are sometimes placed on individuals does not aid with their recovery and can make that conditions worse. Discrimination might not be as apparent as Arthur had to experience, but it is very prevalent. Arthur struggled in a society that did not see him and was tormented both in a physical and mental sense. This leads to him acting out in antisocial ways in the movie.

In conclusion, Arthur struggled in a society that did not see him and was tormented both in a physical and mental sense. Many people struggle with discrimination when it comes to mental illness. Sometimes discrimination isn’t as apparent as we might think. In this paper, I have explored the symptoms, causes, lifestyle impacts, and treatments of SPD through the main character Arthur Fleck, in the movie Joker.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Coccaro, E. F., & Siever, L. J. (2005). Neurobiology. In J. M. Oldham, A. E. Skodol, & D. Bender (Eds.), Textbook of personality disorders (pp. 155–169). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Press.

Cooper, B., Webb, D., & Koskoff E. (Producers), & Phillips, T., (Director and Producer). (2019). Joker [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.

Overstreet vs. Wilson, 783 N.E.2nd 1140 (D. Ind. 2003)., aff’d No. 11-2276 (7th Cir. 2012). Retrieved from:

Ridenour, J. M. (2016). Psychodynamic model and treatment of schizotypal personality disorder. Psychoanalytic Psychology33(1), 129–146. doi: 10.1037/a0035531

The Saylor Foundation. (n.d.). Introduction to psychology. Retrieved from

Walsh, J. (2017). Schizotypal Personality Disorder: A clinical social work perspective. Journal of Social Work Practice31(1), 67–78. doi: 10.1080/02650533.2015.1132686