Batman’s enemy Joker may be no-one’s idea of a role model, but youngsters from some of Blackpool’s most deprived areas are using the villain’s tale to help them overcome adversity.
Blackpool Boys and Girl’s Club members have been looking at the story of how The Joker and also Batman dealt with their traumatic pasts.
The club, which has its HQ at Victory Road and welcomes children from across the resort as well as Layton and Mereside, has been using cultural icons and campaigns to help the youngsters learn to grow and develop as people.
Earlier this year they used the women’s rights movement Me Too to start discussions about the abuse of power in relationships and images of Marilyn Monroe to show how even the most famous people have had their problems to cope with.
Now they have completed a project called The Joker in Me, designed to give the young people the opportunity to explore their evolving attitudes to life, with all its joys, trials and complexities.
While the youngsters work coincides with the release of the new Joker movie, the club said it did not condone that film’s much-criticised violence.
Instead the youngsters were using the 2008 film The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance as the arch villain as inspiration.
Youth leader Dave Blacker said the striking image of Ledger’s Joker face plastered with clown-like make-up was iconic and along with many graphic novel heroes and villains, was a well known cultural reference among teenagers.
He said: “The comic books are like a modern day Greek Mythology. The heroes and villains’ stories all have life lessons to offer.
“Both Batman and joker had traumatic childhoods, as do many of our young people, and it is all about the choices they made that led them to become what they were.
“We wanted our members to think about that and about how to overcome adversity.
“We have had some really great discussions and seen some great ideas from them all coming from looking at the characters.”
The youngsters used some simple worksheets and images to write down their thoughts and ideas and to start informal discussions.
Dave said one of Jokers’ striking quotes was, “some people want you to fail, disappoint them.”
Dave said: “The question to our young people then follows; how can you show the doubters that you can succeed?
“This led to the youngsters talking about low expectations some people had of them and how to overcome that.
Another quote picked out was; “Before you judge me, make sure you are perfect.”
Dave said many people made quick judgements about young people being troublesome, before knowing their true backstory.
Another quote was from Batman; “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”
Dave said that this was the starting point for discussions about over-coming adversity.
He added that many other important questions occurred in the film about caring for one another and taking personal responsibility for our actions.
He said: “If there is one consistent theme running thought our ‘Joker in Me project, then it’s about helping our young people to celebrate who they are and understand the enormous value their personal contributions make to Blackpool and the wider world.”
Dave added: “I have been involved for eight years in mental health with young people and self esteem is one of the key things.
“So it is important to help them become aware of themselves and the great person they really are.
“We can all feel undervalues and misunderstood in our lives or jobs.
“The children also feel those same emotions and so talking about these things and putting up their ideas and work on the wall shows them that these things are important and their opinions are valued.