Deborah Bell’s post is the latest in our BASc@UCL Blog Series, in which we showcase the work from the Arts and Sciences (BASc) course taught at University College London (UCL).

During my final year at college, I applied to study Linguistics at UCL. Six months later, I changed my mind and switched to study Pharmacology Bsc. Six months after this, whilst driving through Tanzania on a local bus, I decided I would rather not go to university after all and wanted to open my own bakery. By the time I left Tanzania, I realized I didn’t enjoy baking that much, and that I did indeed want to pursue higher education. It was after this that I discovered the Arts and Science BaSc at UCL, an innovative degree that explored many different aspects of knowledge and academia.

I remember thinking it was as if someone had designed a degree just for me, as I no longer had to choose exactly what I wanted to study. I’ve always loved both Biology and Literature, but always been frustrated that I had to choose between one or the other for university and did not feel comfortable being constrained by traditional degrees. The BaSc degree allowed me to study Anatomy and Literature side by side, which naturally progressed into studying Psychology, Film and Sequential Art.

When it came to beginning my dissertation, it seemed obvious that I needed to combine my passion for Mental Health and Sequential Art, which resulted in ‘An Exploration of the Joker as a Psychopath’. My aim was to challenge the way in which mental health is portrayed in films and graphic novels, as well as exploring why an emphasis on ‘mentally ill’ villains has occurred. I used the portrayal of the Joker in the graphic novels The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, and the film The Dark Knight. Initially, I focused on what the term psychopath clinically means and how we can apply this to the Joker, as the term ‘crazy’ is neither a medical or accurate term.

Additionally, I discussed the importance of the Joker and how as a villain he can define our definitions of good and evil, as well as sanity and insanity. The principle behind these arguments is that the Joker challenges the disparity between states of mental health, and good and evil. Ultimately, the Joker is much more than just a ‘bad guy’, and perhaps my dissertation has demonstrated the significance of villains and the consequences of deeming them mentally ill.

During the process of writing my dissertation, I came to the realization that I wanted to pursue a career in mental health, more specially one in Psychiatry. Since graduating with a First Class Honours, I have applied to the Graduate Medical Programme in order to pursue a degree in Medicine and then Psychiatry.

Read the full dissertation here

Artwork by Jonathan Bell


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