Hey, Gamers! Most of you who read my blog regularly know that Persona 5 is my thing. It’s the game that made me identify as a gamer, it’s my special interest, it’s what I think about most of the time. I love this game, and it makes me so happy to hear about how much you guys love this game too. If you’ve been reading a lot of my blog, you’d probably know that my childhood and early adulthood was something I needed to heal from. I’ve spent most of my life in therapy, but it wasn’t until I met Josh and started to help him through things that I gained the skills I needed to heal myself. Obviously, I was thinking about Persona 5 directly having this revelation and I thought it fit pretty well and it deserved to be talked about. So today’s post is about how Joker needed to help everyone else before he could help himself.
Spoiler warning: I speak about Persona 5 Royal at the end. I don’t say who the third semester ruler is, but I do mention what they did.
We’ve all heard sayings like ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ or ‘you’ve got to look after yourself first’. But here, dear gamers, I put to you the fact that some people do not know how to do this. Some people simply cannot heal without helping others first. I think Joker is one of these people because it would make sense. Let’s look at it in a bit more detail.
He helps Ann and Ryuji within days or even weeks of knowing them. He knew there was some serious trauma behind their feelings and actions. He knew that they needed to do this in order to heal. So he helped them. He helped them because he saw the pain in their eyes; he helped them because he knew how trauma can affect you and he wouldn’t wish that on anyone else; he helped them because he could. He knew how to help them heal, so he did it.
Joker is traumatised from the situation with Shido. From the flashbacks to the repressed memory, all the signs point to the event being traumatising for him. Now he’s in another city, staying in the attic of a coffee shop, whose owner does not like him. He is lost. Not physically, he has a map on his phone, but he knows nothing at this point. Joker has really strong values and great morals but the legal system just told him that being a good person gets you in trouble. And now he can’t even talk to his parents or friends about it, because his school doesn’t want him and his parents are ashamed. He needs to heal from this, but he doesn’t know how to yet.
Throughout Persona 5, we see Joker help so many people. He helps the team to get out of traumatic situations, he then helps them heal from them during their confidant arcs, and even with the other confidants, he is often helping others heal from their own trauma. Despite what a lot of people online seem to believe, Joker isn’t just dealing with the problem for them (for the most part). He’s just making it more manageable. And while doing this time and time again, he’s gaining the knowledge and skills that he needs to heal himself.
That’s why Joker’s trauma is tackled in the last palace (in vanilla Persona 5, but this theory still applies to Royal and we’ll discuss that in a bit). Because he simply wasn’t ready to do it beforehand. Of course, there’s the obvious game mechanics reason too, but story and plot-wise, it makes so much more sense to think about it in this way. I doubt that the team wasn’t encouraging Joker to take down whoever ruined his life (remember, we don’t see everything going on between them). He didn’t have the knowledge or skills to deal with his own trauma before helping others deal with theirs.
Sometimes, you need to help other people to heal before you can heal yourself, and I feel like this is something that is completely looked over in today’s society.
But thinking about the whole system this way means that the third-semester palace makes so much more sense. The reason it’s so upsetting to them is because they put work into healing from their traumas, and that’s how they formed their friendships. It’s how they’ve bonded and it’s such a special thing to have. Healing is so special and non-linear, and if you think about how much effort went into each thief’s journey and how long it took Joker to heal… it ruins everything. It ruins the group. They no longer have that special bonding experience, and – more importantly – all their hard work is gone.
I know this might be obvious to some people because the way it was worded was something like “people need to grow”, but if you directly relate it to trauma and healing, it becomes so much deeper. What the palace ruler did becomes a bad thing instead of a morally grey thing because healing is something that is so fragile and takes so long and just the thought of someone taking that away from me hurts. The main difference between what the third palace ruler did and what the Phantom Thieves did is that the Phantom Thieves use their powers to stop people getting hurt (and traumatised) while it is going on and could still happen; the third palace ruler just removed it from existence completely, almost like he was excusing what the bad guys did and like the work that everyone did to heal was just not worth it.
So, that’s it for this post, Gamers! Please remember that this is just my interpretation of the whole thing, and if yours differs then that’s okay! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, if you liked this post, give it a like and check out the linked posts below if you want some more Persona 5 stuff. Also, I wanted to remind everyone that I am currently doing an AI Run of Persona 5 Royal and I’ve just finished the third palace so the game will probably speed up a bit so make sure to follow 2nerds_1game on Twitch so you don’t join the party too late. See you next post, Gamers!