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|“||You know, you used to tell me that my laugh was a condition, that there's something wrong with me. There isn't. That's the real me. "Happy". Funny. I haven't been happy for one minute of my entire f-cking life. You know what's funny? You know what really makes me laugh? I used to think my life was a tragedy. But now, I realize, it's a f-cking comedy.||„|
| ~ Arthur accepting himself as the Joker while killing his mother Penny Fleck.|
|“||What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?! I'll tell you what you get: You get what you f-cking deserve!!''||„|
| ~ Arthur Fleck snaps right before killing Murray Franklin on live television.|
Arthur Fleck, later known as the Joker, is the titular villainous protagonist of the 2019 psychological comic book thriller-film of the same name, the first installment of the newly launched DC Black film series.
Arthur Fleck is a mentally unstable failed comedian who following his great lack of success and respect loses his sanity until he becomes a nihilistic and psychotic criminal known as the "Joker" aiming himself to create an anarchistic mutiny against the rich population of Gotham City and make Gotham smile in his own way.
The man who would be known as the Joker was born in Gotham City as Arthur Fleck, the son of Penny Fleck and another father. As the film's script specified Arthur was in his 30s during the film's events which took place in 1981 meaning he was born between 1942 and 1951.
When he was raised by his mother and her boyfriend they abused him until a condition caused him to develop uncontrollable laughter in unsuitable moments. By 1981 Arthur learned how to somewhat control his laughter with the help of a therapist and social worker by obtaining medications from Arkham State Hospital to handle his other problems.
Ever since he was young Arthur sought to become a popular comedian so he could bring laughter and joy which his mother raised him to believe in and even kept his true family lines as secrets.
To achieve his goal Arthur had taken the job of a clown-for-hire working in various roles, among them an advertisement clown and entertaining children at a hospital to make a few, so he can use the future salary he would get to help his mother to heal from her illnesses and to help himself.
Despite this when he was holding the agency's sign in front of a store a group of teenagers had stolen the sign, causing him to chase them into an alley where they broke the sign on him and beaten him violently. His fragile sanity problems increased when his boss informed him that the destroyed sign would be coming out of his paycheck. His co-worker Randall decided to give Arthur a gun for protection. However, while entertaining at a children's hospital the gun fell out of his pocket. Randall lied that Arthur bought the gun himself and he was subsequently fired.
Arthur, alongside his mother, as like many residents in Gotham and the US, are fans of the Murray Franklin Show, a late-night talk show led by Franklin himself. Arthur fantasized himself attending the show in the audience and being warmly called out by Franklin himself who tells him that he wished he had a son like him.
Despite his failures and attempts to take care of his mother in their shared small rotten apartment in Gotham he developed an obsession with a cynical young woman named Sophie Dumond who was a banker and single mother after he met her in an elevator. He imagined being with her and later trespassed at her home leading her to ask him to leave once she found him. Depressed and sad he followed Sophie's orders and left her home.
Following his firing he went on the subway home still in his costume. While riding on the subway he was watching a young woman being harassed by three young and wealthy Wall Street stock brokers from Wayne Enterprises. Seeking to save her he burst out in uncontrollable laughter.
Taking the attention of them, the woman was saved but Arthur was beaten and bullied violently by them until he carried out his gun which was loaned for him by his associate so he can protect himself. He used the gun to kill two of the three businessmen and chased the third one, killing him as well. He then escapes the place terrified, at the end of the day however, he concluded that he indeed loved killing them.
The triple murder kickstarted the rise of a social anarchistic movement known as the Clowns which cause riots against the rich and the powerful population even during Thomas Wayne's speech of becoming Gotham's mayor only for his plans to get rid of the poor and destroy their homes.
Returning home Arthur took a short shower and his mother was watching Franklin's show on TV while Arthur's mental health degraded further as he was writing jokes in his notebook and when his mother was asleep he hid in their fridge.
After coming out, he was dancing to a music show on TV while holding his gun, until his mother had an illness episode, rushing her to the hospital.
In the hospital, Arthur was afraid of losing his mother. Upon the serial murders he committed, Arthur flees away to his home, where he was investigated by two GCPD detectives. He denied anything he did. Before getting a stroke, Penny told Arthur of his true parentage, as well as her early life with Wayne.
On the TV, he saw that a humiliating video of himself performing stand-up comedy was shown in Franklin's show.
In the video, Arthur's pathological laughter was shown during the stand-up performance, which Franklin used to humiliate Fleck in living, driving him mad.
Taking his parentage to the Wayne Manor, Arthur later met his estranged brother, Bruce, and met Alfred Pennyworth before getting rudely dismissed by him. Arthur soon sneaks into a private screening of Modern Times in order to personally speak with Thomas Wayne who rudely denies that he is his father, stating Arthur's mother Penny is insane and obsessed with him which leads Arthur into a mental breakdown while triggering his pathological laughter. In response to his laughter, Thomas punches him in the nose and warns him to not touch his son, Bruce again.
Confused and upset, the very next day Arthur visits Arkham State Hospital to find his mother's file and meets a clerk in charge of storing files of patients there. He quickly takes notice of Arthur's unstable demeanor and pauses in horror when looking into file, when he refused to release the file to Arthur, he steals it anyway and is saddened and distraught to find out that Penny isn't his real mother and what Thomas Wayne said was true, she is indeed delusional and that he isn't Arthur's biological father. Not to mention, when Arthur was a child, A young Penny who was obsessed with Thomas Wayne let her boyfriend physically and emotional abuse him which contributed to his mental health and pathological laughter.
When Penny woke up the next day, he tells his mother previously he thinks his life was a tragedy but he realized, it is a comedy, he immediately smothered his mother to death with a pillow, much to his satisfaction.
Arthur wakes up in his own home, where he is visited by Randall and fellow co-worker Gary, who are here to give condolences about his mother's death. Arthur's response was to brutally murder Randall by using a scissor and by bashing his head several times in the wall, much to Gary's horror. Arthur, however, let Gary leave unharmed for treating him well in the past.
Covered in blood much to the horror of the other, Arthur later announced that he is no longer what he was, unleashing The Joker alias he created, completely.
In his restroom, he dyes his long hair in bright green, and, puts on a clown makeup on his face before donning a luxury clown-like suit and shoes he had kept in secret, before leaving home to dance on the stairways, now fully as Joker.
The two GCPD detectives see him dancing on the stairways until he stopped and saw them. Despite briefly got hit by a taxi during the chase, Arthur managed to elude the police at the subway thanks to ongoing riot of the Clowns that took place there. Afterwards, Arthur is invited to Franklin's show.
When he was preparing for his performance in the said show, he contemplated of committing suicide in living, but after achieving so much love from the Clowns he abandons it and his purpose of bringing laughter and joy to the world, aiming himself toward the Clowns' ongoing mutiny.
In Franklin's show, he is dancing, before he discusses with his beloved TV idol on himself. Joker then proceeds to tell morbid jokes before eventually admitting to murdering the three Wall Street boys at the subway. Despite understandably shocked, Franklin decided to carry on with the show instead of shutting it down in hopes to improve the ratings through reasoning with the scarred Arthur. But even with his genuine efforts to try to understand his fan's pain and upbringing, it came to light that Arthur has become too insane to reason with and worse Franklin's humiliation eventually bit him in the end: The two ended up having an argument which led to Arthur shooting Murray killing him instantly. With his transformation as the dreaded Joker complete Arthur danced over the camera over to give the public a chillingly good night and news of Franklin's death spread across the media.
Upon leaving the show studio, he is arrested by the GCPD, and, while driving to the station, he sees massively destructive series of riots of the Clowns all over the town. Suddenly, a pair of Clowns ram a stolen ambulance into the police car that Joker is in, and they pull him out.
Despite being injured, he is smiling evilly, now completely accepting what he has become and becomes the popular leader of the Clowns, achieving his goal of making Gotham smiling via anarchy.
During the massive clown riots, one of the protesters kills Thomas and Martha Wayne and takes Martha's pearl necklace much to Bruce's horror. This makes Joker indirectly responsible for the death of the Waynes and creation of Batman.
Upon succeeding in everything he had ever wanted to achieve despite failing to bring laughter and joy, the Joker apparently was apprehended by the National Guard or the SWAT team which led him to Arkham's jail division. He is then being interviewed by an FBI shrink AKA Mindhunter as he laughs at the thought of Bruce Wayne ending up as an orphan like him and of what's yet to come between the two, much to the shrink's curiosity, who was possibly killed by Arthur afterwards, as he then left the room with his shoes drained in blood, celebrating his glorious victory with laughter and dancing before being pursued down the halls by Arkham orderlies.
It's implied that the Joker eventually escaped from Arkham, and due to his actions in Gotham City, he became known worldwide as an infamous and controversial figure whose impact on society will be long-lasting, finally acquiring the fame and recognition he had always desired albeit in a different way.
- Three Wayne Enterprises employees (shot dead)
- Penny Fleck (smothered with pillow)
- Randall (brutally stabbed in the neck and then the right eye with scissors)
- Murray Franklin (shot in the head and then chest)
- FBI Agent (implied to have killed, but unconfirmed)
- Thomas and Martha Wayne
- Many unnamed victims
Arthur Fleck is a middle-aged man with silk-long-black brown-hair, he is also very pale and emaciated, with no muscles nor fat, likely due to his poor lifestyle and smoking habits. He was often wearing a casual brown jacket, brown pants and even a grey buttoned shirt.
As Joker, he would put on clown-like luxury red, orange, yellow and brown bright suit and shoes, and, dyed his hair in bright green with painting his face with clown makeup, drawing tear-like blue eyelashes around his eyes, while his mouth was drawn in bright red like a big evil or sad smile.
Ever since that he was born, Arthur Fleck always wanted to bring laughter and joy to the entire world, aiming to do so by becoming an famous comedian. However, he was often physically and mentally abused by his mother and her boyfriend due to being the estranged son of a billionaire, something Arthur later takes as hatred toward the rich and the powerful.
As a result of being abused, Arthur dives deeply into psychopathy, depression and even dissociative personality disorder, until he develops pathological laughter created by the abuse.
Despite his mental health, Arthur would have never thought of giving up on his goal to be a popular comedian, and, when he goes to achieve this goal, he takes the job of a clown for a talent agency. As he was abused again by a group of teenagers, Arthur developed a hatred for society.
Hence, Arthur's fragile sanity began to be broken, and he was still not giving up and found some joy in his mother and Sophie Dumond, until he wound up being humiliated by society again, this time by his beloved TV idol Murray Franklin.
Using the subway to return home, Arthur once again experienced a grim encounter with the outside world, when he was saving a young woman from being harassed by 3 businessmen. The Wall Street guys started to ridicule and beat Arthur, seeming genuinely provoked by his uncontrollable laughter, prompting Arthur to produce his gun and pick them off; an event that marked the beginning of his criminal journey.
Developing an obsession of loving Sophie, he was stalking her and even came out to a date with her in a diner, even though he was picturing a series of their meetings. As he was returning home, he would dive deeply further into his insanity by entering into the fridge after writing some bad jokes. Feeling uncomfortable with how the world treated him, Arthur later saw how the Clowns movement took all of its rages against the rich population, and he was enticed by their anarchistic riots.
Arthur always loved taking care of his mother, until he learned of his true origins and realized his mother had always been monstrous and negligent toward him, which moved Arthur to kill her, though the deed pained him. Upon meeting his estranged father, Arthur was in denial of how his father was denying his existence, yet showed joy with meeting Bruce Wayne, his estranged brother and yet-to-be his arch enemy.
Ruling out as a bad boy of the society, Arthur was banished from his true home to his filthy small home, where he unleashed the Joker into the light by killing a former friend of his, loving it so much until he became the clown anarchist he is.
As Joker, Arthur loved being completely freed from his depressed life he used to have, liking to think that his life is a comedy now rather than a tragedy, and, he later developed himself to become the leader of the Clowns after killing his TV idol in front of a horrified crowd, yet, he was already inside of his insanity, so he burst out in crazy laughter, which is commonly regarded as his first true and honest laugh in the film. Once he accepts his new life as Joker, he expresses no remorse or regrets for any of his murders and actually seems to take pride in them and frequently made jokes about the people he killed. He also revels in the destruction and chaos he causes in Gotham, calling it "beautiful".
When he was rescued from the hands of the police car, something the society would bring toward him to mistreat him, by the Clowns, he was fully accepted as their leader. This all led him to embrace his role as the Joker, spearheading the movement and gaining notoriety from society through his dreaded image.
That was enough to finally make Arthur happy, even when recaptured by authorities. All of this establishes Arthur as a tragic figure who desired appreciation, even if it meant becoming one of Gotham's worst criminals.
Arthur has no superhuman special powers, from the reason he is a human being like everyone around him, yet he indeed had a variety of abilities such as;
- Marksmanship: Arthur has some skill using a gun. This is seen when he performed two close-range headshots in quick succession while on the ground. He even shot someone in the leg while they were running away from him from a few feet away.
- Weapons Improvisation: Arthur can use everyday objects as improvised weapons including a pillow and a pair of scissors.
- Pain Tolerance: Arthur has a high tolerance for pain. This is seen when he was hit by a taxi and kept on running. He even quickly recovered from a car crash. This indicates that like his other counterparts his illness makes it easier to endure pain.
- This is one of the few Joker incarnations to be truly sympathetic with others being The Killing Joke and Flashpoint. This incarnation is indeed easily considered the most tragic of all.
- Likewise this is one of the very few incarnations of the Joker depicted as having mercy demonstrated when he spares Gary for treating him well.
- It has been debated whether the events of the film really happened or not as Arthur was explicitly shown to be prone to hallucinations and is unable to determine that those hallucinations are fake. Fans, however, have also pointed evidence that the events were real and Arthur did indeed become the Joker before being captured and taken to Arkham. Todd Phillips stated the ending was intentionally meant to be unclear whether it happened or not but went to confirm that Arthur's appearance on Murray Franklin's show happened.
- Joaquin Phoenix's preparation for the role was so intense he would lose 50 pounds of his normalized body weight not even eating or drinking for long periods. To find the "perfect laughter" he watched and attempted to copy people with the pathological laughter disorder shown in the film.
- Joaquin Phoenix is the sixth actor to portray the Joker and the third adult actor to do so at the age of 44 alongside Jared Leto who also did so.
- This incarnation of the Joker and the film itself have been well received by both film critics and comic book fans despite initial skepticism on the film's success considering the uneven reception films in the DC Extended Universe have met. Some went as far as suggesting Phoenix's performance outranked Heath Ledger's, whose Joker is commonly regarded as the best one in film.
- Despite this, however, the announcement of Joaquin Phoenix's Joker was not well received by Jared Leto who played Joker in the DCEU. Reportedly, Leto was displeased with the existence of multiple different contemporary Joker characters and went as far to convince his music manager Irving Azoff to force Warner Bros. to cancel Joker although other sources deny that. Ironically, Leto's portrayal of the Joker is considered the most negatively received.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, who also portrayed Calvin Candie, King Louis XIV and Jay Gatsby was originally approached by Warner Bros. to play Joker but Phoenix was cast instead. According to Todd Phillips, Phoenix was his only choice for the role. On the other hand Phoenix accepted because it was the kind of comic book film he wanted to make and he would not have to appear in sequels as the film was intended to be stand-alone.
- This is the second Joker that replaces Joe Chill as the man responsible for the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne in film; the first being the Joker from the 1989 movie. The only difference, however is that while the 1989 Joker outright murdered the Wayne couple (accompanied by Chill, who didn't expect him to kill them), the 2019 Joker just inspired some with his anarchic sense of justice which led one of the Clowns to shoot the Waynes making him responsible for their deaths albeit indirectly.
- An alternate ending intended for the film, however, had Arthur himself killing the Wayne couple before turning back and killing the young Bruce Wayne. However, this ending was scrapped because it would meant that Batman will never come to exist in the universe of Joker.
- This is the fourth version of the Joker in media to be given an actual name and backstory following Jack Napier, Martha Wayne and Jeremiah Valeska in Gotham.
- This is one of only three Joker incarnations whose backstory does not involve falling into a vat of chemicals and permanently being disfigured by them to resemble a clown the other two being the Nolanverse and Flashpoint versions.
- Since the film's release it has been debated whether Arthur killed Sophie Dumond and her daughter after trespassing on Sophie's apartment and being asked by Sophie to leave, as Arthur makes the gesture of shooting himself with his hands and then police alarms sound on the background. However, Lawrence Sher has confirmed that Todd Phillips told him that Arthur didn't kill Sophie, and by extension her daughter, as she didn't wrong him like the others.
- The scene where Joker kills Murray Franklin on the TV interview in the talk show he invited is very similar to the adaptation reimagining of The Dark Knight Returns where Joker kills David Endochrine on his talk show.
- Although Joker was announced as a stand-alone origin story, director Todd Phillips mused in an interview with Los Angeles Times that perhaps the Joker that will come to battle Batman once Bruce Wayne grows up will not be Arthur Fleck speculating that Arthur inspired the man who becomes the Joker like Jerome Valeska in the future or he channeled from the Three Joker story arc. This is a possibility considering that Arthur gets imprisoned at the end and as there will be no sequels to the film we can't know if Arthur ever escaped Arkham or not.
- However, Joaquin Phoenix opines that Arthur indeed becomes the Joker who will face Bruce Wayne when he becomes Batman, aside that he has expressed interest on making a sequel to Joker.
- The background of this version of the Joker is vaguely reminiscent of the one shown in a flashback of the Joker in the Batman comic series, of the New 52 (although this background is not confirmed as true, like most of the Joker past stories): in this comic the Joker he claims to have grown up with an extremely violent aunt, who beat him and physically and psychologically abused him and who had rubbed bleach on his skin to make it white, and was also bullied and lived as an outcast.