- "How about another joke, Murray? 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 fucking deserve!"
- ―Joker snaps at Murray Franklin before shooting him in the head - his most famous line.
Arthur Fleck, later known as Joker, is the main protagonist villain of the 2019 psychological comic book thriller-film of the same name, the first installment of the DC Black 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 psychopathic mastermind 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.
He was portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix.
Early Life Edit
The man who would later be known as the Joker was born in Gotham City as Arthur Fleck, the son of Penny Fleck and another father. When he was raised by his mother and her boyfriend, they were abusing him physically and mentally until a neurological condition was created in him, and caused him to develop uncontrollable laughter in unsuitable moments until he would nearly choke up.
As he became an adult, in 1981, he often learned how to control his laughter problem with the help of a therapist and a social worker in Arkham Hospital to obtain medication to help himself handle the problem and later his depression, dissociative personality disorder and psychopathy.
Ever since he was younger, Arthur sought to become a popular comedian worldwide so he can bring laughter and joy to the world, which his mother raised him to believe in, and, even kept his true family lines as secrets for him.
To achieve his life goal, Arthur had taken the job of an advertising clown for a talent agency, 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 on duty as the clown, holding the agency's sign in front of the goers of Gotham, 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 Arthur 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 wishes he has a son like him.
Meeting Sophie Edit
Despite his failures and despite his attempts to take care of his mother in their shared small rotten apartment in Gotham, Arthur developed an obsession with a banker and a single-mother named Sophie Dumond, a young beautiful cynical woman, after he meets her in an elevator.
He imagined himself being with her the entire time, and trespassed at her home, leading Sophie to ask him to leave once she found him in her apartment. Depressed and sad, Arthur followed Sophie's orders and left her home.
Train Incident Edit
Following Arthur's firing, he went on the subway to his home, still in his costume. In the subway, he was watching how a young woman is harassed by three young and wealthy Wall Street stock brokers from Wayne Enterprises. Seeking to save her, he burst out in his 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 massively destructive riots against the rich and the powerful population, doing riots even in Thomas Wayne's speech of becoming a mayor for Gotham (only for his plan to get rid off the poor and to destroy their homes).
Returning home, Arthur took a short shower, and his mother was watching Franklin's show on TV, whilst Arthur's mental health was further degraded, as he was writing jokes in his notebook and later when his mother was asleep, he was hiding 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.
Goodbye Mother Edit
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.
The Rise of The Joker Edit
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 repsonse 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.
Send in The Clowns Edit
The two GCPD detectives see him dancing as Joker on the stairways until he stops and sees them. Despite briefly got hit by a taxi during the chase, Arthur managed to elude the police at the subway thanks to an 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 on the former eventually bited him in the end: The two ended up having a massive argument which culminated to Arthur shot Franklin twice in front of a horrified audience while laughing crazily. With his transformation as the dreaded Joker completed, Arthur danced over the camera over to chillingly give the public a good night.
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. In some way, he is rescued by the Clowns after they crash land an ambulance into Joker and the GCPD car.
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.
Goodbye Father Edit
During the massive riots, the Joker sends out a group of Clowns to the city, where, on his behest, one of them kills Thomas and Martha Wayne and takes Martha's pearls, much to Bruce's horror. This makes Joker indirectly responsible for the death of the Wayne Parents and the eventual creation of Batman.
Imprisonment at Arkham Edit
Upon succeeding in everything he had ever wanted to achieve despite failing to bring laughter and joy, the Joker either turned himself in or eventually got caught by 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.
Regardless whether the Joker ever escaped from Arkham or not, it's likely that, 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.
Arthur Fleck is a middle-aged man with silk-long-black brown-hair, he is also pale and skinny man with no muscles nor fat. 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.
Initially, Arthur is a deeply disturbed and broken man who is in a near constant state of anguish and clinical depression. While he claims to enjoy certain things in life, it isn't clear if he is serious, as he once told his mother he was "never happy for a single minute of his life." Ever since that he was born, however, Arthur Fleck was an altruistic man who didn't want others to suffer as he does, and 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 depression and dissociative personality disorder, he also 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.
When he shot the bullies, he ran to a public restroom and for the first time in his life, he experiences something unfamiliar to him: contentment. All the weight of the world, the expectations, moral obligations, all the put downs and times life had crushed him where alleviated. For the first time in his entire life, Arthur felt like he was in control and had achieved something meaningful. As satisfaction and happiness introduced themselves to him, he dances triumphantly as he experienced all these new, wonderful, pleasant sensations. He waved his arms and swayed his head in euphoric delight. The pent-up blood cravings had manifested and were quenched. Killing felt GOOD, Arthur thought, and this satisfaction would need to be refueled again.
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.
After a breakdown, Arthur lost the capacity to fear anything and having scraped rock bottom for so long, he realized the only new direction to take is up as his life couldn't get any worse. He developed a totally nihilistic outlook on life and therefore decided to go with the flow rather than change anything.
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. Having triumphantly danced on a stair case, he finally basked in the embracing warmth of happiness and the sensation of pleasure which was new and wonderful to him. 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".
However even after his breakdown he had some moral standards as he allowed Gary to leave unscathed. He spared Sophie and her daughter as well because they never wronged him. After killing Murray, Arthur shoots Murray’s corpse a second time but didn’t shot Ms. Ruth or anybody else in the area despite the fact he easily could have done so since he still had bullets in his gun.
Arthur also had a soft spot for children. He didn’t fight back against the teenagers who attacked him due to their youth. He enjoyed entertaining sick children at a hospital and a young child on a bus. He spared Sophie and her daughter and stopped himself from killing Alfred cause he saw a young Bruce Wayne watching.
Powers And Abilities Edit
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:
- Very High Intelligence: Arthur was endowed with exceptional intelligence, so wise and sophisticated that even though he did not know how to handle the Clowns anarchy around him, he still adapted enough to control them. He used his intelligence to outsmart the detectives investigating him and mastered his skill of carrying out anarchistic actions.
- 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.
- High 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 comics counterpart, his insanity makes it easier for him to endure pain.
Kill Count Edit
- Three Wayne Enterprises employees (shot dead)
- Penny Fleck (smothered with pillow)
- Randall (stabbed with scissors)
- Murray Franklin (shot in the head and then chest)
- FBI Agent (implied to have killed, but unconfirmed)
- Thomas and Martha Wayne
- This is one of the few Joker incarnations to be portrayed as a truly sympathetic character, another being the version of The Killing Joke and the version of Flashpoint. Indeed, this incarnation of the Joker is easily considered as the most tragic from all.
- Likewise, this is one of the very few incarnations of the Joker to be depicted as having mercy from others at some sorts, as demonstrated when he spares Gary from brutally killing him like Randall for treating him well previously.
- It has been debated whether the events of the film really happened or not, as Arthur is 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 during the riot and taken to Arkham.
- Todd Phillips, the film's director, has stated that the ending was intentionally meant to be unclear whether it happened or not.
- If the events of the film were all made up and didn't actually happen, it would be unsurprising however, as the Joker is well known for always inventing different fake backstories for himself to make other sympathize with him, like his DCAU incarnation did to Harley Quinn.
- Joaquin Phoenix's preparation for the role was so intense that he would lose 50 pounds of his normalized body weight, not even eating or drinking for long periods.
- To find the "perfect laughter", Phoenix was watching and attempting to copy people with pathological laughter disorder. This disorder is shown in the film.
- Joaquin Phoenix is the sixth actor to portray the Joker, and he is the third adult actor to do so at the age of 44, alongside Jared Leto who was also portraying Joker at the age of 44.
- This incarnation of the Joker, as well as the film itself, has been well received by both film critics and comic book fans, despite initial skepticism on the film's success considering the uneven reception that films in the DC Extended Universe have met as of currently. Some have been going as far as to suggest that Joaquin Phoenix's performance of the Joker has outranked the legendary portrayal of the late Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight, which is regarded as the best Joker in the film.
- Despite this, however, the announcement of Joaquin Phoenix's Joker was not well received by Jared Leto, who plays the Joker in the DC Extended Universe since Suicide Squad. 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 in Django Unchained, King Louis XIV in The Iron Mask and Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, was originally approached by Warner Bros. to play the Joker, but Joaquin Phoenix was cast instead. According to director Todd Phillips, Phoenix was his only choice for the role. On the other hand, Phoenix accepted the role because it was the kind of comic book film he wanted to make and because he would not have to appear in sequels as the film is 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, 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 from killing them), the 2019 Joker just inspired with his anarchy and sense of justice which led one of the Clowns to shoot the Waynes, making him responsible for their deaths albeit indirectly.
- This is the fourth version of the Joker in media to be given an actual name and backstory, following Jack Napier in the 1989 Batman movie, Martha Wayne in Flashpoint, 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 version and Martha Wayne from the Flashpoint story arc.
- 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, cinematographer 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 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, where the Joker kills Davind Endochrine in 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 maybe Arthur inspired the man who becomes the Joker (like Jerome Valeska in Gotham) 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 from 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.