*WARNING THIS POST DOES CONTAIN MOVIE SPOILERS*
Who is Arthur fleck?
If you do not know the answer to that question, I’ll assume you live under a rock deep in the endless pits of space… Arthur Fleck is the character that Todd Phillips and Scott Silver created starring Joaquin phoenix as The Joker.
– Criminal Mastermind, Prince of Darkness, Psychopathic agent of chaos!
There have been many different jokers over the years, but im only going to be focusing on Arthur Fleck’s Joker. The movie was presented by Warner Brothers, And was very successful winning Joaquin phoenix an Oscar for best actor.
It’s also the highest grossing rated R movie of all time. This version of Joker is not related to the Batman story-verse (per se) or any of the DC Universe’s. But there were many connections and references made in the movie to previous stories of Batman, What everybody is familiar with. Such as the story of what happened to Bruce Wayne’s parents, And the movie being based in Gotham. The Wayne’s are all in the movie. Even the font on the Murray Franklin show is the same font that was used in the Batman animated series.
The movie is set in/around 1981 at Gotham City. There is a garbage waste issue in the city, The local councils are on strike which has made for a very dirty environment with rubbish bags everywhere on the streets.
Not everyone shares my love for this movie, The hardcore DC fans were not happy that Joker was given a backstory. But given what his back story was in comic books… Dropped in a tub of chemical waste, Which turned his face white, Red lips and green hair – would not be a movie worth watching, the type of story that was told, was a relatable story about mental health and an oppressive society.
Todd expressed in interviews that the whole film was a character study of somebody becoming the Joker, A look into what makes somebody become that way in real life. (the laugh, the make up, the criminal behaviour) And not a film about the Joker being the mastermind chemical expert prankster. Although I understand their die-hard belief in the character we have all loved over the years, I’m glad Todd attempted to make such a bold movie.
It’s great to see a comic book character in an actual serious dramatic movie, And not the usual comic book movies. It has opened the door to possibilities for what could happen for other comic book characters. Todd has also said that this version of Joker told through Arthur could of been the inspiration, for the real Joker who becomes known and feared years later in modern day Gotham facing off against Batman.
Maybe Arthur meets someone in the mental hospital, Who later escapes and becomes The Joker. As far fetched as it might sound, It kind of makes sense more than anything else in my opinion.
Because in this movie Joker is in his 30’s, And Bruce Wayne is about 10(ish) years old. And for this movie to make sense on a timeline, Arthur could not be The Joker that constantly faces off with Batman, This is because they are always roughly the same age in every version of The Joker and Batman. He could of told his story of Joker to other patients who were inspired by it and became Arthur’s fantasies.
Why i love this movie is its completely open to debate, I have researched the movie in detail and want to deliver my honest analysis of the movie and its impact. There are many topics I wish to discuss including The Jokers mental health as that is very much a prime topic of the whole movie i will be going through possible conditions.
Having The Joker on screen in the realistic way in which it was directed, made him (the most infamous comic book villain ever) very relatable for so many people who suffer daily from mental illnesses.
And even those who don’t have known mental health conditions can still look at it as an eye opener into the world of others, Some people have been very troubled by it. But i think that it’s more down to the people’s own issues, and not the movie itself.
This is not a dangerous movie. (i dont think such a film exists)
I loved his earlier innocence, the way he dressed, just living with his illnesses day to day normality, looking after his mother, working for very little money, being ignored by mental health professionals, being a victim to people on the street, no social skills. As Arthur walks around in the first half of the movie, He’s completely been beat down emotionally, He is always looking down on the floor hunched over. Whilst he is taking his medication he seems sedated and has very little energy when he is walking up stair cases and around town.
As the movie progresses you seem him letting go more and more, The transformation is so well executed. Nothing in the movie tells you ‘The Jokers Been Born’ but we all know he has and he is still very relatable. He stopped taking his medication (he became a wanted murderer), He is walking around with purpose, Dancing as he walks around. His whole persona changed when he became The Joker, Todd’s irony with the movie is…Arthur wore a mask day to day, He pretend he was having a normal life living in his fantasies as a stand up comedian, once he stopped trying to please everyone and became The Joker his mask came off – He became free and was finally happy for the first time in his life.
Arthur’s back story is he was born in Gotham city on November the 21st of 1946. Arthur had a difficult childhood where he was abused by his adopted mother Penny Fleck and her boyfriend, After years of abuse he was found tied to a radiator completely malnourished.
He had suffered a severe head injury which created a neurological condition called ‘PseudoBulbar Affect’ (PBA) – this was no actually mentioned in the movie, But it is the neurological medical condition that Arthur has.
– The rest of his mental health conditions were also not mentioned in the movie, Which is what makes him such a great character to study.
The PBA makes him laugh or cry at inappropriate times. The condition is worse during times of emotional stress. Arthur was a very lonely person, his only company was Penny Fleck. He did want to form relationships with people, But due to his mental health he was not able to do that and spent a lot of time fantasying.
He has no memory of his childhood, And spent all of his time working as a professional clown in the daytime and looking after his old frail mother in the evening. They lived together in a rough part of town, It was a run-down apartment block. Arthur did not ever know his father, it was something he always wanted in his life which was evident in his fantasies.
He and his mother would always watch the Murray Franklin show together, Arthur used to fantasize that Murray was his father. In one of Arthur’s fantasies, Murray says ‘he wishes he had a son like him’.
Whilst Arthur was working as a clown in the streets of downtown Gotham, He is holding a promotional sign that says ‘Everything must go’ along with musical notes printed all over the sign, Some teenage thugs stole his sign.
He chased them down and they attacked him with the sign down an alley just off the main road, breaking it when they hit him around the face with it. Followed by kicking him while he is on the floor, Before running off leaving Arthur in pain on the floor, trying to catch his breath.
Arthur regularly see’s a social worker who’s name is Debra Kane – Subtle batman connection Bob Kane was one of the original creators of Batman.
She would talk to Arthur about his mental state, and to control his medication. She is generally not interested in what he has to say, She gives the impression that she just wants him to leave so she can get to her next appointment. The room they are in is very cluttered and dark, On the wall behind Arthur there is a clock with the time *11.11.
While they are talking he informs her that he wants more medications so that he doesn’t ‘Feel bad all the time’. She points out that he is already on 10 different medications, Which makes Arthur say that he ‘Felt better whilst he was locked up in the hospital’.
It shows Arthur back in the hospital, He is in a jet white bricked room, wearing white hospital clothes, headbutting the small double glazed glass window on the top of the door repeatedly. In that room you can see a clock with the time *11.11
– The fan (dream) theory is that Arthur is locked up in the mental hospital the whole movie, And everything that happens is a fantasy inside his head. At the end of the movie when he is sitting with a different social worker inside a hospital interview room, He is laughing at fantasies inside his head whilst smoking a cigarette. The social worker asked him ‘what’s so funny?’ – Joker replies ‘You wouldn’t get it’.
Which does make this theory quite possible, given how throughout the whole movie what seemed real, was often a delusion. Arthur was not an accurate narrator, There would be no indication in the movie that Arthur was fantasying about something. It seemed real, Just like it feels real for him inside his head. There would be no change in filter or any effects to let the viewer know what your watching is a dream or a delusion. Which is what makes the whole movie being a fantasy inside The Jokers head, Is possible.
Arthur would go to comedy nights at Pogo’s by himself to study other comedians jokes and the audience responses. – Pogo’s is another Easter egg within the movie, It’s a reference to Pogo the clown.
He would write down lots of the jokes in his Joke Book. Often he wouldn’t understand the joke other comedians told, And he was looking around at people laughing trying to understand them. He would find things funny when there was no punchline. But this was Arthur’s dream of trying to be somebody, And he really wanted to be a comedian.
The social worker back in her office, takes a look through Arthur’s journal/Joke Book and finds pornographic photos and lots of disturbing diary entries. One of the quotes is ‘I hope my death makes more cents than my life’ when the social worker asks him about it, He was embarrassed and didn’t expect her to question him about his thoughts. He asks for more medication, she is reluctant as he is already on 10 different medications. They are not all for PBA, As earlier mentioned there are many unknown mental health conditions that the Joker likely has.
His co-worker Randall gave him a .38 revolver after he was attacked, And told him he wanted Arthur to protect himself, Incase he was attacked again. He told Arthur not to worry about payment, Just to pay him when he has the funds. Arthur’s boss called him into his office to talk about the broken sign. He was forced to pay for the broken sign. Whilst his boss is grilling Arthur about his strange behaviour and accusing him of stealing his sign, Arthur was getting triggered letting his anger build up. Arthur puts on a very forced smile but inside you can see his anger about to explode at any moment. He has a very psychotic smile the whole time and he keep’s complete eye contact with his boss. – This was the initial moment Joker we being manifested in the movie, small but subtle introduction.
Arthur met one of his neighbours Sophie Dumond, In a very uncomfortable moment in their apartment elevator. In his head they bonded. He instantly he became obsessed with her, and started following her to her job at Gotham Bank.
The whole time he fantasies that she is with him in a relationship. Sophie confronted Arthur about following her, And he made it into a joke and she thought he was funny. He explained that he is a stand up comedian and that he wants her to come with him to one of his shows. This was of course a complete fantasy inside Arthur’s head.
As a professional clown he often goes to children cancer wards, to dance and put on a show. He obviously not thinking logically, which was common as he was very unstable. Arthur took his gun to the hospital, which fell out as he was entertaining the children. He tried to cover it up but did not do a good job and everyone saw the gun.
After speaking to his boss on the phone he got fired from the rent-a-clown company, Randall told their boss that Arthur tried to buy a gun off him a week prior. This obviously was a lie, from the reality we saw. And it evidently annoyed Arthur making his headbutt a window smashing it, After getting off the phone to his boss. This was the first betrayal that we saw and it deeply affected Arthur.
That evening Arthur was still in his Clown outfit and make-up, He was on the train back home to his apartment, There was 3 Gotham wall street guys. (who work for Tom Wayne = Batman’s father) Also on the train, They were typical upper class idiots who thought they could do what they want, to whom ever they want. They were terrorizing a woman on the train, She was fearful of them and looked at Arthur for help – he innocently looked back at her and then he started to get a severe episode of PBA and started laughing. The woman got up and left, The 3 thugs focused all of their attention on Arthur and started to make fun of his laugh.
They pushed him around and punched him in the face knocking him to the floor. Arthur grabs his .38 and shoots two of them dead, and the 3rd he shoots in the leg. Arthur gets up and has a moment of instability, He points the gun at his head thinking he needs to kill himself but then starts to chase the 3rd guy as the train stops, Joker waits till the guy runs out onto the station and he shoot’s him multiple times and the guy dies.
The Joker then runs out into a dark/dirty public toilet, and takes a moment to catch his breathe and thoughts. He suddenly breaks out into a very elegant dance, Its the journey into becoming The Joker. As he is looking in the mirror finishing his dance, He is happy at what he has become. He doesn’t feel bad, if anything it has freed him.
When Arthur gets back home he rushes to his neighbours door (Sophie) And starts making out with her, Going into her flat and shutting the door behind them. This actually never happened. This was just another fantasy and never actually happened, It is just what he wanted to happen after the killings. The Subway Murders became a big story around Gotham, The police were looking for someone in a clown mask. The news turned the killings into a movement. Thomas Wayne backed the story calling the poor ‘Clowns’.
He said that it was a personal attack going after the rich. It wasn’t long there was riots on the streets, With the on-going rubbish crises on the streets and now the poor are being blamed for the murder’s all because of their financial status. The clown killer became the poor people’s infamous hero, They all wore clown masks in solidarity.
Arthur had another meeting with his social worker, This time she did informed him that there has been budget cuts and her department is being shut down. Which means he looses access to his medication and talk therapy.
Later on he finds a letter written by his mother to Thomas Wayne, saying that Arthur is her and Thomas’s child and she needs financial help. They have a heated argument when Arthur finds out that Tom Wayne might be his father, Penny insists that it’s true and that Thomas is a great man.
The following day Arthur went to meet young Bruce Wayne at Wayne manor. Young Bruce was emotionless, somewhat detached. Alfred stepped in and told Arthur his mother was a ‘sick woman’ who is lying about who his father is. This angered Arthur who started chocking Alfred until he noticed young Bruce watching.
Two detectives start to investigate the subway murders and want to question Arthur, as they found out that he got fired the same day for bring the gun to the children’s hospital. They went to Arthur’s flat to question him but he was not there instead they spoke to penny who suffered a stroke from the shock of the allegations. Later while Arthur was at the hospital with his mother, he was watching the Murray Franklin Show, and Murray showed a video of Arthur from Pogo’s just to make fun him, this triggered him deeply as he always viewed him as a father figure in his head.
Arthur’s depression was very evident at this point in the movie, he was hiding away inside of the fridge and got a phone call from the Murray Franklin Show, asking him to come on to the show, which he agreed to.
Later he went to Arkham State Hospital and stole some medical records from the hospitals clerk. The documents were about his mother’s mental health and what happened to Arthur as a child with regards to the child abuse he suffered – which is what likely caused the PBA.
When he got home his mental health deterioration was visible and instead of going into his flat, he went into his neighbours flat Sophie, who terrified and told him to leave. What came as a shock knowing that all of his happy experiences with her, were inside his head.
The following day Arthur went back to see his mother in hospital and killed her with a pillow, after letting her know that he use to think his life was a tragedy, but now knows it is a comedy. Later that day he practised his plan for The Murray Franklin Show, which was a plan to kill himself live on the show.
Arthur starts to get ready for the show and paints his face white (preparation for The Jokers make up) he gets a knock at the door and its two of his old co-workers Randall and Gary who heard about his mother dying, they came to say sorry but Arthur’s response was i’m celebrating. Randall wanted to know what Arthur said to the detectives because they were asking him questions too – Arthur grabbed some scissors out of his pocket and stabbed him multiple times, killing him.
Gary was always nice to Arthur and let him go. After he died his hair green, put on his Joker face paint and red suit and left for the show. he left his apartment and went towards the train station. The two detectives saw Arthur dancing down the stairs and started chasing him into a subway where some clown protesters beat them up, allowing Arthur to escape.
At The Murray Franklin Show, he was introduced As JOKER. Murray mocked him several times before Joker pulled out a joke book. He told a dark joke about somebody being hit by a drunk driver, this shocked the audience and Murray.
He said sorry for the joke, followed by a confession of the Subway murders, Joker told him that people only care because Tom Wayne cried about them on TV and if it was Arthur who died nobody would of cared. His anger turned towards Murray for making fun of him and inviting him to the show to mock him.
Arthur pulls his gun out and shoots Murray in the face. That same evening Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne got murdered in front of young Bruce, in that famous batman scene of pearls flying, scaring Bruce for life making him the vigilante he is and in turn making “The Real JOKER” have a place in Gotham years later.
While Arthur is being driven to jail in a police car, a stolen ambulance smashes the cop car off the road and carry Arthur on the hood of the car in a semi-unconscious state. He wakes up coughing blood and stands up, all of the protesters are cheering for him. His make up was faded, so he used his blood to make his Joker smile.
This Movie i rate 10/10. Many people will not agree with this, but to me its the perfect movie, the script was incredible, the acting was at the highest level. and its relatable.
It showed everything that is wrong with the mental health system worldwide, what its like to live with mental illness and what ignoring mental health can do society.
There is rumour that there is going to be a Joker 2 and maybe even a third, i actually do not think this is something they should do and leave it as a stand alone movie. As much as i want to see more, i do not think it’s actually needed. Keep the mystery of Joker by never knowing the truth.