Joker Offers A Flawed Yet Fascinating Interpretation Of Batman’s Greatest Foe

6 min readOct 22, 2019

It’s fair to say that many balked at the idea of making a standalone Joker film, especially as fans continue to dispute the successes and failures of DC Comics-based films in comparison to the box office juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As one might imagine, there was a considerable number of fans who believed a character so defined by their lack of a canonical origin should never have his status tarnished by an origin film. And the closer the Joaquin Phoenix-starring film came to release, came concerns about the film possibly inciting violence among those who fit the profile of a potential mass shooter. The Joker stands as one of the most notorious villains of popular fiction ever put to page, and as “mass shooting season” has become an actual thing in America, Some questioned the need for a film that seemed to focus on a lone white man who finds his release in chaotic violence.

Having finally watched the film for myself, I would argue that some of these concerns were frankly unfounded. Even with the influence of films like Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, Joker is far from the incel manifesto pre-emptive critics feared (and perhaps WANTED) it to be. Modeled after early 80s New York City, the Gotham of Joker finds Joaquin Phoenix playing Arthur Fleck, who aspires to be a comedian, but has more than a few obstacles in his path. The city’s economy has all but gutted the middle class, leaving only the super wealthy and the destitute, with very little in between. Already a struggling clown performer, Arthur is plagued by involuntary fits of laughter that ultimately make him off-putting for most who interact with him. As the city repeatedly knocks him down, Arthur slowly reaches his breaking point, and Gotham City may never recover.

Obviously, there are a number of die-hard comic book fans who hold to the belief that Joker is a character that is interesting precisely because of his lack of a backstory. There have been hints at it over time, but nothing that’s ever been set in stone. However, I would argue that part of what makes Joker work as a standalone film is that it’s an opportunity to…