Warning: Spoilers ahead for the 2019 film Joker and other Batman stories.
The Controversial Origin of Joker
Joker is one of the most iconic villains in the history of comic books, movies, and pop culture. He is often portrayed as an insane criminal mastermind who enjoys chaos and violence, and who shares a twisted bond with Batman, the Dark Knight who opposes him.
However, despite his enduring popularity and influence, Joker has always been shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. One of the key questions that fans have debated for decades is: Who was Joker before he became Joker?
In some versions of Batman canon, such as the 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke by writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland, Joker is portrayed as a failed stand-up comedian named Jack Napier who turns to crime after a series of tragic events. In this version, Napier falls into a chemical vat during a heist at a chemical plant, which bleaches his skin white and turns his hair green while also driving him mad.
In other versions, however, such as the 2008 movie The Dark Knight by director Christopher Nolan and actor Heath Ledger (who won a posthumous Academy Award for his performance), Joker’s origin remains unknown or deliberately obscured. In this version, Joker tells different stories about how he got his scars on his face but never reveals which one is true or whether any of them are.
The Ambiguous Nature of Joker
The latest incarnation of Joker in Todd Phillips’s movie Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, continues this tradition of ambiguity while also providing its own interpretation of the character’s backstory. In this film, Joker is portrayed as Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill and socially isolated man who works as a clown and dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian like his idol, Murray Franklin (played by Robert De Niro).
Throughout the film, Arthur faces various forms of abuse and neglect from society, including his own mother who lied to him about his past and his medication that was cut due to budget cuts. These factors contribute to Arthur’s descent into madness and violence, as he embraces Joker as his true identity and seeks revenge against those who have wronged him.
The ending of Joker has sparked debates and interpretations among viewers regarding its implications for the Batman universe. In the final scene, we see Joker being institutionalized in Arkham Asylum after having killed Murray Franklin on live TV and inciting riots in Gotham City.
However, we also see him laughing uncontrollably while being interviewed by a psychiatrist who asks him what’s so funny. Some viewers have interpreted this laughter as a sign that Joker has finally achieved his goal of becoming a symbol of rebellion against the corrupt elite of Gotham City, while others see it as a tragic reminder of his insanity and delusions.
The Legacy of Joker
Regardless of how one interprets the ending or the character itself, it’s clear that Joker has left an indelible mark on popular culture and human psychology. From Heath Ledger’s haunting portrayal to Joaquin Phoenix’s haunting dance moves, from comics to movies to memes, from hero to antihero to supervillain, Joker continues to fascinate and disturb us with his twisted sense of humor and nihilistic worldview.
Moreover, Joker also raises important questions about mental health care, social inequality, media influence, and moral responsibility. Is Joker a product of his environment or his genetics?
Is he a victim or a perpetrator of violence? Is he a hero or a monster? These are not easy questions to answer, and perhaps that’s why Joker remains such an enduring and enigmatic figure.
In conclusion, the question of who was Joker at the end of the Batman remains unanswered and probably unanswerable. However, one thing is clear: Joker is more than just a clown prince of crime.
He is also a reflection of our fears, desires, and contradictions as human beings. By exploring his origins and his legacy, we can learn more about ourselves and our society, for better or for worse.