By now, everyone knows that Joker fundamentally changes what we thought we knew about Batman’s famous archnemesis. But recently, some folks have suggested that maybe not everything is as it seems and that there’s a way to reconcile what happens in Joker with what we already think we know about Batman and the Joker’s origin stories. And, there’s a twist, the tolerate-him-or-hate-him director who made Joker — Todd Phillips — says these fan theories actually 100 percent work with the movie. Here’s the deal.
Mild spoilers for Joker ahead.
So, if you’ve seen Joker, then you know Joaquin Phoenix’s version of the character actually meets Bruce Wayne when Bruce is a little kid and Arthur Fleck (the Joker) is like in his late 30s. This puts a huge age gap between Batman and the Joker, assuming this version of little Bruce grows up to be the caped crusader. (And the ending of Joker certainly suggests that could and will happen.) So, how could all of this work? Well, some fans say it’s simple. Arthur Fleck isn’t the “real” Joker, he’s a proto-Joker who inspires another Joker at some point in the future.
In comic-book story shenanigans, there’s certainly a precedent for this; after all there have been several versions of Batman who aren’t Bruce Wayne. Not only that, Todd Phillips totally supports this idea. Here’s what he said about the topic recently.
“Maybe Joaquin’s character inspired the Joker. You don’t really know. His last line in the movie is, ‘You wouldn’t get it.’ There’s a lot going on in there that’s interesting.”
So there you have it. The biggest joke from the Joker movie is that ha ha ha, that might not be the Joker. And Phillips is right, we don’t get it. Does Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker somehow inspire Ceasar Romero? That seems like the best-case scenario here.
That said, there is something playful about this fan theory, which considering all the heavy discussion around the film, is a welcome and whimsical distraction.
Joker is out in wide release now.