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Characters / Joker (2019): Arthur Fleck / Joker

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Arthur Fleck / Joker

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fleck_2.png
"When I was a little boy and told people I was gonna be a comedian, everyone laughed at me. Well, nobody's laughing now!"
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fleck2.png
"I killed those guys because they were awful. Everybody's awful these days. It's enough to make anyone crazy!"

Played by: Joaquin Phoenix

Dubbed by: Boris Rehlinger (European French), Mauricio Pérez (Latin American Spanish), Hiroaki Hirata (Japanese)

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"I used to think that my life was a tragedy. But now I realize... it's a fucking comedy."

Arthur Fleck is a mentally ill, impoverished clown for hire and aspiring stand-up comedian living in Gotham City in 1981. He is well-meaning, wanting to "bring laughter and joy to the world", but gets disregarded or mocked by the society of his wretched and increasingly chaotic home city. And if this wasn't enough, he also has the burden of taking care of his deeply deluded single mother, whose abuse and neglect in his childhood contributed to shape the man he is.

One day, after being bullied and mocked too many times and losing both his job and his medication, he snaps, going down an increasingly dark path made of delusion, twisted self-discovery and blind self-justice. He ends up embracing a whole new persona in the process, and his life (and the world) will never be the same.

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    A-F 
  • Accidental Hero:
    • Inverted. He becomes an icon and inadvertently begins an Eat the Rich movement in Gotham when news hits of a guy in clown getup murdering three Wayne Enterprises employees. Arthur killed them (mostly) in self-defense, and has no real personal investment in Gotham politics, but the notion of a clown murdering the powerful and the wealthy inspires others to don clown masks and makeup during protests against the ruthless elite (although the clown aspect is also due to Thomas Wayne insulting them by calling all the poor "clowns"). After his murder of Murray Franklin on live television, those same protesters incite riots in the streets wearing clown masks, and when they find him they hail him as the icon of their movement.
    • However, it's played straight in that one of his laughing fits ends up saving a woman from being harassed on the subway by those men who turn their attention to him instead. Said woman even joins the clown mask rioters later.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change:
    • This version of the Joker takes some cues from The Killing Joke.
    • Here, the Joker wasn't a struggling comedian per sé, but a struggling clown and aspiring comedian. This version wasn't that great of a comedian either.
    • Killing Joke Joker also turned to crime and then went insane after losing his family. Arthur already had a long history of mental illness and had already killed several people before becoming the Joker. Though by this point, he had "lost" his mother and may have known that his girlfriend was an imagined or hallucinated relationship.
    • There's nothing in this Joker's backstory about a chemical bath that bleached his face. He instead wears makeup for his clown face.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Even when Joker is genuinely insane in other stories, he is still cunning and a great chemist. Here, Arthur doesn't have a great education (outside of what appears to be a taste for old movies) and relies on luck more than anything, though he shows a lot of cunning on the train whilst escaping the cops. He also misspells a lot of words similar to real life mentally ill mass murderers. It appears that he may have suffered some brain damage as a kid from his mom's abusive boyfriend.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Most Joker stories have him start his career after Batman starts his. Here, not only does he become Joker while Bruce Wayne is still a child, he indirectly causes the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and, by extension, accidentally creates Batman (as opposed to the other way around).
  • Adaptational Personality Change: Joker is often portrayed as a horrific sadist and jerkass without any sympathetic qualities who kills and causes destruction simply for his own amusement. Here, he's portrayed as more of an angry, vengeful man who wants revenge on everyone for mistreating him.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Arthur is not the monstrous, purely evil clown that most Joker incarnations make themselves out to be, or at least did not begin that way. He starts off a troubled, but highly well-meaning and imaginative man who just ended up in precisely the wrongest environment possible, it being so damaging that it ends up having him sink into madness. Even after he does though, he still spares a scant few because they were nice to him, like Gary for example; any other Joker would have shot him in the face For the Evulz.
  • Adaptational Wimp: He's not yet the Evil Genius, invokedMagnificent Bastard or Diabolical Mastermind that most incarnations of the character are. One of his earliest scenes is getting robbed and beaten-up by a group of teenagers.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • His suit is red in this instead of purple, like Cesar Romero's.
    • His makeup also sports more color than usual Joker's simple bleached faces and red lips, with this Joker being more clown-like with blue eye-shadow and a red nose.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The Joker's real name is traditionally unknown. While some adaptations do give him a civilian name, no previous version of the Joker has ever been named Arthur Fleck. As a downplayed example, the Joker is always referred to as just Joker — never the Joker. It's potentially further downplayed by his adoption papers (which are possibly faked) stating that his birth name is unknown.
  • Adorkable: In the beginning, he's a endearing Manchild who just wants to entertain people and make a name for himself. Too bad it won't last.
  • Age Lift: He's usually a lot closer to Batman's age, albeit sometimes slightly older. Here, the age gap is much bigger as Arthur is already a grown man when Bruce is a kid, similar to the Tim Burton film.
  • All for Nothing:
    • At the end of the day, despite everything Arthur ends up accomplishing, and the mark he makes upon Gotham and its citizens, he is unable to get anybody to really care about him, the one thing he truly ever wanted. In the end, the rioters only see him as the Joker — not as Arthur Fleck. It's implied that his realization of this is what finally drives him to give in to the Joker persona.
    • Another aspect of Arthur's stated goal was to use his comedy to make Gotham a better place. After becoming Joker, he tries to accomplish this by giving those he believed to be at fault "what they deserve". Ultimately, both Murray and Wayne were just symptoms and figureheads of Gotham's corruption, not the source. Their deaths did nothing to cure the underlying disease within Gotham. In fact, Arthur has now come to embody it as the Joker.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: One of the conditions that Arthur suffers from, which causes him to laugh uncontrollably from time to time, is actually a real neurological disorder called PBA. Incidentally, it is unofficially referred to as "Joker Syndrome" in real life, though that's only because people generally know the character.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Arthur has multiple psychological disorders that are never fully defined, aside from the aforementioned PBA (which is not mentioned by name in the film, but its symptoms are accurately described and portrayed). He is very socially awkward, shows signs of extreme depression and anxiety, and worse yet, suffers hallucinations. It turns out that he's actually brain damaged due to prior abuses from his adoptive mother and her boyfriend, so it's even left ambiguous if his laughing condition is indeed a mental disorder, a result of the aforementioned brain damage, learned behavior, a biological condition which causes him to react to stressful situations with laughter, a bizarre sense of humor, or perhaps even all of the above.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: A very dark version. Arthur experiences a crippling amount of trauma over the course of the film, and plans to kill himself on national television as a result. But when given the opportunity, he ends up choosing to shoot Murray, and after the fact he decides to fully embrace his new lease on life as Joker. Because if his life is just a comedy, it's better to just go along with the joke. Him Waxing Lyrical with Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" at the end of the film cements this.
  • Anti-Villain: He's a Sympathetic Murderer for two-thirds of the Wall Street Three kills. The first two were killed in self-defense, which was justified, and the third of which he killed to eliminate a witness, which is less so. By the time he kills Penny, however, he's become a Villain Protagonist.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Arthur gets the idea of the name "Joker" because Murray called him "a joker" while he was making fun of him on his show.
  • Atrocious Alias: Right before killing his mother, he lets her know that he absolutely resents the nickname that she gave him — "Happy" — since, in his mind, he's never been happy throughout his entire life.
  • Ax-Crazy: After becoming the Joker, he transforms from a nice and gentle person into a dangerous and unstable madman who will brutally murder anyone who has wronged him. Though he has shown to have signs bordering on this where he tends to bottle up his emotions and will act out in a rage but still would restrain himself from snapping on someone who bullies him.
  • Bad Liar: He tries to pass his gun as a prop for his clown act, which his boss and the cops don't buy.
  • Bastard Bastard: If he is indeed Thomas Wayne's bastard son, then he unequivocally qualifies by the time he embraces his Joker persona.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Arthur starts off as just another nameless face in Gotham; a perpetually depressed, anxious, and above all else lonely individual, who can only truly ever be happy whenever he makes others laugh. Despite this, he's a generally Nice Guy, a hard worker, and somehow surprisingly optimistic, given his circumstances. As he becomes more detached from reality and suffers more abuse from the worst of Gotham's citizens, Arthur gives in to his darker urges and becomes a destructive sociopath who only finds pleasure in the suffering of those who wronged him... While at the same time becoming more self-confident, bombastic, and audacious. He even manages to gain recognition among the oppressed of Gotham, as a clown who stands up against the powerful and wealthy, even though Arthur personally has beef with pretty much society as a whole.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: The film is about how Arthur's misfortunes by others turned him into the Joker.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: He spent so much time imagining he's in a relationship with Sophie that, until breaking into her apartment, he seemed convinced they really were dating. Her not knowing his name at first broke the illusion.
  • Berserk Button:
    • A trait shared with several previous Jokers, Arthur really does not like being laughed at or being made fun of by other people as he encourages them to laugh with him not at him.
    • His mother being called "crazy" also sets him off, until he realizes that perhaps there's some truth to the claim.
  • Big Bad Slippage: The film details his arc from a nameless nobody with ideals of bringing laughter and joy to the man who will bring anarchy and death to Gotham as its most notorious criminal.
  • Black and White Insanity: Arthur eventually comes to believe that everyone responsible for hurting him is completely deserving of death, regardless of their reasons or whether or not there was any malicious intent at all.
  • Bloodbath Villain Origin: His Start of Darkness involves him killing three Wayne Enterprises employees. He kills the first two in self-defense, but deliberately pursues the last man and finishes him off. He later dons the clown makeup and suit after smothering his mother with a Vorpal Pillow and killing his False Friend ex-coworker, Randall. Finally, he accepts a new identity as "Joker" before proceeding to murder Murray Franklin on live television, and fully embraces this role after rioters ravage the streets in his name.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Arthur feels that society deciding what's to be considered good and evil is every bit as egregious as society deciding what's funny and not funny.
  • Bright Is Not Good: This version is the most colourful version of the Joker yet, and by far one of the most mentally disturbed incarnations as well. In addition to the green hair, red smile and white face, he has blue paint around the eyes, red eyebrows, an orange and red suit, and a red nose.
  • Body Horror: Arthur's poor lifestyle made him a very skinny man, with his ribcage visible through his torso whenever his shirt is off.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • He's a fan of Murray Franklin. Less so once he ends up becoming Murray's punchline one evening.
    • He is also devoted to his mother, until he learns from her psychiatric files that she lied about his paternity and indirectly caused his laughing condition by facilitating his abuse as a child.
  • Broken Smile: Arthur's bloodied smile at the end of the movie is either one of sheer joy at finally being noticed, or one of supreme exhaustion and resignation to his new role as Joker.
  • Butt-Monkey: He's had it bad, to say the least. Everyone around him pummels, insults, and manipulates him constantly without a second thought, even belittling his pseudobulbar condition regardless of whether or not they are aware of it. It turns out that he's had a rough childhood too, if Penny and her boyfriend's actions are to signify anything.
  • Cain and Abel: Maybe. If Penny is correct about Thomas Wayne being his father, then he is destined to become the homicidal Cain to Bruce Wayne's heroic Abel.
  • Camp Straight: Is attracted to his female next door neighbor but as Joker is flamboyant and elegant in his mannerisms.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: By the end, he's aware of all the death and suffering his actions have caused, and is openly proud of it.
  • Cerebus Retcon: His trademark laugh is the result of a neurological condition which compels him to laugh at inappropriate times, which causes him no end of grief by an unsympathetic populace. Though as stated in Ambiguous Disorder above, there's multiple possible explanations for Arthur's condition, none of which do him any favors.
  • Cheerful Child: He wasn't, but his mentally-ill/lobotomized mother interpreted him as this after he started having his laughing fits (hence her pet name for him, "Happy"). Note that these were because her boyfriend beat him into unconsciousness and she did absolutely nothing to stop it.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: It's implied his mother's abuse of him as a baby is largely responsible for his many mental instabilities, and when Arthur learns of this, he smothers his mother with a Vorpal Pillow, finally donning the clown getup and face paint soon after.
  • Composite Character:
    • Incorporates elements of Oswald Cobblepot in Gotham, being another nebbish man who lives with his mother and becomes a proto-supervillain.
    • Calling back to previous iterations of the character:
      • He has long hair and dons makeup and hair dye (instead of being chemically altered) like the Nolanverse version. He even gives himself a smile in his own blood which heavily resembles Ledger's Glasgow grin, save for the facial mutilation. Intially, his mouth's appears to be a cross between John Wayne Gacey's makeup and Cesar Romero's makeup.
      • He wears a reddish suit instead of the classic purple like Cesar Romero (with orange and green on the inside like Batman: The Animated Series Joker).
      • He goes to a talk show and kills the host unexpectedly like the Dark Knight Returns Joker.
      • He is someway responsible for the deaths or Bruce Wayne's parents like Tim Burton's version.
      • Attributes like being a nobody, failed comedian who had "a bad day" and being an Unreliable Narrator when it comes to telling his story bring to mind Alan Moore's Joker.
      • Additionally, Suicide Squad's Joker exhibits attributes that stem from punch-drunk syndrome, a damaged brain condition. Arthur is also clearly brain-damaged.
      • The Adorkable Manchild with some Loners Are Freaks tendencies but relatively well adjusted that appreciates old comedy and uses it as a rejection of Gotham’s ugly reality that we saw in the first part of the movie reminds about the Joseph Kerr persona the Joker develops after he believes (wrongly) that he at last had killed Batman in the comic Going Sane.
      • Arthur's gradual transition from well-meaning if not volatile mentally ill person to a homicidal rampaging murderer brings to mind his incarnation from Batman: The Telltale Series, John Doe.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Although indirectly, his actions caused one of the clown rioters to shoot and kill the parents of a boy who in a few years will be Gotham's hope and his eternal nemesis, Batman.
  • Crowd Pleaser: While he starts out as just another one of Gotham's stragglers, he dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian who can make others happy with his jokes while soaking up their laughter and appreciation in return, and in his fantasies, he's often surrounded by an adoring, sympathetic audience. He finally gets a receptive crowd to please after he's rescued from the police by clown rioters, but he has to fully become the Joker to do it.
  • Cry Laughing: Arthur is visibly frustrated at himself whenever his condition causes him to laugh involuntarily in public, and it eventually gets to the point where you can't tell whether he's laughing or sobbing.
  • Cult of Personality: Arthur's time as Joker clearly has a lasting effect on certain members of society as a whole, to the point where some of the protesters railing against Thomas Wayne are shown wearing clown masks. In fact, one of those people wearing clown masks is inspired by Arthur to shoot Thomas Wayne.
  • Dance of Despair: Arthur does multiple slow dances by himself throughout the movie, and most of them are performed in his moments of sadness. His dances get noticeably more upbeat and lively scored when he embraces his Joker persona.
  • Dark Messiah: Following his first murders, Arthur indirectly started a movement of the poor to fight against the rich. After admitting to his crimes on TV, an all-out riot occurs throughout the city and the people even save him from the police. Foreshadowed with his dance moves, where he often spreads his arms out and keeps his legs together similar to a crucifix pose.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Heavily implied due to the numerous pornographic pictures in his journal plus a scene where he has his hand down his pants, though he could've been scratching himself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Is occasionally prone to this, such as when he exclaims "(gasp) Oh, no! I forgot to punch out!" before punching a clock off a wall, then crossing out "Forget To" from the sign saying "Don't Forget To Smile." Then there's "You know who's not a good dancer? Him!" and of course "They couldn't hold a tune to save their lives."
  • Death Glare: He gives one to Murray while calling him out for making fun of his Pogo's video while on the air.
  • Death Seeker:
    • At one point, he tries to lock himself in his refrigerator until he suffocates before backing out of it.
    • He initially plans on killing himself live on air after being invited on Murray's show, but ultimately changes his mind and kills Murray instead.
  • Deconstruction: Of The Joker himself. Arthur is not an ultra-intelligent criminal mastermind who regularly terrorizes Gotham with outlandishly destructive schemes. He becomes a spree killer over the course of the story, but he's nowhere near the super-terrorist the comics make him out to be. This makes sense as Arthur lives in Perpetual Poverty, and has No Social Skills; he could never gather the resources nor the manpower to deliberately corral people over to his side and enact violence upon the populace. The only reason he's as much of a "threat" as he is is because people impose and project their own fears and/or needs upon him. For example, everyone assumes that the three Wayne employees were murdered to make a political statement, and are quite surprised when Arthur explains he killed them "because they were awful." All these attributes make him the most realistic version of the character ever filmed, eventually showing that, by the end of the day, someone would have to go through hell to become as twisted as The Joker. It's to the point where neurocriminologist Adrian Raine, who studied the psychology of violent criminals for over 40 years, was floored by how realistic Arthur's transformation into a violent sociopath is depicted.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype:
    • Arthur is easily one of the crudest, bitterest deconstructions ever portrayed of what it means to be the Butt-Monkey and The Chew Toy. From the aggressors' perspective it can be very funny, but seeing the context from the opposing side can be quite a invoked Tear Jerker perspective. Bullies generally believe they get away with humiliating and mistreating more vulnerable, passive, and shy people than themselves. The point is, this is not the case. Arthur demonstrates that dealing with physical and psychological abuse on a regular and consistent basis will bring inevitable and negative repercussions.
    • Arthur is also a deconstruction of Insane Equals Violent. Insane people fall to violence not because they are inherently evil, but because their mental illness is compelling them to perform impulsive actions; in Arthur's case, he's impulsively and violently reacting against a society that alienated him.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The point where Arthur spirals out of control is when he finds his medical files, which tell him that he was not Thomas Wayne's son (as he'd been led to believe by his mother) and was abused for years (which he had no memory of due to the severity of the abuse he faced). At that point, he spirals down into increasingly violent behavior and actively commits murder, before planning to kill himself live on television. It's only after killing Murray on live television that he has a new lease on life — as the Joker. It's best exemplified in what Arthur says right before he decides to kill Murray:
    Arthur: I've got nothing left to lose. Nothing can hurt me anymore. My life is nothing but a comedy.
  • Didn't Think This Through: It's heavily implied that his shooting of Murray Franklin at the end of the film was a result of his Rage Breaking Point clouding his judgment. Arthur actually physically rears back after having shot the closest thing he had to a father-figure, and his eyes are noticeably watery with horror at what he'd just done... but he ends up laughing it off, and fires another round into the man's corpse.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Depending on the Writer, the Joker in the comics is really just Obfuscating Insanity to get out of more fitting punishments for his crimes. Here, Arthur is shown with legitimate issues, including pseudobulbar affect, and has hallucinations. However, while he does suffer from brain damage and depression, it is debatable if he really suffers from PBA, some other condition or he was really lying to himself about having a dark sense of humor for most of the movie.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: His grudge toward Murray is that he made fun of his botched stand up (in the same way the comedians of World's Dumbest... would if they kept to more tame jibes) and plans to get back at him by committing suicide on his show; he later decides to kill him instead.
  • Driven to Villainy: Arthur repeatedly frames his transformation into Joker as this. But while there are multiple reasons as to why Arthur falls into villainy, but it should never be forgotten Arthur is personally responsible for a number of choices that compel him to further give in to his darker traits. He pursues the last Wayne employee on the subway and brutally guns him down when he should have let him go. He indulges his ego when protestors use his clown schtick as a symbol of rebellion against the upper class. The atrocities he commits in the latter half of the film are under the influence of no one and he revels in the damage he causes because it just feels so good to get back at the society that hurt him.
  • Eat the Rich: Arthur comes into conflict with multiple wealthy and powerful people throughout the film, but his enmity is focused moreso on the whole of Gotham, and perhaps society, itself. Nonetheless, the poor and oppressed of Gotham come to view Arthur as an icon, and tout him as such especially after he murders Murray Franklin.
  • Elemental Motifs: Fire. As Joker he dresses in red and orange-yellow (with a small bit of greenish blue), constantly smokes and his actions lead to Gotham being set on fire, both figuratively and in a lot of locations literally. Very fitting element for a character known for spreading uncontrollable chaos and destruction.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted with Arthur. Arthur clearly loves his mother and defends her even as Alfred and Thomas both separately insult her. That changes, however, when he realizes that she lied to him about everything and let him get abused, and he kills her for it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Unlike most versions of The Joker, Arthur doesn't kill random people for kicks. He only targets the people who have hurt him in some fashion. However, while it's played straight at first, this later on becomes subverted since many of his victims, except for the three rich subway guys, had minor sympathetic qualities. For example, Penny was clearly mentally ill and senile, making it possible she had no idea Arthur was abused although she could ahve very well-known. But Randall, as much of a dick he was for getting Arthur fired, did not deserve such a brutal death and did give Arthur the gun for protection only lying to save his job with this kill being the one he starts going a little too far. Murray, aside from mocking Arthur a couple of times, seemed like a genuinely nice person who respected Arthur in person and was disgusted by Arthur's behavior on the show, him bragging about his crimes, and his actions that led to so much chaos. Arthur also ends up getting a man killed by the subway riot he started, getting two detectives gravely injured in the process, and possibly murdering his therapist at the end of the film, abandoning sympathy for anyone else who gets in his way.
    • Despite how cruel killing Randall was however, Arthur doesn't kill Gary since he was the only one at his job who didn't betray or mock him, plus despite laughing at a joke about Gary's height, the expression Arthur has on his face suggests that he only laughed to fit in or due to his condition. He also spares Sophie as well. So it's still played straight at points.
    • Arthur is nothing but kind to children in this film, while other Jokers would've maimed, killed, or kidnapped them.
    • Arthur is initially shocked when he kills Murray, but he breaks into laughter, either out of joy or because he realized he screwed up, but doesn't care, and then proceeds to shoot Murray again for fun. However, he stops himself from shooting Murray a third time, expressing some shame or feeling he's done enough.
  • Evil Feels Good:
    • When Murray scolds him for his murders and the chaos he caused, his response is to laugh and reply with a sinister and satisfied "I know."
    • When he's being taken away by the police, he calls the riot he inadvertently instigated in downtown Gotham beautiful.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: On his big appearance with Murray Franklin, Joker makes several uncomfortable and misanthropic jokes that leave the audience confused before things take a turn for the worse. His "subjectivity of comedy" speech carries the heavy implication that he never had Pseudobulbar Affect at all, just a twisted sense of humor that the rest of society doesn't understand or appreciate.
  • Evil Laugh: Comes with the character, though most of his laughing fits are due to his condition. By the time he confesses to murdering the three men on the subway, his laughter becomes a lot more malicious. However, it's stated by the people involved that the purest example of this comes at the very end, after he becomes the Joker, when he absolutely cackles at the thought of delivering the perfect punchline to tell the now-orphaned Bruce Wayne.
  • Fan Disservice: Arthur has quite a number of shirtless scenes through the movie, but they lack any appeal or fanservice since he is horribly malnourished and near skeletal. While he dons a nice suit as Joker, he also puts on his clown makeup that makes him look like the Monster Clown he has become, and it only worsens when he paints the sides of his mouth with his own blood.
  • Finger-Forced Smile: His first scene in the movie has him doing it to himself, in a clear display of the sadness he tries to hide. He repeats this gesture throughout the movie and also does the same to a young Bruce Wayne when he visits the manor.
  • For Happiness: Aside from money to support himself and his mother, Arthur's motivation to enter the comedy business is that he always wanted to make people laugh and be happy. He genuinely enjoyed his clown job and and had high hopes to do stand-up comedy.
  • Forceful Kiss: To display his newfound confidence, Arthur catches Dr. Ruth off-guard by kissing her in the mouth when appearing on Murray Franklin's show. It's a noticeably uncomfortable moment for the doctor, with Franklin concerned if she's okay. While perhaps not forceful but rather sudden and unexpected, he does it to Sophie in one of his hallucinations about their relationship.
  • Freudian Excuse: It is revealed that Arthur had been abused by his adopted mother as well as her boyfriend, and that his mental disorders, including his laughing condition, are possibly (if not likely) resultant from Childhood Brain Damage. However, it's also possible that his extreme fits of laughter are an involuntary biological response to fear or stressful situations that he had developed during his childhood abuse.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: As Murray makes clear, his Trauma Conga Line of a life is no excuse for resorting to murder. Even Arthur himself seems to understand this:
    Murray: Okay. So that's it, you're crazy. That's your defense for killing three young men?
    Arthur: No. They couldn't carry a tune to save their lives!
  • Friend to All Children: Throughout the film, it's clear that Arthur has a soft spot for children, to making funny faces for an infant to entertaining sick kids in the hospital. He doesn't even hold anything against the teenagers that stole his sign and beat him up, simply stating that they were just kids. It makes the fact that he's indirectly responsible for the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne more ironic.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Arthur Fleck — the Butt-Monkey, The Chew Toy, the Cosmic Plaything, the No Respect Guy — winds up becoming the most dangerous and feared man in all of Gotham, as well as one of the greatest arch-enemies for the Dark Knight, if not the absolute greatest.

    G-L 
  • Giftedly Bad: He's a good clown if his act at the children hospital is anything to go by, but he fancies himself as a rising stand-up comedian. His first real stint at the Pogo's ends up a disaster; his unfunny material would have sunk it in the first place, but Arthur's failure ends up being because of his uncontrollable laughing fits ruining his delivery of his first joke, and then stopping him from saying anything after that. People end up laughing at his stand-up, but for the wrong reasons...
  • Glasgow Grin: Not surprising since it's the Joker but, in this version, he doesn't get his mouth sliced. Rather, he uses his own blood from the police car crash at the end to paint the sides of his mouth and make it look like a grin.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: As both timid, innocent Arthur Fleck and as the malevolent Joker, he smokes like if a chimney and Ayn Rand had a babynote .
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Learning the truth about Penny is the final straw to complete his Sanity Slippage.
  • Grew a Spine: A very dark example. By the end of the movie, Arthur is done getting screwed over by circumstances and he takes matters into his own hands.
  • Happy Dance: After embracing his new identity of Joker, Arthur's dances become more upbeat and lively, making it clear that they come from a feeling of confidence and happiness. Of particular note, he performs some moves to mock detectives Garrity and Burke as they are being beaten by the clown rioters.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Granted, "hero" is stretching it, but his murder of the Wall Street three was done mostly out of self-defense than any political motive and also, his action ended up saving a woman that was being harassed by the trio. Yet this doesn't stop the media from portraying it as an act of rebellion against the rich done by a clown-themed spree killer. Unfortunately, Arthur ends up embracing the image of himself that has been created in the city, thus becoming the very thing he was portrayed as.
  • Hidden Depths: Arthur is quite taken with dancing, as seen with his various moves and performances on the movie. Also, he wishes to be appreciated for his dancing as much as for his job a clown, as suggested when he dances by himself in his living room: he imagines a partner who compliments him by saying he dances well.
  • The Hyena: A deconstructed example. The Joker's Laughing Mad tendencies have been reinvented as a neurological condition that forces him to burst into laughter at random, often inopportune times. Then Penny's file reveals that he doesn't have the pseudobulbar affect condition at all, and he considers his laughing fits as just his strange sense of humor rearing its head.
  • Hypocrite: Arthur launches a massive Motive Rant late in the film, openly rebuking the citizens of Gotham for their mistreatment of him, as well as their inability to know what it's like "to be the other guy." At this point, however, Arthur has become largely unsympathetic to anyone other than himself, and is driven by an unhealthy desire to get back at everyone who wronged him, consequences be damned.
  • I Am What I Am: Gives one during his appearance on Murray Franklin's show, revealing he had killed the three guys in the subway, leading to him embracing what he was becoming.
  • Icon of Rebellion: His murder of the Wall Street three is what kickstarts the city wide protests throughout the movie, and the rioters all wear clown masks explicitly because of the clown makeup Arthur was wearing when he committed that crime (and also for having been called "clowns" by Thomas Wayne). At the end of the movie, Arthur is broken out out the police car he was held up into and praised by a crowd of such rioters.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Arthur desperately wants to find love and validation from others, which is why he's so quick to smile when he's around Sophie. Or rather, his hallucinations of her.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Played for Drama. Arthur is in truth a modest man who isn't concerned with upping his standing in society. He really does just want to become a comedian, and make people laugh. But when his efforts are disregarded and people just keep heaping abuse upon him, he clings to whatever form of validation is available... namely that of violent protestors who ape the clown gimmick and seek a massive upheaval throughout Gotham's society.
    Arthur: For my whole life, I didn’t know if I even really existed. But I do, and people are starting to notice.
  • Insane Equals Violent:
    • A subversion. Arthur is a peaceful man who is trying to do good and only wants to make people happy. However, he is also living with mental illness, which is only exacerbated by the casual mistreatment and abuse he takes from random people in his daily life; this is actually true of most insane people in real life, who are often more susceptible to being physically harmed by others. The constant abuse is what pushes Arthur towards violence, not his mental problems.
    • It's also shown that Arthur has been actively seeking help for his psychiatric problems, taking medication regularly and seeing a psychiatrist for weekly counseling. However, as those who know the source material know, Arkham doesn't have the best track record for the mental health of its patients, and it's not an exception here. His psychiatrist also tells him that their current session shown will be their last due to the city cutting funding for therapy and medicine to those in need. It's likely that the lack of resources and access to help — and the frustration towards this — only worsens Arthur's state of mind and pushes him more and more towards antisocial behavior.
  • Ironic Name: Arthur's name brings to mind the legend of King Arthur, who was a royal bastard who eventually came to rule Britain. Arthur later discovers he may be the bastard child of Thomas Wayne and Penny, but it is later established that Penny was/is very delusional and imagined the whole affair in her head. Probably. Arthur does become a kingly figure by the end of the film, however, lording over a whole mob of rioters who see him as a symbol of their suffering at the hands of the upper-class. His name can also be labelled as "A. Fleck", referencing how he was once a fleck to Gotham's civilization before his uprising.
  • Irony: Ironically, Arthur's jokes are made of this.
  • It Gets Easier: Arthur's first murders were an accident and arguably self-defense, but as his insanity worsens, he has no problem killing others as well.
  • It's All About Me: Arthur becomes increasingly self-absorbed throughout the course of the film, and comes to use his personal suffering as a means to ignore or even justify the terrible things he does to others. In the end, violent protesters cause massive riots all over Gotham in Arthur's name, and Arthur couldn't give less of a crap about any innocents, nor does he care about the grievances of the protesters—he's just happy that, for once in his life, his actions have an effect on those around him.
    Cop: Stop laughing. The whole fucking city's on fire because of what you did.
    Joker: I know. Isn't it beautiful?
  • I've Come Too Far:
    • Earlier, after killing two of the three yuppies who were beating him on the subway, he eventually decides to chase down the fleeing survivor before he can get help and shoot him dead while he's helpless, which sets him on the path to becoming the Joker.
    • Shooting Murray Franklin causes a brief flash of horror and sadness upon Arthur's face, as it's heavily implied he shot him in the heat of the moment. But by this point he really doesn't have anything else to lose, and after Arthur lets out a genuine laugh at just everything that's happened, he shoots Murray's corpse again and embraces the fact that the person he used to be is no more.
  • Joker Immunity: Being the Trope Namer himself, the Joker survives a rather gruesome car accident when a member of the angry mob drives an ambulance into the police cruiser he is riding in. The driver doesn't survive, but the Joker, despite his injuries, is still capable of standing.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Starts off the film as a down-on-his-luck regular schmo who wants to make people laugh, and his first murders are only people who kind of had it coming, but eventually as he's beaten down, he turns into an Ax-Crazy spree killer who isn't afraid to kill people who have just slighted him, or possibly even not at all, and openly revels in the chaos that he has ignited around the city.
  • Kick the Dog: Downplayed since he doesn't mean any real harm nor are these actions truly that cruel, but kissing Dr. Ruth and making her uncomfortable was a rather pointless move. Arthur did it as a display of his newfound confidence as Joker but it doesn't earn him sympathy. Also, after his incredibly brutal murder of Randall, which shocks Gary, Arthur takes him time to do a Jump Scare on the already frightened dwarf for no other reason other than he found it funny. Still, he lets Gary go and even kisses him in the forehead in a sincere display of gratitude.
  • Kick The Son Of Ab Itch: Killing the Wall Street Three. Also killing Penny for abusing and neglecting him as a child. Averted with Randall and Murray.
  • King of the Homeless: Arthur's actions as Joker turn him into an icon representing the suffering endured by the lower/middle class of Gotham. Though Arthur personally cares little for Gotham politics, he embraces the role because it's the only way for people to truly notice him.
  • Lack of Empathy: He tells a clerk at Arkham State Hospital that he did something — killing three men on the subway — that he thought would bother him, but it didn't. Later, he boasts about it on live television.
  • Large Ham: Thanks to his mental illnesses, Arthur can't help but stand out in a crowd, even when he's trying not to draw attention to himself. When he fully becomes Joker, though, he pretty much embraces and embodies the ham.
  • Laugh Themselves Sick: Aside from being involuntary, Arthur's laughing fits bring no benefits to himself and actually nauseates him more than once. He is shown sometimes to try to catch his breath after an episode.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: What kills his attempt at stand-up comedy are his uncontrollable laughing fits even before he tells his joke. As the movie progresses, Arthur starts laughing at his own morbid comments, and it's clear that only he finds any humor in them.
  • Laughing Mad: As he experiences more trauma, Arthur comes to use his laughing fits as a means of getting all his stress out. The last scene of the film show him cackling like a loon, totally consumed by his insanity.
  • Lean and Mean: He is uncomfortably gaunt due to his rough life. As far as the "mean" part, he comes around to this by the end of the film.
  • Loss of Identity: Arthur has a case of this after learning the Awful Truth about his adoptive mother abusing him, leading to him deciding that he needs to go by a different name. To him, "Joker" is as good a name as any.
  • Loving a Shadow: What he falls victim to. In the end, the Gotham rioters don't admire Arthur, they love Joker, and what he represents.

    M-R 
  • Made of Iron: After experiencing heavy physical abuse virtually his entire life, Arthur's body has become incredibly resilient in spite of what his wiry frame would suggest, and he bounces back from physical trauma very quickly. While running from a couple of detectives, he's hit hard enough by a taxi to smash the windshield yet gets right back up and keeps on running, and later in the same day he's in a major wreck when a police cruiser he's riding in is t-boned by a speeding ambulance, on the side of the car that Arthur is riding in, only to be knocked unconscious and wake up a minute later fully able to stand and move around, only coughing up a little blood to show for it. He also frequently rams his head into things with serious force and doesn't even seem fazed, which connects to the fact that the most severe trauma he experienced as a child was head trauma.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: A series of several bad days, coupled with Arthur no longer being able to afford his medication, result in an insane lunatic who thinks that everybody is awful and deserving of death.
  • Manchild: Arthur doesn't start off necessarily immature, but does have an overly-optimistic and childlike view of his possible future as a comedian, and frequently imagines or fantasizes about gaining the recognition or love of others (mainly his unwitting father figure Murray Franklin, and his neighbor Sophie). Over time, he does become more immature and self-centered, and comes to justify a lot of his later actions as his victims pretty much getting what they deserved, leading to his becoming a Psychopathic Manchild.
  • Matricide: Once he learns his mother was abusive, he gives her the Vorpal Pillow medical treatment.
  • Meaningful Name: Arthur Fleck, or rather, A. Fleck. Which is to say that the character who will become the Joker is just "a fleck" to a society that's rejected and shunned him, until he learns of the healing power of laughter, and it becomes an Ironic Name. Arthur mentions that he always hated the name.
  • Meaningful Rename: He requests that Murray Franklin address him as "Joker" before his appearance on the talk show begins, signifying his transformation into that persona. The name comes from something that Murray called him as being a "joker" whilst still making fun of him.
  • The Mentally Ill: But of course. What separates Arthur from other incarnations of the character, however, lies in how the film frames his mental illnesses and disorders. He's cripplingly socially awkward, perpetually depressed and anxious, and desperate for human contact. Most importantly, he is far more likely to become the victim of violence and abuse from others, rather than being a perpetrator, which is very Truth in Television.
  • Messy Hair: Arthur sports an untamed head of lank hair, which gets even messier when it rains in some key and significant scenes. However, he does try to tidy it up for his imaginary dates with Sophie.
  • Momma's Boy: Arthur is a man in his late thirties or early forties who takes care of his ailing mother, going so far as to give her baths, and even dances with her in an over the top, weirdly intimate way just to make her laugh. Not surprising, given that she's likely one of the only people who has actually treated him with decency. Subverted when he realizes that she's not his real mother, but that she adopted him, and has been abusing him for years, at which point he decides to smother her to death.
  • Monster Clown: Par for the course for anything having to do with the Joker, although he actually starts as a Non-Ironic Clown and Sad Clown in contrast to other versions of the character.
  • Motive Decay: For the first half of the film, Arthur's main motivation is to bring laughter and joy unto others, but as the Trauma Conga Line he goes through goes From Bad to Worse, he ends up wanting to just be noticed by somebody, while ruthlessly seeking vengeance on the people who wronged him. To this end he even plans to shoot himself on Live! With Murray Franklin out of spite, but in his Rage Breaking Point he instead kills Murray Franklin himself with a Boom, Headshot!.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Very downplayed when compared to the comic Joker, but still present. He is either an unnamed abandoned baby adopted by Penny Fleck, or he is the offspring of Thomas Wayne born after an affair which he covered up by fabricating documents of both Penny and Arthur.
  • My Beloved Smother: Downplayed. He still lives with his mother but they have a rather harmonic relationship.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Immediately after murdering two of the Wall Street employees, Arthur for just an instant puts the gun to his own head from the stress of it all, and performs a Dance of Despair after killing the third man. Later on, his murder of Murray Franklin has Arthur actually rearing back in shock at what he'd just done, but by that point he's too far gone for it to even matter.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The Joker does not have a canonical name in the comic books, although multiple aliases — such as Melvin White, Jack Napier, and Joseph Kerr — have appeared. Here, his real name is Arthur Fleck, though as is revealed later on, that was the name his adopted mother gave him. His birth name remains unknown.
  • Nice Guy: Starts off as this. Despite his issues, Arthur seems to genuinely enjoy his job as a clown, especially when entertaining children. He is emotionally mature enough to recognize that the teenagers who assaulted him were simply acting out of adolescent mischief, not true malice or evil. He does his very best to support his mother in spite of all his disabilities and remains optimistic that things could start looking up for him any day now. However, being wronged one too many times along with a lack of medical treatment slowly begins his transformation into the terrifying Joker.
  • Nightmare Face: He inflicts one upon himself, using his own blood, in front of his crowd of followers, completing his transformation into the Joker.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Starts off as this before going off the deep end. Unlike his fellow clowns that he works with, he seems to genuinely enjoy the work.
  • No Medication for Me: At the beginning of the film, it's stated that's he taking seven different medications for his mental illness, which only seem to make him depressed, but once Gotham's social work funding is cut, he is forced off his meds. He tells his former coworker Randall that he feels better than ever now that he's not taking any more pills... right before Arthur brutally murders him with a pair of scissors.
  • No Sense of Humor: Implied to be the case. He only actually laughs (until the end) due to his condition or when other people are laughing because he thinks it's the appropriate reaction. He's shown writing down the performing comedian's material during the aforementioned scene, and when he tries to write his own jokes for his stand-up routine using his notes, none of them are actually funny to anyone else. Though Murray's ribbing of Arthur's first stand-up was pretty mean-spirited, on the whole he wasn't malicious at all, and could easily have been seen as trying to promote Arthur through inviting him on the show. His stint on Murray's talkshow doesn't actually have him making any funny remarks, just talking about tragic and heinous things that he alone finds hilarious.
  • No Social Skills: An isolated lifestyle, coupled with several mental disorders and illnesses, prevent Arthur from properly relating to other people.
  • Nothing but Skin and Bones: Without his shirt, he looks horribly malnourished. Ironically this is how the Joker was when he was first introduced in the comics. He's come full circle!
  • Oblivious Adoption: He only finds out that Penny is not his biological mother until late into the movie — presuming that those documents weren't faked.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The first sign that shit's about to hit the fan with Murray is when he doesn't accentuate the last syllable of his name in a hushed but genuinely angry tone.
    Joker: ...You're awful, Murray.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Arthur, despite being an Adaptational Wimp in comparison to his comics counterpart as well as other live-action renditions of the character, remains a grave threat to Gotham because his actions contrast so strongly with the dour and depressing state of the city. A clown killing three Wall Street employees in the dead of night sounds so ridiculous that it helps kickstart an Eat the Rich movement among the lower class. That same clown admitting to those crimes on live TV, before blowing the host's brains out in front of a studio audience, shocks those same protestors into ravaging the streets in an overblown riot. If some nobody could cause such massive upheaval in the city, with just a gun and some makeup, why couldn't they?
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Deconstructed gradually throughout the film, as Arthur begins falling back on this trope as a rationalization for the terrible things he does. For starters, he, to some degree, believes killing the three Wayne employees was righteous. His hallucinations of Sophie even applaud the clown-killer as a hero, when in reality he was only justified in killing the first two since he did so in self-defense. He doggedly pursued the last man and willingly shot him up multiple times instead of letting him go (not that he didn't deserve it). By the end of the film, he ends up proclaiming that much of his actions are pretty much what you get when you cross "a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash." Murray Franklin later admonishes Arthur for trying to excuse and justify his crimes, but Arthur quickly dismisses his protests because he's come to believe Murray himself is just as bad as the others who abused him, all for making fun of him on his show.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite being driven completely insane, Arthur lets Gary go after killing Randall in cold-blood because Gary was the only person who was nice to him back in his old workplace.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Arthur's Joker isn't a diabolical criminal mastermind who causes mass destruction on a regular basis; he's a spree killer whose effect on Gotham society is more accidental than anything else.
    • This version of Joker never takes a dip in an Ace Chemicals vat, so his Monster Clown look is merely makeup from his clown career. Given the film's gritty, realistic take on the traditional comic book lore, this is a good example of Tropes Are Tools.
    • Design-wise, Joker's suit is not a stylish, groomed Purple Is Powerful outfit with long coattails, but instead resembles a typical formal suit in vibrant colors. In fact it seems to be more of an accumulation of various outfits Arthur wears in and out of the film: the yellow waistcoat and makeup are inherited from his old 'Carnival' persona, with the latter being slightly updated and the wig replaced with his own hair dyed green. The red suit he wore before in an unfortunately unreleased Deleted Scene, although right before killing Penny he is shown to wear a different red shirt.
    • This incarnation of the Joker also has no novelty gag-themed weapons, so he does not have the acid posy, Electric Joybuzzer or his deadly Joker Venom, exchanging them for a simple handgun (not a "Bang!" Flag Gun mind you), and a deranged journal/"joke book". However, he does wield entertainment items in several scenes, such as a clown horn and a magic wand, and his trademark "Joker card" is instead a card explaining his pseudobulbar condition.
  • Precision F-Strike: Arthur doesn't typically swear, but when he does, it's a clear sign that things have gotten way out of control.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The story is all about Arthur's slow descent into madness and violence.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Degrades into this over the course of the movie. All his innocence gets worn and torn apart by the abuses dealt out onto him by others, and his Motive Rant at the end notably comes off as more self-pitying than anything triumphant or badass.
  • Psychotic Smirk: As he becomes more and more unhinged and embracing of his Joker persona, Arthur still smiles, but this time with a clear intent on doing harm to others. At the same time, these are his most genuine expressions throughout the movie, as he finally finds happiness in the evil he becomes.
  • Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": Upon becoming Joker, he repeatedly busts his guts out laughing at generally morbid, horrible things that only bring discomfort to others.
  • Rage Breaking Point: His last "joke" to Murray. It's clear that he's letting out ALL of the pent up aggression and sorrow from the whole film.
    "What do you get when you crossed a mentally ill loner with a SOCIETY, THAT ABANDONS HIM AND TREATS HIM LIKE TRASH!? (voice crack) I'll tell you what you get, YOU GET WHAT YOU FUCKIN' DESERVE!"
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Due to Arthur having absolutely no idea how to handle a gun properly. After accepting Randall's gun, Arthur has a moment where he's all by himself in his living room and starts dancing while waving it around, and accidentally fires a shot in the wall while miming shooting someone. He also doesn't plan on how to securely conceal it on his person, leading him to unintentionally drop the gun in the middle of a children's hospital.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Crosses over with Outside-Context Problem above. Arthur's actions while wearing clown gear inadvertently inspires citizens dissatisfied with the current system to wear clown masks during protests and riots against wealthy politicians like Thomas Wayne. The riots reach their peak when Arthur blows Murray Franklin's brains out on national television. The rioters are so roused by his actions that, when they find him, they regale him as a Dark Messiah Icon of Rebellion.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Possibly to Bruce Wayne. The movie has enough clues for it to go both ways, but it's entirely possible for this version of the Joker to be Bruce's half-brother whom his father abandons and covers up. Thomas's actor believes this to be the case, but nothing from Word of God.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Arthur has to slowly and wearily walk up a dark set of stairs to get home, as if he's being weighed down by the harsh realities of life. When he finally becomes the Joker, he happily dances down those same stairs in the daytime, as if he's gleefully descending into madness.
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    S-W 
  • Sad Clown: He starts off as a somewhat optimistic but down-on-his-luck comedian and clown-for-hire, until getting attacked by a bunch of kids then by three yuppies (both times for no reason) and then getting humiliated on TV eventually drives him over the edge. Deep down, he's a Stepford Smiler who's never been truly happy in his entire life, and his uncontrollable laugh comes off as more of a cry from the inside. This is even reflected in his Joker makeup, where the blue diamond over his left eye is is running slightly, resembling a teardrop.
  • Sadist: He finds death and destruction hilariously funny, especially if he's the one who did it. This is more of a tragic example as others use to be this towards him and now he gets the chance to exact his vengeance by cackling at the utter annihilation being caused around him and inflicting massive suffering to those who wronged him through brutality.
    Murray: So let me get this straight, you think killing those guys is funny?
    Joker: I do. And I'm tired of pretending it's not.
  • Sanity Slippage: Arthur was mentally ill enough to begin with, but the series of terrible events that happen to him throughout the movie definitely doesn't help in any way. But then again it's thanks to this that he became the Joker we all know and feared by all of Gotham (well, almost all).
  • Secondary Color Nemesis: In the later part, we see him wear his iconic outfit consisting of a green shirt, an orange waistcoat and a purplish jacket.
  • A Sinister Clue: Arthur is right-handed, but he starts to switch more to his left hand (and left foot) when his Joker persona begins to emerge. For example he exclusively wields the gun with his left hand.
  • Slasher Smile: A more tragic example where he starts to shows off his unstable nature the more his sanity slips. Especially at the end where he shapes his own blood into a psychotic grin on his face after embracing the path of the Joker.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Certainly seems to think so as he suavely smokes a cigarette while dancing on the steps, as well as during his Unflinching Walk on the subway station amongst all the chaos.
  • Society Is to Blame: Arthur is absolutely the victim of abuse, neglect, and harassment, and he quite understandably develops an intense hatred of the society that abandoned him. As such, when he fights back against the system that's kicked him down all his life, he holds no pity or remorse for the terror he unleashes in his wake.
  • The Sociopath: What he's become by the final act of the movie. His capacity for empathy has drained away completely, he feels no remorse for any of his murders but actually seems to take pride in them and revels in destruction and chaos. He most likely kills his therpasist, the only victim of his who's never wronged him
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Inverted for once. Right before his debut on The Murray Franklin Show, Arthur insists on only being called Joker.
  • Spree Killer: Not yet a supervillain criminal mastermind (if he's ever destined to be one in this continuity), this Joker is a simple spree killer. He does have followers but these are merely random rioters adopting his image and admiring him for being the movement's sparkle rather than members of any organization he runs. By the end of the film, he has personally killed six to seven people: the three WayneTech employees, Penny, Randall, and Murray for sure; plus his psychologist.
  • Stepford Smiler: Claims to have never truly ever been happy for even a single minute in his entire life, but throughout the film keeps up a half-smile that gets more and more psychotic as time passes.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Follows Sophie around town when he becomes interested in her.
  • Straw Nihilist: Becomes a violent sociopath who believes Humans Are Bastards, and is so hollowed out from merely existing that he eventually plans on killing himself on live television.
  • Stronger Than They Look: Despite his wire-frame physique, Arthur is surprisingly strong, nearly choking Alfred to death, only letting go of the butler's neck after noticing that Bruce was watching. Although perhaps not too surprising, since he is shown making that same squeezing motion on his clown shoes in the locker room multiple times.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: A Played for Drama example. Arthur had absolutely no political intention behind his murder of the Wall Street three and was simply acting out of self-defense against a trio who was beating him up. Yet, he is willing to embrace the reputation that has been built around him of a revolutionary who acts against the corrupt elite of Gotham so it will finally bring him the attention and love he craves.
  • That Man Is Dead: After discovering his mother's deception and the abuse he suffered as a child, Arthur kills both her and one of his former co-workers (though sparing Sophie and Gary) to burn any bridges to his past life as Arthur Fleck. Before he appears on Live! With Murray Franklin, he renames himself "Joker" and requests he be called that from that moment on. He embraces his new self very quickly.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: The constant abuse he had on a daily basis ends up turning him into Gotham's most dangerous criminal. But by the end of the film, it's made perfectly clear that nobody really cares about Arthur, just the Joker. It's likely Arthur's awareness of this fact that compels him to fully and truly become the Monster Clown he was destined to be. This is cemented during the climax of the film. After a tearful outburst, Arthur shoots Murray in the head in cold blood, looking momentarily stunned by his own actions, which quickly changes to a content smile as he accepts that he enjoyed what he did.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Look at how shy, uncomfortable and introverted he is as Arthur, in stark contrast with how suave and confident he is as the Joker.
  • Tragic Villain: At the end of it all, Arthur Fleck is just somebody who wants to bring joy to the world, to be noticed, and live a life that matters to somebody. The real tragedy is that, by the end of the story, it's clear that nobody cares about Arthur Fleck... just the sick persona that he created.
  • Tranquil Fury: Enters a chilling example of this prior to killing Murray:
    Murray: Not everybody, and I'll tell you this, not everybody is awful.
    Joker: ...You're awful, Murray.
    Murray: Me? I'm awful? Oh, yeah, how am I awful?
    Joker: Playing my video. Inviting me on the show. You just wanted to make fun of me. You're just like the rest of them.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: While Arthur being amnesiac is not explicitly confirmed in the film, there is nothing that indicates that Arthur remembered his childhood abuse until he read about it in a file extensively detailing it, which marks the point where he goes off the deep end. Since he was said to be brain-damaged, it's entirely possible that Arthur's amnesia was a mental form of self-defense that was keeping Arthur relatively sane.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Partway through the movie, it becomes clear that Arthur's grasp on reality has become so tenuous that it may be confusing which parts of the movie are and aren't taking place in his head.
  • The Unsmile: In particularly strenuous situations, Arthur's stepford smiles grow more twisted and gnarled. The first scene in the film depicts him forcing his lips into a smile, with a single tear drooping down his eye.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: His actions in the subway unintentionally serve as the catalyst for a city-wide protest movement, a full-blown riot, and the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
  • Villain Has a Point: Arthur becomes an irredeemable villain by the end of the film, and he justifies his transformation as a result of society's abandonment of him. The worst part is that he's right. Gotham is a Wretched Hive, filled with apathetic citizens, ruthless criminals, or condescending elites, and ultimately none of those people really care about people like Arthur, or the suffering they go through every day. Arthur likely would never have descended into the pit of madness that he did, had he never been disregarded or ignored for so long. Him proclaiming that Joker is what Gotham deserves isn't out of left field at all.
  • Villain Protagonist: The film is an origin story for The Joker, albeit one that definitely doesn't follow his usual/canonical transformation.
  • Villain Song: When Arthur is incarcerated at the end, he eerily sings a bit of Frank Sinatra's "That's Life", the song that closes the film. The lyrics sum up pretty much everything about his character.
    Arthur: That's life, as funny as it may seem. Some people get their kicks stomping on a dream. But I don't let it, let it get me down. 'Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Throughout the movie, Arthur goes through this trope and its opposite. The clown rioters still celebrate him as an icon of protest against the corrupt elites who fights for change and improvement of the lower classes even after he, as Joker, has become a sociopathic murderer who kills people for purely personal reasons. Arthur is willing to play the part of a rebel even though he doesn't believe in the cause and only wants to be noticed and loved.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Gets one while being on Murray’s show when he can no longer hold back his anger and sadness as he is being torn appart by who used to be his idol, which ends with him killing Murray, causing chaos on live television.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: It is shown that Arthur is looking for a father figure in his life for some sort of approval. He imagines a pat on the back from Murray that he is the son he always wanted. He confronts Thomas Wayne, believing him to be his father, and tearfully asks that he acknowledge him, stating that he doesn't want any money from him. He is met with cold rebuttal from both, beginning his descent to evil.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: In-Universe. The state of Gotham is wrapped up in local politics and totally ignorant of the suffering faced by the lower-middle class. When Arthur kills the three Wayne employees in the subway, the dregs of the city treat it as a sign of a coming uprising, while the upper class see it as merely the work of a coward who wants to trigger a movement. Arthur doesn't care about the politics of it all, but is willing to play the part because it's how people will notice him.
  • What You Are in the Dark: A darker version of this. Arthur Fleck is a good man who works hard, loves his mother, is understanding of those around him, and tries to make the best of his life despite all his disabilities. Arthur's virtues are never acknowledged or even noticed by society because of his poverty and mental illness, all while the privileged elites like Thomas Wayne are lauded as saviors of Gotham. It didn't matter how good of a man Arthur was to the world since no one noticed or cared.
  • When He Smiles: Played With. Arthur smiles as much as he can, but it becomes especially clear later on that almost none of his smiles are really genuine. The only times he does genuinely smile, are when he's hallucinating with Sophie, when he's having fun with his mother, or, when he decides to finally become Joker.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Once Arthur fully transitions into the Joker, the Butt-Monkey trope gets flipped on its head. And has its neck snapped in the process. It helps that he is laughing maniacally at the end of the film.
  • Will Not Be a Victim: The impetus for Arthur's transformation into the Joker is his refusal to continue letting society step all over him. By the end, however, it's clear he's taken things way too far.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: At his core, Arthur is a troubled man who craves meaningful relationships with others, is desperate for validation, and ultimately just wants to spread happiness to the world and make people laugh. His poor standing in a harsh society is worsened by his degrading mental state, and by the end of all the trauma he endures, he becomes a soulless shell of his former self, who only finds joy and humor in nihilistic destruction.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Arthur may have grown into one of the most notorious villains in Gotham, but he has a soft spot for children and avoids hurting them personally, before and after his Sanity Slippage. In the opening, he avoids fighting back against a group of kids who assault him, and later spares Sophie and her young daughter, despite the fact he could have gotten away with killing them at the time. When he visits Wayne Manor, he nearly kills the adult Alfred, but leaves young Bruce Wayne unharmed. He may not have a problem with, say, orphaning them, but it seems Arthur thinks actually hurting children is going too far.
  • Younger Than They Look: Arthur is implied to be somewhere in his 30s (the script says he is, and it's mentioned that Penny worked for Thomas Wayne "over 30 years ago"). Yet Joaquin Phoenix was around 45 at the time the movie was filmed, and looked even older for that role.

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