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YMMV / Joker (2019)

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  • Acceptable Targets:
    • The closest thing the film has to an antagonist (apart from Thomas Wayne) is late night comedy show host Murray Franklin. Late night comedians pretty much make a living off ridiculing and humiliating others, so some people see it as Laser-Guided Karma when a late night comedian gets comeuppance at the hands of the very person they ridiculed. Ironically, at the same time the film was released Todd Phillips himself had made an infamous statement complaining that no one can write good comedy anymore because too many people feel insulted.
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    • The entire plot focuses on Thomas Wayne as the symbol of the rich elite who don't care about the city. It's a fictionalized, extremely violent version of Occupy Wall Street wearing clown masks instead of Guy Fawkes. Lampshaded by Arthur. He points out how people only sympathized with those bullies he killed because of Thomas Wayne's bias, while downtrodden people like himself get ignored if anything bad happens to them.
      "Why is everybody so upset about these guys? If it was me dying on the sidewalk you'd walk right over me! I pass you everyday and you don't notice me! But these guys — what, because Thomas Wayne went and cried about them on TV?!"
  • Accidental Aesop:
    • The film contains possible arguments both for and against gun control:
      • The pro-gun control/pro-security message is, considering that it was ridiculously easy for Arthur to get a gun for "self-defense" and then murder people with it. Later, Franklin fails to screen Arthur for weapons when he's appearing on his show, resulting in his death. The film's plot would not be possible if Arthur could not get a gun. Other weapons would not have been nearly as effective, and regardless Arthur definitely needed to be screened.
      • The pro-gun/anti-gun-control argument is that Arthur is constantly attacked and victimized with nobody to help him, which is why he resorts to arming himself with a gun in the first place. Without the gun, it's very possible he would have been killed by the Wayne businessmen assaulting him in the subwaynote . Sophie could have potentially defended herself if she had been armed when Arthur broke into her apartment. In addition, due to gun control laws, Arthur is ineligible to own a gun due to his mental illness, but he manages to bypass the law anyways. Which of course can lead straight back to a pro-gun-control argument that the laws aren't strict enough, or an anti-gun-control argument that no matter how strict the laws are some will find ways around them. Either way, the fact is that, though Arthur isn't legally allowed to wield a gun, he was able to get one anyway, and not able to defend himself until he had one.
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    • While the audience is supposed to blame Arthur's turn to evil on the mistreatment of society, one could interpret it as because of a lack of positive father figures instead. Throughout the film, Arthur is constantly searching for a father. He seems to view Murray Franklin as a kind of father figure, and he finally snaps when Franklin inadvertently brushes him aside. He befriends his older co-worker Randall who affectionately calls him "my boy" and gives him something to protect himself, only to be betrayed when it's inconvenient. Arthur also tries to get help from Thomas Wayne, believing him to be his father, and demanding a hug. Arthur's adopted father was incredibly abusive. It's possible that even in a bad society, Arthur would've struggled along if he had only had a good father.
    • Though it's up for debate how accidental it is, you could walk away from the movie with the Aesop that a little positivity can change the world. While this doesn't happen in the movie, Arthur's struggle largely stems from nobody giving a shit about him and the viewer is left with the impression that if just one person had valued him, things would have gone completely different. It's worth noting that this is an Aesop that a lot of other Batman properties are fond of.
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    • Play to your strengths. Arthur's standup routine is incredibly milquetoast (with stagefright causing him to flub quite badly on his first joke) and when he becomes the Joker, his jokes only get more offensive without improving in quality. His clown act on the other hand showcases his true talent for comedy, as he gets in full character, makes good use of his lanky frame and can improvise under stress (best seen with the gun in the hospital). On the Murray Franklin show, Arthur's flamboyant entrance got the audience cheering for him, but his "joke" killed off that goodwill instantly.
  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Treat people with kindness, otherwise you won’t be spared from any violent outbursts.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Has its own page.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: The premise was met with skepticism upon announcement and box office predictions varied between "will barely recoup its budget" at worst and "will gross like Shazam" at best. While it received good-to-mixed reception with American critics, it managed to become a monster hit domestically and worldwide (even beating the October opening weekend record established by Venom), and even won the Leone d'Oro award at the 76th Venice Film Festival, which is nothing to scoff at. There was also the fact that it was very different to other comic book movies and most everything about it was often deemed Audience-Alienating Premise. The movie found a sizeable audience and much praise among it, becoming Warner Bros.' biggest and most profitable film of 2019 by its second week (2019 was an awful year for WB, it was just what they needed), and one of the most profitable comic book films and R-rated films period by its third, surpassing the records broken by Deadpool and Deadpool 2 and grossing over $1 billion, despite not fitting the "four-quadrant" demographics most comic book films — namely the Marvel Cinematic Universe and what the DC Extended Universe has been swerved into doing — aim at for maximum success. It is now more profitable than the most massive (and costly) films of the MCU. Furthermore, it managed to make that sum without any box office gains from China due to ratings issues and topicality precluding a release there, whereas China usually provides a big chunk of profits for films released internationally. It then ended up doing the impossible and garnered 11 nominations at the Academy Awards, beating Black Panther to become the most nominated comic book film in history, and ended up winning two of them in major categories (Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir).
  • Angst Aversion: Some people who don't want to watch the movie have cited that they aren't very interested in a story about a man being tormented and turned to villainy by a Crapsack World.
  • Applicability: One review channel on YouTube even called the movie a Rorschach test, since many people were seeing what they wanted to see in the themes of the movie, especially about what it says about politics. For example, some see the movie as being pro-social programs, others see the rioters as a critique to Antifa, some as a cautionary tale towards incels, and so on. And then, there are the people debating whether the movie has right-wing or left-wing politics, and even if the movie can fit into (or if it is about) that binary at all.
  • Award Snub: One of the highest-grossing films of all time, profiting over a billion dollars, and one of only a few films which won less than a third of the Oscars it was nominated for. Parasite (2019) was frequently cited by fans as having stolen several wins from it, though there are fans who’ve seen the movie as a Worthy Opponent, especially considering both films are about the lower class taking revenge on the rich.
  • Broken Base: The idea of making Joker a Tragic Villain that the audience is meant to sympathize with has been quite divisive among fans, even though it has been done before. One half of the fandom thinks it's a unique take on the character, while the other half are use to seeing The Joker as a Hate Sink and feel that portraying such a monstrous character like him in a sympathetic light feels awkward, especially when one considers all the horrific and vile things he is known for doing in other media.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Many were only surprised at the reveal that Arthur's relationship with Sophie Dumond was all in his head because they didn't know they weren't supposed to have figured it out already.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Arthur's first two victims can easily fall into this as he kills two men brutally beating him up, but it quickly turns into Nightmare Fuel when he hunts Ryan down who is running away wounded and in utter panic.
    • In a sense, Arthur, now named Joker, giving his rant about how society has abandoned him and the mentally ill. Even killing Murray Franklin can be added as icing on the cake. Granted his only wrong was mocking the guy on live television. On the other hand, it’s a satisfying middle finger to those who made a living out of ridiculing, insulting, and outright demonizing the mentally ill and similar people for laughs or other selfish reasons, completely unaware of how much it hurts real-life people. Indeed, you get what you deserve.
  • Cliché Storm: Most of the negative reviews dismiss the movie as being a retread of the familiar "abused loner becomes a psychopath" story, drawing specific parallels to Martin Scorsese's previous films such as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.
  • Critical Dissonance: The film has a Rotten Tomatoes critic rating of 68% while the audience rating is 88%. It also very successful at the box office, grossing over a billion dollars on a $55 million budget. was Most of the negative critics criticize the film for being too dark, humanizing a villain like the Joker, being too similar to the movies that inspired it (namely, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy), lacking any authentic politics of its own in favor of mere attempts at provocation, and potentially inspiring moviegoers to be more like the Joker. The general audience just seems to think it's a very good film overall. However, it did win the Golden Lion in the 2019 Venice Film Festival, one of the "Big Three" most prestigious film festivals, and it also won two Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best Original Score, which is nothing to scoff at. And then the film was nominated for eleven Oscars, the most for any film based off of a comic, and won two of them.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Arthur spares Gary Because You Were Nice to Me... but still pranks him by briefly lunging at him. Then Gary has to awkwardly ask him to take off the door's deadbolt that he can't reach.
    • Arthur bringing a gun into a children's hospital? Not funny. Arthur unintentionally tormenting a group of disabled kids in the hospital? Not funny. Arthur singing "If you're happy and you know it, stomp your feet" to a group of kids that includes one in a wheelchair, accidentally dropping his gun, and then awkwardly trying to pretend that didn't happen? Now that's funny.
    • Arthur's mom's insulting him by asking him "Don't you have to be funny to be a comedian?" So thoughtlessly cruel, and yet so hilariously rude at the same time.
    • The one actual "joke" that Arthur tells in full is so utterly horrific (and totally unfunny) that it's hard not to laugh. It calls to mind "Surprise! Your wife's dead and the baby's a spastic!"
      Arthur: Knock knock.
      Murray: Who's there?
      Arthur: It's the police, ma'am. Your son's been hit by a drunk driver. He's dead!
  • Delusion Conclusion: Due to the film not attempting to differentiate between Arthur's imagination and reality (such as The Reveal that his relationship with his neighbour Sophie was all in his head), some viewers have interpreted many of the later scenes (or even the entire movie) as similarly being a fantasy he dreamed up where nearly everyone that wronged him is dead and he finally gets the cheering audience he always wanted. It certainly fits in with the Joker's common portrayal of an ambiguous and inconsistent backstory.
  • Discredited Meme: Bronx residents are not happy about the Joker steps meme, as it caused many random tourists to dance on the steps, take a selfie, and leave, which annoyed the locals. It escalated to the point where the address was briefly named "Joker Stairs" on Google Maps as a religious destination. Many Bronx residents insist that people at least spend some money to support the community if they want to visit the steps. Even Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has condemned the meme. It really didn't help that someone was probably going to get seriously hurt if the meme lasted long enough.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The Joker has always received this from some fans, but the humanizing of the character in this film allows it to reach new heights. Some see him as a hero of lower-class rebellion. For his part, Phillips has confirmed people are not supposed to sympathize with Arthur as his crimes grow more heinous.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Despite not being all that heavily involved in the movie's plot, Gary is a surprising bright spot for many fans, thanks to being a non-stereotypical character with dwarfism and being one of the few completely sympathetic people in the movie.
  • Fandom Rivalry: With fans of Jared Leto's Joker in the DCEU. While Phoenix's performance was well-received, Leto's was more controversial and divisive. Not helping matters is how Warner Bros' Executive Meddling reduced Leto's role. The fact that a jealous Leto tried to get this film canned did nothing to endear him to this fanbase, and many laughed at him over being nominated for a Razzie for his Joker in between two actors who won Academy Awards for theirs.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • With fans of Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight since both actors were good friends in real life. The fact that both movies are incredibly dark and gritty certainly helps.
    • The corners of the DCEU fandom that prefer Darker and Edgier comic book films are very much onboard with the film even though it's not part of the current shared movie universe.
    • The fanbase of the film shared one with, of all films, Parasite (2019) due to its similar class warfare themes, and director Bong Joon-ho commenting on the similarities while praising Joker. Although Parasite beat Joker for Best Picture at the Oscars, the fanbase congratulated Bong for the achievement.
  • Fountain of Memes: As with many incarnations before him, Joaquin Phoenix's Joker has reached memetic levels. From images of him sitting on a chair, to dancing on the stairs, to running down a street, to ranting about society; countless memes, image sets, and jokes have spawned.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • Arthur putting on the full Joker outfit for the first time is scored with "Rock and Roll" by Gary Glitter, a once-beloved entertainer who is now known only for his criminal actions.
    • The movie theater where Arthur confronts Thomas Wayne is playing Modern Times. The song "Smile" that is played in both the trailer and movie of Joker was a song written for Modern Times. Also, Modern Times was about the underprivileged Tramp trying to survive The Great Depression which isn't too far off from one of this movie's themes about the struggling poor trying to survive while the rich benefit. Even better, the movie follows a story of a man who suffers a nervous breakdown, loses a job, and accidentally becomes the leader of an angry crowd that just happened to walk in the same direction.
    • Arthur killing the Wayne Enterprises employees is a reference to the Bernie Goetz incident, complete with the city taking sides for and against the shooter.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Much of the film's negative press has come from the US, often attributed to the country's particular current socio-political issues, while it has gotten nigh-universal praise from foreign critics — perhaps exemplified by the Venice Film Festival where it got a standing ovation and won the Leone d'Oro grand prize.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • Joaquin Phoenix was good friends with the late Joker actor Heath Ledger.
    • At the end of the movie, some rioters driving a stolen ambulance crash into the squad car carrying Arthur, and get him out once they recognize him as the Joker. Around the same time as the film's release, Joaquin Phoenix crashed his Tesla while making a right turn out of a parking lot into an emergency vehicle. His car was damaged in the low velocity crash, but the unoccupied emergency vehicle only got a few noticeable scratches, and after tracking down the paramedics, he explained what happened, and after the police filed the report, they decided not cite him since he didn't raise a fuss, and apologized.
  • Hype Backlash: Some people have this view of the movie, seeing it as not worth all the attention behind it. Of course, this only applies to before the movie became so popular, giving this shades of It's Popular, Now It Sucks!.
  • It Was His Sled: Thanks to the endless amount of memes surrounding it, pretty much everyone knows that the Joker ends up killing Robert De Niro’s character Murray live on his own show.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Some audiences who dislike or even openly hate comic book movies are excited for this movie just because it stars Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro.
  • Memetic Mutation: As seen here.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Clown masks like those of Gotham's rioters and the makeup of this incarnation of the Joker have sort of become the new Guy Fawkes face symbols among a number of demonstrators and rioters throughout the world.
    • A number of viewers of the film often say that Sophie should have really been Arthur's romantic interest in the film, or at the very least, the twist about her being in Arthur's head should not have happened but instead she was real. While understandable people would want the character to be used more, this misses the fact that Arthur having Sophie genuinely love him/interested in him would essentially ruin the movie's whole point of Arthur slowly becoming the Joker, as Arthur being alone and not having people to turn to is one of the biggest contributing factors to him eventually snapping. If Sophie did like him, it would make Arthur's transformation into the Joker either impossible, or would require her becoming Stuffed in the Fridge, which is arguably a worse usage of the character.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • When exactly Arthur crosses this line is a matter of interpretation. He certainly seems to view murdering his hospitalized mother as this, as it's after this point that he drops any delusion of a normal, happy life and starts "celebrating" by transforming himself into the new Joker persona. His murder of his longtime idol Murray on live television could also qualify, but if he hasn't crossed it by then he certainly does at the end, when he (presumably) kills the therapist who has done nothing whatsoever to hurt him, unlike his other murders previously.
    • The Wall Street Three cross it when they attempt to beat Arthur to death simply for laughing.
  • Movement Mascot: The film itself not only treats mental illness as a serious issue, but also social nonconformity that can lead into a massive riot against their authorities if it's not treated well. With this issue in mind, most of the recent social movements in different countries like Hong Kong, Lebanon, Ecuador and Chile now have the figure of Arthur Fleck, aka The Joker, as a symbol for these protests, even appearing via various cosplayers in the middle of the demonstrations in diverse cities of these countries, being held up as the "new" Guy Fawkes.note 
  • Narm:
    • The shot with Arthur lying on the ground after being beaten up is meant to be a Tear Jerker (which, to some people, it is). However, many have pointed out that it bears resemblance to "Man Getting Hit By Football".
    • Thomas and Martha Wayne's murders come across as more "funny" than "shocking/dramatic" when the gunman awkwardly works what is to him a quote from a guy on a late night talk show. Even taking away the context of the line's introduction, the delivery is awkward and pretty funny.
    • The fact that The Joker went from a conniving criminal mastermind who could even even outsmart Batman to a Psychopathic Manchild whose motivation stems from being offended by a late night comedian. It’s his job to make fun of people, he had no way of knowing he was mentally ill.
  • Narm Charm:
    • Arthur dancing down the stairs to the tune of "Rock and Roll" garnered many comparisons to the similarly ridiculous Emo Peter Parker dance. Yet it became so beloved since it shows Arthur's detachment from reality and his absurd mentality.
    • "We live in a society" memes aside, the reason that Joker's speech at the end about how he believes that society is awful works because of Joaquin Phoenix's delivery, along with the rest of the movie going out of its way to show that, as horrible as the Joker is, he's not wrong about Gotham. Following that...
      • Arthur killing Murray. It’s painfully obvious that the blood is CG, but, because of how convincing Joaquin Phoenix sounds as he’s having a Villainous Breakdown along with the the suspenseful music that slowly creeps in and gets more intense, it still comes off as absolutely terrifying.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: With all the press and criticism it received over its content, the film still made over $96 million on its opening weekend, immediately putting it into profit territory thanks to its $55 million budget, and then over half a billion dollars in less than two weeks — and finally making one full billion after over a month. Even memes poking fun at the film did nothing but popularize it. This also applies to many tirades and criticisms people on Twitter threw about the film, especially after Phillip's infamous tirade about how "woke culture" killed his interests in making comedy films and making Joker. With the amount of ranting, snarky Take Thats, and caustic attitude and accusations of the film mistreating the idea of a mentally ill person going on a rampage (despite the fact Arthur's descent into the Joker was caused by multiple factors, not just his illness driving him to the deep end) only made people watch the film and also note the film was instead treating the topic of mental illness with a good amount of respect, especially if you take into account the subtle criticism towards the stigma of mental illness during the scene of the final therapy session with Arthur and his therapist.
  • No Yay: Many fans shipped The Joker with Batman. With this film however, and Bruce Wayne being a child and The Joker being a young adult, leaves many fans put off by their age difference as well as the possibility of the two being half-siblings.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Joker being a failed comedian who had "a bad day". This was the case in The Killing Joke.
    • This isn't the first time Thomas Wayne has been portrayed in a less-than-positive light. He was made into an outright villainous figure in Batman: The Telltale Series, compared to this version being more of a dick than usual.
    • Being an Elseworld story the premise of Joker established as being an adult when Bruce Wayne was still a child has more or less been explored in Tim Burton's Batman (1989)
  • One-Scene Wonder: A preteen Bruce Wayne is hanging out by the gates of Wayne Manor when Arthur shows up. He's incredibly dour and his lips don't so much as twitch at Arthur's clownish antics.
  • Out of the Ghetto: In two flavors.
    • Joker was the first comic book-inspired movie to leave the Venice Film Festival with the Golden Lion. And, against all odds, the movie was nominated to a great sum of eleven Oscars, and won two of them (Best Actor and Best Score).
    • Despite being a grim R-rated drama with none of the "four quadrants" usually associated with comic book movies, it found a large audience that skyrocketed it past $1 billion at the box office.
  • Periphery Demographic: Though this time it's by design. The film has attracted comic book movie crowds and Batman mythos fans as well as people who are more onboard with raw dramas ala Martin Scorsese (which it homages in numerous ways) and usually don't go to see comic book movies and/or don't care about comics.
  • Realism-Induced Horror: One of the reasons why the film is as scary as it is is because it's the story of a man who goes crazy and becomes a Spree Killer, a pretty harsh reality that has only become harsher with the sharp rise in these kind of criminals since Columbine, and it's the most realistic interpretation of a Joker Origin Story to date.
  • Rooting for the Empire: While Arthur went too far in his retribution, a few viewers were rooting for him when he finally got fed up with being bullied and harassed. So when he's on the train and he once again gets harassed and even assaulted, people rooted for him when he took out his gun and shot his attackers. Some even root for him for killing Penny because she abused and neglected him as a child. It's when he kills Randall and Murray when he starts to lose this.
  • Ron the Death Eater: While the depiction of Thomas Wayne is definitely colder, more hostile and more of a jerk than his typical depiction in the comics, there seems to be a tendency to exaggerate precisely how villainous and sleazy he is actually depicted as being. While there is a hint of ambiguity concerning whether or not he is actually Arthur's father, this evidence is presented in the film as deeply unreliable at best, and potentially an entirely fabricated delusion. Meanwhile, what we actually see him do is express shock at the violent slaying of three of his employees during an interview (reasonable enough) and consequently make some poorly-chosen if not outright classist comments (less so), and have a surprise confrontation with a clearly unstable man who approached his young son without permission while no one else was around before physically assaulting his butler, and who is now ranting about being his son. The second situation in particular makes a cold, hostile attitude on Thomas's part at very least understandable, if not entirely justified, and yet this is often framed as if he is merely being an unreasonable asshole. It is also common for people to assume or hypothesize that Thomas framed Penny as being mentally disturbed and abusive in order to hide his affair with her when, even being an Adaptational Jerkass, there is nothing to suggest he is anywhere near being so cruel, ruthless, amoral and sadistic.
  • Signature Scene:
    • The scene where Joker silently does a slow dance in a bathroom after killing three Wayne Enterprises employees who harassed him on a train. The subway scene itself has also become one; even many critics who disliked the movie admitted that that scene was well done.
    • The scene where the Joker dances down the steps to the tune of "Rock and Roll". It's even featured on one of the film's posters, and it even became a tourist attraction.
    • The talk show scene, where the Joker rants about his mistreatment from society and ultimately guns down Murray on live television.
    • The shot of the Joker painting a smile onto his face using his blood.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • The ugly truth is that there are some criminals and nihilists that do what they do when they are pushed to the breaking point by the wrong side of society. The movie makes it clear that while Arthur was an oddity due to his mental illness, he was ultimately made into the monster clown he's known as now by the toxicity of others around him. Arthur's slow descent into madness and cruelty is very much Truth in Television. The only way to prevent such things from happening is to treat everyone with kindness, even people who are seen as weird. The film is extremely heavy-handed on this front, given how relentlessly terrible Arthur's treatment from others is until he becomes the Joker, but the relentlessness of it matches the depth of his villainy later on and makes him sympathetic in a way that couldn't have been achieved otherwise.
    • Mocking a two-bit or beginner for a failure on national television is a really crappy thing to do. Arthur's first stand-up routine fails miserably, which is really common for newbies (in fact, it's seen as a rite of passage for comedians to bomb a couple of times before they gain any fame). Mocking Arthur's obviously nervous, amateur performance on national television is shown as being overly harsh. When they invite him on the show, it gives Arthur all the wrong signals, so his hesitance to appear on the show is quite understandable. This mirrors real-life talk show hosts who bring people on stage to mock them (like Stephen Colbert). In fact, there is a meme going around with an image of Phoenix giving the same kind of Joker line: "You just invited me on to mock me" to Jimmy Fallon (note that Jimmy Fallon didn't actually make fun of him, but because Phoenix was on his show it was easy pickings).
  • Spiritual Adaptation: The Batman origin imagery aside, this is as close Warner Bros will ever get in providing a remake of The King of Comedy right down to the similar characters and setting. Arthur's relationship with Sophie has also been compared with fellow Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver.note 
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Many have complained that Sophie, considering that her relationship with Arthur is all his imagination, could be removed from the plot entirely with little effect. She's considered to be a waste of Zazie Beetz. This may be an unforeseen consequence of the rewrites that overhauled Sophie's character.
    • Murray Franklin. Given how he is one of the few sympathetic and reasonable characters, as well as a major inspiration to Arthur, several critics and audiences wished he had more screentime and plot relevance. While his death is genuinely tragic and horrifying, some felt that this scene would've had more emotional weight had audiences spent more time with Franklin. Also counts as a waste of Robert De Niro.
    • The two cops Arthur encounters multiple times were created solely for the film. Actually making them James Gordon and Harvey Bullock would have been a great way to further tie the story into, and foreshadow, the Batman mythos. Their dynamic is very similar, and having them undergo Adaptational Villainy to a similar level as Thomas Wayne would perfectly fit the movie's tone.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A common observation of the film is that, due to being an In Name Only adaption of the Joker character, the movie discards the opportunity to do a character study of the Joker, the iconic comic book character, as was initially advertised. Rather instead being a character study of an unrelated character who happens to take up the "Joker" mantle. This doesn't make the resulting film bad, necessarily, but it still counts as a missed opportunity.
  • True Art Is Angsty: A lot of the praise towards the film is centered around its no-nonsense, grim, and outright depressing (bordering on nihilistic) portrayal of an apathetic, self-destructive society that many note at times seems to deserve the Joker. Phoenix himself is praised for his compelling performance as Arthur Fleck, and how he was able to add a deep layer of tragedy to a character known for basically embodying Crosses the Line Twice.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Much of the controversy surrounding the film revolves around the fact that the Joker, a homicidal maniac, is portrayed as a character who was driven to madness by the Crapsack World he lives in. Although the intention was meant to be a cautionary tale of how an unpleasant society can create people like the Joker, some people accused the film of trying to justify the actions of mass-murderers.note  It also doesn't help that there were concerns over the Joker's sympathetic portrayal potentially inspiring a real-life shootingnote .
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Some clueless parents were taking their kids to see this movie just because it was part of the Batman franchise, unaware that it was rated R. Alamo Drafthouse had to issue a PSA to said parents about not taking their kids to see it, and at least one theater placed signs at the ticket office stating that the movie was a hard "R", listed a content warning, and stated that they'd be strictly carding younger-looking ticket customers.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?:
    • Joker's actions inspire a riot that is eerily similar in message to Occupy Wall Street, with clown masks instead of Guy Fawkes masks, and with heavily increased violence.
    • Thomas Wayne is depicted as a wealthy, powerful and arrogant elitist, running for public office under a pretense of representing and caring about the downtrodden which is a common interpretation of Donald Trump by his critics. This is ramped up by information that they intended to cast Alec Baldwin first (who satirizes Trump in Saturday Night Live) and that the casting call described Wayne as "Trumpesque". However, the rioters' Appropriated Appellation of "Clowns" seems taken from Hillary Clinton's "Basket of Deplorables" debacle.
  • What an Idiot!: Murray Franklin does not screen the rather unstable-seeming Arthur for weapons when he goes on the show, and later keeps talking to Arthur even as he begins a nihilistic rant rather than call security. This directly causes his death. The film's script furthermore clarifies that while his producer tries to end the interview, Murray refuses because he believes that it's making great television and that he may win an Emmy or a Peabody for it.
    • Much earlier on, Arthur's boss, Hoyt, calls him to his office because he doesn't believe that Arthur got a sign stolen and beaten up by kids over it, and took it for himself because he's mentally ill.
      • You'd Expect: For Arthur to show Hoyt the bruises he still has to corroborate his story.
      • Instead: He just stands there and takes it, zoning out in Tranquil Fury as Hoyt orders him to return the sign under threat of having it taken out of his paycheck.
  • Win the Crowd:
    • The news of Martin Scorsesenote  and Bradley Cooper's involvement got people very interested in this film,note  and the hype was built even further when Joaquin Phoenix was announced to play the title role.
    • Audiences were very receptive to the early stills of Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur, as he managed to channel the Joker even while he still looked normal.
    • The first images of Phoenix in costume and make-up was very well-received.
    • The 2 minutes of leaked footage showing Arthur's altercation with a clown. To elaborate, this scene was filmed with a single camera from a distance so that you couldn't hear anything, featured a Joker who didn't have his purple suit or clown face, and the very concept of a Joker origin story was already being viewed with bewilderment. As soon as people got a glimpse of Joaquin Phoenix in-character, there was nothing but praise for his performance.
    • The film's premiere at the Venice Film Festival was met with near-unanimous praise, with an 8-minute standing ovation and many calling Phoenix's performance Oscar-worthy, and indeed he went on to win Best Actor for the role at the Academy Awards.note  It went on to win the Leone d'Oro award, the festival's top honor, and historically a sign that a film would be a major contender for an Oscar nomination (and it was, being nominated to 11 awards and winning 2).
  • The Woobie: Arthur Fleck, especially before he became dangerously homicidal. The man has been through such horrible things that it's impossible not to feel sorry for him. He lives in perpetual poverty, suffers from a mental illness, has been beaten, humiliated, and bullied throughout his life on a regular basis, was constantly tortured by his mom's boyfriend, and all he wants is to bring laughter and joy to children and people in an environment of economic recession. Before the climax of the film, he runs out of money, therapy, medicine and, as if that wasn't enough, he was possibly adopted and Murray invites him to his show to tease him on TV. It is no wonder why Arthur ended up becoming The Joker.


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