I Started a Joke: Why Suicide Squad’s Joker wasn’t all that terrible

Suicide Squad movie poster

Guest Post by the Dynamic Mary Mordrake.  She has seen the Suicide Squad movie once or twice, and methinks it will be 50 more times before the end of the year.  And SPOILERS for Suicide Squad!!!


Suicide Squad Joker 1940I know that at this point, many people despise Jared Leto’s Joker. And yes, I agree that it wasn’t by any means a great performance, but just hear me out for a minute. After seeing Suicide Squad for the second time, I realized something very important. Jared Leto is not my Joker. He’s not my Mark Hamill Joker, with his acid flowers and joy buzzers and perfect punchlines. He’s not my anarchic Heath Ledger Joker, who just wants chaos to follow him wherever he goes. And he’s definitely not my Cesar Romero Joker, or my John DiMaggio Joker, or any of the others that have graced the big and small screen. This new Joker is all new, all different, and yet ever faithful to his source material.

Let’s rewind back to Batman V Superman (The BEST Superhero Movie Ever – Scoop, interrupting like a ninny). We’ve got a brand new Batman, this time based on the older, more jaded Batman of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Rises series. These comics take place after the death of Jason Todd, and we are led to believe that this is true for the current movies as well. First, there was the Robin costume covered in Joker graffiti. Then, David Ayer stated that Batman had knocked out the Joker’s teeth prior to the film, insinuating that a fight had taken place where perhaps Batman had lost control. Now, there are rumours surfacing of a deleted scene where Batman tells the Joker that he’s gone too far, and Batman beats him nearly to death. This was meant to explain the Joker’s new silver teeth, as well as the word “Damaged” across his forehead, meant to remind Batman of the one time he lost control.

Fast forward to Suicide Squad. Assuming now that both Batman and the Joker are based off of The Dark Knight Returns universe, this Joker is more of a gangster, just like his comic book counterpart. His personality seems uncharacteristic for any other representation of the Joker, and yet it is perfectly normal for TDKR. His mood’s a little darker, his temper’s a little shorter, and his humour is a little more twisted. There are quite a few little nods to the comics as well, one of my favourites being the fact that when out of Arkham Asylum, the Joker is visibly wearing red lipstick over his previously paler lips.

Suicide Squad Harley Quinn JokerSomewhere along the way, probably directly after being beaten down by Batman, the Joker ends up in Arkham under the care of one Dr. Harleen Quinzel. We’re all familiar with the original story – girl meets clown, girl falls for clown, girl breaks clown out of prison to start her new life of crime and romance. Suicide Squad definitely pays homage to that, but there’s something more going on here. The Joker’s just pushed Batman to his breaking point. How can he top that? Maybe he can’t. Maybe this is the end of the line for them. So the Joker, obsessing over Batman like he does, projects all of that desire and obsession onto the one person he sees on a regular basis through a process known in psychiatry as transference. Dr. Quinzel’s inevitable response to this is to reciprocate those feeling in a romantic context, thus initiating the process of countertransference.

My theory is that the reason the Joker’s feelings are so strong for Harley in the film is because he was projecting his desires and obsessions onto her, and the fact that she reciprocated made the relationship real. Now, let me clarify that I’m not saying the Joker and Batman’s relationship was romantic. I’m saying that the Joker’s strong obsessive feelings towards Batman, transferred onto Harley in a psychiatric setting, were returned in a romantic way. So now we have two people, unhealthily attached to each other, breaking out of prison, having their “chemical wedding”, and becoming the reigning crime couple in Gotham.

Suicide Squad Harley QuinnCut to Harley, getting drafted into Task Force X, all the while texting her puddin’ and letting him know exactly what’s going on. Oh, he was fine with letting her get caught by the Bat and being sent to prison instead of him. But fighting side by side with other criminals? Harley belongs to him and no one else, as most of her outfit loudly proclaims. It’s time to get her back. This is consistent with other versions of the Joker, such as in the Batman: The Animated Series episode, Harley and Ivy, where Joker was fine with Harley being out of his face until he found out she was working and being successful with another criminal. And again, in Harley Quinn #1 and the No Man’s Land series, where Harley made her first appearance, Joker was fine with leaving Harley in the dust until it seemed as though he couldn’t have her. The Joker’s always been intensely possessive about Harley, and Suicide Squad was no different.

Suicide Squad Harkey Quinn Joker BatmanI could go on for ages about the Chemical Wedding, and Joker and Harley’s relationship in general, but I didn’t write this for that reason. I did this to show that this Joker actually wasn’t as terrible as many have made him out to be. I’m still generally indifferent to Leto’s performance, which any of my friends will tell you is bizarre since my obsession with both Joker and Harley spans over a decade. However, I understand now what DC was trying to do here. I understand how the Joker was meant to fit into the DCEU, and maybe that would have been clearer if half of Leto’s scenes hadn’t been cut. Maybe if someone had taken cues from Marvel and handed Leto some of the original source material, things would have turned out a little better both on and off set. That, however, is another rant for another day. For now, go watch Suicide Squad again. Watch for what the Joker should be, wonder what could have been, and then go post about how much we need a director’s cut that will (hopefully) make sense of all of these theories!

Mary Mordrake

Mary Mordrake 2Mary is a walking talking living encyclopedia of Batman, an avid cosplayer, and obsessive reader. She’s dreamed of living in the Batcave since she was eight years old, which is almost as long as she’s wanted to be a Sailor Scout.  And Quicksilver is her Patronus.  Oh, she may have read an X-Men comic or two along the way as well.  You can check out her cosplay at http://www.facebook.com/marymordrake and her fanfiction at http://archiveofourown.org/users/Harleydoll/works .  Her twitter is @magnetictrifles and her Pinterest is Mary Mordrake.


Scoop here: When I first met Mary years ago, I found out she is a Batman fan. Within a half hour, I found out she is an absolute Batman fanatic of colossal degree who has read EVERY FREAKING SINGLE BATMAN COMIC FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS. She also does a sideline dressing as some mutant named Quicksilver.  I think that is some X-Men character that Mary might have heard of.  😉


About scoopsmentalpropaganda

Married to beautiful wife. Always learning a ton of stuff. Geek with too much useless knowledge. fb page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Scoops-Mental-Propaganda/192314550819647 twitter & twitpic: Scoopriches AboutMe Page: http://about.me/paulriches This site is an @Scoopriches production
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