Jared Leto´s Joker & Why I Cautiously Dig It (An Analysis)


I think everybody by now has seen Jared Letos' physical manifestation of the Joker, but in case this is your first time, feast your eyes on the next incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime in all of his busted-up glory. I'll wait.

I understand that this picture has automatically polarized everybody on the internet and practically everybody in First World countries, and for good reason; this Joker doesn't look like anything that has been presented before.
We've had this.
And this.
Of course we can't forget this.
Remember him? Him too.

This guy. This guy was all right.

This . . . dude.
And this gentleman of leisure.
Note: The Joker has been inked in the past in Frank Millers' Batman Vs. Superman title only with a far more opulent traditional Japanese Yakuza dragon design.

Okay, you get my point.

The fact of the matter is, the Joker changes with every incarnation of a film that features him either with or without Batman and no matter what he looks like he is the Joker. We know next to nothing factual about him, just from what the tales he tells and the faces he presents to us, and who even knows if they are the truth. Nothing is worse than monotony I am sure you can all agree and when it comes to personifying one of the most well-known comic book villains of all time, it becomes a mighty undertaking to say the least in order to keep the character present and relevant to what he represents.

What does he represent you may ask? The Joker was never supposed to have one form because he is a reflection of the society that made him as well as the fact he has styled himself to be a direct mocking reflection of Batman's utterly serious approach to justice by making fun of the cruel absurdity of human nature; we insist on making laws and abiding by morals but we still feel the need to break them because what we ultimately do is in our best interest. He's making fun of us, you, me, every human being on the earth. It's all a hilarious joke to him, a moral panic is a party for him and he's going to dance the night away to the sounds of our terror. There is nothing tragic to us which stops him from laughing.

How he looks, how he dresses, it's an elaborate performance revue to take the piss out of everything society and its denizens have made. However, he does not only live to mock you, but he also has the intention to seduce you into what it is like to live on his side of the divide. Caring naught for anything, breaking free from rules, making up whatever identity you please because it suits you and completely freeing yourself from self-imposed commitments. He's laughing at you, but he's also extending a hand, beckoning you to become what he feels we all are underneath our veneer of 'civilization' and 'order'. But what ultimately makes the Joker the Joker isn't just his look, but his attitude.

The Joker has no regard for human life or general decency, that's not something he considers important in the slightest and everything he does is a defiance to common standards. What truly matters to the Joker is the FIA philosophy he has embraced, and to be perfectly honest, despite his extremity, the man has actually made some legit points about when it comes to conscripted human mores. We fear what we don't understand and lash out in anger in response, if we are given the opportunity to do something bad without repercussion, we will do it and Joker understands that and that is the doctrine he preaches without shame or fail.

What Joker wants, Joker does, simple as that. He is the Freudian id dressed up in savage motley. Each actor who has portrayed the Joker has offered their own unique take on the character and although you may feel partial to one or several of them, that's not the point; the character finds a way to live not through simple appearance but through a showy version of propagande par le fait (propaganda of the deed, I did a university subject about the history of terrorism, be afraid), a mode of terrorism used through the 19th to early 20th century that was incredibly ostentatious, violent and pretty much impossible to ignore.

In the case of Jared Leto's at present dubious physical deportment of the character, I have a feeling the very same notion will apply. In the end, I feel we shouldn't give a fart what the character looks like, but concentrate on what he does.

Buuuuuuuuuuut . . .

Since you no doubt clicked on this article in hopes of seeing an analysis to the practical application to Mr. Leto's Clown, let me break the physical elements down with my own take on them. Remember, what I am saying is not based on fact, just purely on speculation. Plus, I must stress that what we are seeing right now may not be the finished product.

Here it is again!
The teeth grills: Could either simply be for show, done for personal satisfaction or could actually be the result of extreme dental work. Let's face it, if you've been kindly introduced to Batmans' fists you will require some hefty work done on your chompers.

The tattoos (which may or may not be part of the final product): The main bone of contention among detractors. First, let's keep in mind that there is a possibility that Leto will not be walking around the entire film topless. Additionally, tats are a reflection of the individual, as we all know. As for them being excessive? Well that's what the Joker is all about, the performance, the play, the entire caboodle. He's not one for subtlety and our conventional notion of good taste. So what do the tats mean? Let me divulge my theories

  • The 'damaged' on his forehead. This could be an opinion of himself or him making a sock puppet gesture of his psycho-analyst or somebody who considers him to be psychologically damaged. Either way, madness is something the Joker prides himself on, I mean, he would consider it one of his best assets so why not preach? Not like he gives a poop.
  •  The grinning maw with teeth. I feel is a deliberate knock against the archetype of Batman. You know how Batman can draw his cape around himself? Joker can do the same thing so the tat comes in line with his actual mouth.
  • The jester skull. Well, that pretty much speaks for itself- the skull is a symbol of death as well as the inevitability of it and in our fragile human lives, Death truly is king. The hat is just a cosmetic application to his own self-imposed avatar as well as perhaps the idea that he sees himself as the ruler and jester in the court of society, he refuses to be just one who he embraces both.
  • The 'Hahahahah' ink. This stuff that festoons his left forearm as well as the left side of his chest is more or less a verbalization of his philosophy. Life is a joke and jokes provoke laughter. Beats 'LOL' don't you think?
  • The 'cracks' around his eyes / the tear. This could likely be a reference or a twisted serenade to Harley Quinn (Harlequins are usually characterized by having a tear drawn on their faces). Since Harley becomes a part of the Suicide Squad, the Joker 'misses' her (in reality he wants her back to victimize again since she is just another victim of his cruel and mercurial nature) and perhaps this is his way of showing her how much he piiiiiiines for her. Knowing Harley, this little tribute to her will affect her some way if and when she and Mistah J meet up.
  • The one-glove Michael Jackson deal: Well, why the heck not? The Joker probably took a fancy to washing dishes with one hand or else he could have had an 'accident' while imprisoned which resulted in scarring on his hand. Who knows? Does he care? I don't feel he does.
  • The ring. Is it even a ring or is a creation he has made? Will it even show up in the final movie? Does it even mean anything to him? Again, who knows?
I personally have no issues with any of the tattoos because there is something in all of them that applies to the Joker and how he sees himself. Joker is an individual, not part of a collective and if he wants to drill himself with all of this stuff it is well within his power to do so. If he wanted a tramp stamp he'd get a tramp stamp, if he wanted a tat of a laughing devil on his arse he'd damn well get it if he felt it appealed to him.

In closing, I don't feel we should be that upset or distressed by how Jared Leto looks as the Joker. What we should really concentrate on is how Leto will be portraying him under David Ayer's direction. Given Ayer is a competent director and given Leto is a damn good actor, I feel we should really reserve our proper judgement and not listen to our knee-jerk ones when it comes to something a nebulous as a physical appearance.

Additionally, even if this avatar of the Joker doesn't appeal to you, that doesn't mean your personal rendition of the character is going to fall into an oblivion just because of this upcoming movie. Nicholson, Ledger, whoever else you prefer aren't going anywhere and in all honesty, is seeing this picture going to stop you from revisiting your personal preference of the character? Do you remember how much pressure Ledger came under when he was chosen to play the character? Do remember how much mud was being slung at him? The circle begins anew now with Leto in the hot seat.

Yes, I just brought up that tired argument, but every time, people tend to get swept up in the present rather than the concept of what the future might bring. Given Suicide Squad will be its own movie by featuring villainous characters as opposed to focusing on the heroes, I think it's fascinating to see how the movie will choose to present the characters who are living by their own rules. Also, if nothing else, you gotta give props to Leto for going through this physical transformation without letting his ego get in the way. The dude is pretty handsome but he also understands the importance of committing himself to a role and that the shedding of his inhibitions is what will help him embody an admittedly difficult to nail down type of character.

Whether or not the film will be successful is a completely different matter that we will cross that bridge when we get to it, but for now, let's just take a deep breath and remain curious if not optimistic. We haven't seen something like this before so in a sense, it should be something we could try to embrace if only a superficial level. In that regard, I am enjoying this new look and I hope it amounts to something grander once Suicide Squad crashes through in 2016.
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2 comments:

  1. Good insight. I think Leto's Joker will be awesome...so long as we stop comparing it to Ledger (and all the others for that matter) and view it for what it is.

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