What Does The Ending Of Joker REALLY Mean?

Gotham Begins...

Joker Joaquin Phoenix
Warner Bros.

The time has come and we all now have a new Joker to be excited about. After the disappointment of Jared Leto's Suicide Squad performance, Joaquin Phoenix's version is a return to the form of Heath Ledger's. What he has achieved is quite stunning and he will deservedly be showered in praise.

The film itself is also great - you can read my review of it here - and despite Todd Phillips' assertion that this is a stand-alone movie, there is surprising potential for this to set up more movies in this timeline. Hell, there's even potential for it to link to the next Batman movie, if Warner Bros really want it to.

For now, despite this "just" being a comic book movie, there is a lot to interpret in the ending, so let's get into exploring exactly what it means.

Inevitably there are SPOILERS for Joker to follow...

6. "You Get What You Deserve"

Joker Joaquin Phoenix
Warner Bros.

For all of the talk about the dangerous message associated with Arthur's transition into Joker - or at least the capacity for dangerous interpretation, anyway - the simple message at the end of Joker is one that's been at the heart of lots of movies: crime and punishment.

Joker sits alongside the likes of Falling Down, Taxi Driver, Rambo, A Clockwork Orange and even Fight Club (to a lesser extent), in that it focuses on the overlap between people victimised by society, the resulting identity crisis and what happens when that society fails its vulnerable people.

While Joker does kill Murray Franklin because he's looking to make a statement about a society that can step over its victims unless they're good for entertainment or exploitation purposes, his reaction is a very specific one to him. While Todd Phillips has been saying things that poison the water a little - like his ridiculous comment about woke culture killing comedy, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything explored in Joker - the key message to take away is that this film is about what can happen when people aren't looked after.

It explores the failing of systems - ones that wilfully exploit the poor and lower classes, ones that fail because of institutional neglect, ones designed to take advantage - and how Joker is created not by one man, but by many. And if it does make you feel uncomfortable that's the point.

In this post: 
Joker (2019)
First Posted On: 
Chief Operations Officer
Chief Operations Officer

WhatCulture's COO and the guy who deletes your comments.