Todd Phillips's Joker was the real surprise hit of 2019 and a far cry from the middling expectations DC fans had following the lukewarm reception to Jared Leto's version of the Clown Prince of Crime in Suicide Squad. Instead of another superhero movie, we were presented with a complex, multi-layered tale of tragedy through the eyes of Arthur Fleck as he descends into darkness.
A lot of the film's questions were left ambiguous, leaving it up to the audience to determine as to what was actually real and what wasn't in Joker. Did Arthur kill his girlfriend or was it all in his head? Who really was his father? Was his mother mentally ill? And did the events of the film actually happen, or was it just the imagination of Arthur locked up in an asylum?
Well, one Reddit user has come up with a particular theory to try and make sense of it, and it's quite a solid take on the film, as well as a disturbing insight into Arthur's mind.
The theory states that Arthur's love of comedy and his wish to perform stand-up throughout the film is actually just a ruse to hide his real ambition to kill people. His transformation into the Joker was not caused by the events of the film, but was something that was always there since childhood. His laughing condition is not actually real, he laughs during awkward and stressful situations because he enjoys watching the struggles around him.
There are a couple of points through the film which the Reddit user highlights as evidence for Arthur's enjoyment of chaos and death:
"As soon the movie begins, on the radio you can hear about the uneasiness in the city, he starts the giggle and then he manually makes himself frown.
"He asks for more medication because he's not enjoying killing people. He doesn't realize this is because the medication is working. He thinks it means it's not working.
"When he's working with the kids and the gun falls out, this was intentional. He was "happy and he knew it". He thought they would find this funny. They didn't. But that's why he really does believe he got fired for not being funny enough."
The theory then goes on to explain that Arthur's mother Penny knew about his killer tendencies all along, and that he was the reason she was committed to an asylum, in order to protect him from his own crimes as a child:
"When Joker reads the asylum file, the film misdirects you. 'Adopted mother allows son's assault' means the sons assault on the mother, not the assault on the son. That's why she was battered.
"Penny was actually having that interview to defend Joker, not defend her own actions. She allowed him to get away with things because it made him happy. He was apparently always happy.
There's also a suggestion of why Arthur was previously locked up in an asylum himself, which almost comes across as a throw-away comment when you watch the film...
"I'm going to assume that joker killed her boyfriend. That's why Arthur was in the asylum previously even though he acted like he had no reason why."
So there you have it. It's an interesting theory and puts the film in a much darker light (than it already is), suggesting that Arthur was much more in control of his life than initially believed. It also flips one of the key themes on its head that Arthur was not influenced to become the Joker by the chaos of Gotham City, but was a major factor in deliberately causing it, if he knew what he was doing from the start.
Do you think Arthur always evil, or just a victim of his own environment?