The world has gotten its first trailer showcasing DC’s upcoming Joker, and it’s safe to say this will be quite an interesting story about the Clown Prince Of Crime. While the trailer has teased some bits that are clearly inspired by other Batman works, there’s one major part of this trailer that teases one big way this project will differ from most other Joker origins. I’m talking, of course, of his mother, and the seemingly delightful relationship that they have.
The trailer kicks off with Arthur Fleck talking about how his mother (played by American Horror Story‘s Frances Conroy) always tells him to smile and put on a happy face. The two are later seen dancing in the living room, and there’s even a scene in which he is giving her a bath. It’s closer than a lot of folks would be with their parents, and especially a lot closer than Joker typically is with his own.
While his origin has varied over the years, it’s more than fair to say Joker’s complicated relationship with his parents has more or less remained the same. The villain’s motives aren’t necessarily tied to them like with Batman, and most anecdotes the Joker gives on them in the comics are fleeting and violent. Take the film The Dark Knight, for example, when the villain recalled his father savagely attacking his mother with a knife before carving his face.
Other tales have detailed both parents being abusive to him, and some as well-to-do parents with a trouble-making child. Their fates often end up the same, however, with the villain being a part of their demise. This typically happens in his younger years, however, and Arthur is a fully grown man on good terms with his mom. Is this a case where he has a loving and supportive mother?
Possibly, although the appearance of one character may tease Arthur’s past was as rough as other Jokers. Arthur is seen talking to a woman named Debra Kane, who may be the same Debra Kane that exists in the Batman universe. Debra is a social worker in Batman: The Ultimate Evil. In that story, she takes Bruce around Gotham and shows him various cases of child abuse. If this is the same character, how does she know Arthur?
This leads to the question of Joker’s father, who doesn’t appear to be a part of this drama. Perhaps he was around with Arthur and his mother decades ago, but is now gone in the present. Joker has killed his father before and spared his mother, but rarely does it result in a relationship that makes things between them stronger than ever. This is beginning to feel like a Wilson Fisk situation ala Netflix’s adaptation of Daredevil.
Defending his mother is noble, but there’s also something a bit unsettling about this dynamic. Obviously, we only have a few clips to go on, but it feels like Arthur has a Norman Bates level of appreciation for his own mother. As previously stated, the villain’s motives are never explicitly inspired by his parents, but here it almost feels as though she is the inspiration for him entering the world of comedy.
It’s really hard to understand the dynamic between the two here. Is she a sickly elderly woman that he’s caring for in her older years, or is this just some weird thing? No offense, but if my mother was well enough to dance around the house with me in front of a television, I would leave her time in the bath as a solo deal. Perhaps those scenes are from different times in the movie, and something happens to her down the stretch.
There’s also a solid amount of Arthur romping around the house in his underwear, which, again, would be a bit strange for a fully grown man to do when he’s living with his mother. Especially when he’s shaking his butt and doing light gyrations, it’s just not the type of thing someone does in front of a parent. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’m going to put myself out on a limb and say this is not typical.
Here’s an out-there theory to chew on: what if the mother isn’t actually there? The whole trailer leans pretty heavy on the mom thing to start, and Arthur switches from referring to her in the present tense to the past tense. There’s something there that makes me think that Arthur’s mother isn’t actually still around, but is in the sense that he’s still thinking about her often and those are flashbacks, or he’s hallucinating she’s alive.
This brings us to another bit in the trailer in which we see Arthur writing some jokes presumably for a stand-up comedy routine. The notes begin with some harmless and corny jokes, but get less funny and more upsetting the further down. Right below his hand (which is next to a bottle of medication) we see an unfinished joke that reads “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
Clearly those are the words of a man struggling, which is in line with Todd Phillips’ description of the film. Arthur is a man who has been disregarded by society, and from the looks of that trailer, beaten up a few times as well. Perhaps it’s not he who is the caretaker for his mother, but she’s looking after him while he works to get his footing as the world gets crazier.
Whatever the case may be, it seems as though Arthur’s mother will play a significant and supportive role in this story, which makes it one of the biggest departures this film will have from other Joker origin stories. Given what we’ve seen in the trailer, it’s sure to be one of many things that will differ from the traditional origin story and give us yet another unique take on the villain’s life.
Joker is in theaters Friday, October 4, and CinemaBlend will be covering all news that comes out in regards to it in the meantime. As an example, check out what Todd Phillips has had to say about people’s thoughts on the movie, and how their perceptions on it may not be as accurate as they think.