Leto’s Joker and Interpretations

Earlier today, the internet exploded.



“But that’s not exactly new territory for the internet.”

As a comic book fan I love comic book culture. I love talking about comic books. I love reading comic books. I love writing comic books. However, as much as I immerse myself into this same wonderful world as my fellows, there is a sentiment that I can never seem to understand: outrage over interpretations.

Movies especially seem to draw the ire of “fans” for their assorted takes on famous characters. But for anyone who actually reads comics, interpretations should be nothing new or surprising. We follow a medium where hundreds of different people have written for the same character. They take them different directions, portray them different ways, and give them different motivations and morals.


“Joker did far more drugs in his early days, for instance.”

The prankster Joker that appeared in Batman #1 is not the same psychopath Joker that allowed his own face to be cut off as a message. The coy criminal mastermind Joker of the Batman animated series was looking for a few good laughs. He is not the same anarchic nihilist Joker that just wanted to watch the world burn in The Dark Knight movie. Characters change, and the majority of the time there is a very good reason for it. Anyone reading this should know what that reason is.

They become the characters that the story needs.

“Yes. You see what I did there.”

The Dark Knight didn’t need a charming trickster crime lord of a character as its villain, and Suicide Squad doesn’t need an unknowable philosopher terrorist. But the images revealed of Jared Leto as the Joker, to me, look like exactly what the Suicide Squad movie does need, because that movie should be all about irreverence. It’s a movie helmed by villains, based on a comic where the star is Harley Quinn.

Look at Harley Quinn.

“Not for too long though, pervert.”

Look at that woman and tell me that she doesn’t scream “punk culture.” Her costume, her attitude, her choice of weapon; everything about Harley Quinn is irreverence. Now, one more time, scroll back up to the top of this page, and look at Jared Letto as the Joker. See, the Suicide Squad needs a Joker to be the cocky, indifferent criminal that Harley Quinn loves and worships. That is the character’s role for this movie, to be “Mistuh J.” Think of Harley Quinn, the punk princess that she is, and then look at that tattooed, questionably drug addicted, career criminal Joker and tell me that he doesn’t fit like a vibrant purple glove.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course. There are people who will change their minds about the movie after they see it. There are people who still won’t like his portrayal in the film. But, we should, as a fan-base and as a culture, understand why interpretations happen, and we should also be a little more accepting of experimentation with these characters, because we never know when it’ll turn out absolutely brilliant.

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