I didn’t have anything to say here and was kind of panicking about that. And then Warner Bros. did me a favor and gave me a topic to rant about. Congratulations to anyone who’s tired of hearing about my family health nightmares and my deep depression. You get an expletive filled rant about fictional characters. Enjoy!
The thing about the Joker, forever and ever, is that he has no origin. The other thing about the Joker is that he isn’t in love with Harley Quinn. Warner Bros. has gone and forgotten both those things. Yesterday news broke that the studio has not only greenlit one Joker backstory, but two Joker backstories. One, get this, are you ready for it? An 80s noir look at the Joker before he became, the Joker. You read that right. Before anyone even had a chance to say WTF they greenlit a second film. This time about the Joker’s relationship with Harley Quinn. Directed by the guys that brought us Crazy, Stupid, Love. Crazy stupid is right. I said it after Suicide Squad and I will say it again. The Joker and Harley Quinn are not a couple of crazy kids in love. Harley might be but she’s so far on the crazy side I doubt it. And the Joker loves nothing more than being an annoyance to Batman. In fact that’s the purpose of both characters. To be a thorn in Batman’s side. The Joker has no reason for it. It’s just fun for him. Harley does it because she’s following the Joker’s lead. And let’s face it, lately the Batman has been hella annoying so he deserves it.
So about the Joker origin. I think Mark Hamill put it best when he said that the character’s backstory is sort of a multiple choice. There is no set in stone story of his beginnings and I like it that way. I like the idea of someone being a dick to a superhero just because he thinks it’s fun. He has no real ties to Batman other than being a menace to Gotham. In the 1989 version of Batman Tim Burton tried to infer that the Joker had killed Bruce’s parents. It was a passing line – the one we all remember, if we know the films in any way – “ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” In Bruce’s memory of the night of his parent’s murder the man who mugs them says it, and later in the film Jack Nicholson delivers the line in his Jack way. Thus bringing the battle between hero and villain to a head and giving Batman more reason to put on the suit and fight for his city. But the definitive Batman / Joker story (on film) has to be the one in The Dark Knight in Heath Ledger’s performance of a man who’s sole purpose is to fuck up Batman’s life forever, because he can.
Now, to be fair, there is a comic book on the origins of the Joker which has also been turned into an animated movie. Written by Alan Moore, The Killing Joke is told as part alternative to the Red Hood Gang origin and part “here’s why the Batman and the Joker fight.” We see a man down on his luck, desperate to feed his pregnant wife, who loses his job at the Acme Chemical Plant. The Red Hood Gang then enlists him to help with a heist of said plant, where they trick him into wearing the Red Hood (a long red helmet) thus implicating him as the leader of the gang. In being pursued by Batman in the depths of the plant, the Joker falls into a vat of acid and we get mad man Joker and, a reason for him to have hatred for the Bat.
And maybe I’d be okay with that as a live action film and it might even be possible to do this story as 80s noir, with down on their luck people and gangster crews. But they’ve already stated this will have nothing to do with Batman. So that’s out.
And that brings us to Harley Quinn and the Joker. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created her solely for the Batman Animated Series in the mid nineties to be a sort of foil / annoy the piss out of the Joker. They meet in Arkham Asylum where she falls for his games and he turns her into a madwoman. He uses her, abuses her and tosses her aside when he’s free and clear of the nut house (with her help). But Harley persists and is determined to make an impression. So in one full episode dedicated to Harley and the Joker (Mad Love), the creators of the character and their relationship make one thing clear – the Joker could care less about Harley Quinn. When she captures Batman and nearly kills him, to impress the Joker, he’s pissed off about it. He’s not impressed or doting or even the least bit interested. He’s angry. She took away his fun. Clever as the plot she devises is, he’s upset she got to the Batman first. And yet, when it came time to portray their story in film, whoever let Jared Leto get a hold of the Joker did a terrible job at giving him the right tools. I like Jared, a lot. I think he’s a great actor. But not for this role. And maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe it’s Zack Snyder. Who knows. Either way Suicide Squad fucked up their story beyond words and I’m still mad about it.
I try hard not to rail on films before they are released. I have rants right here on my blog about being kind to the people in charge and letting them show us first before getting angry and calling names. And I have no names to call anyone. I just wanted to say don’t. Don’t mess with the Joker or Harley Quinn any more than you have. I understand what you’re doing. Copying Marvel didn’t work so you’re going in a whole different direction. By all means, do your thing. But stop trying to shoehorn stories that aren’t there into stories that are.
“Why do you keep saying the name Martha?!”