Something you might have noticed about the upcoming movie Joker is that it exists in a universe where the lead character, Batman’s most famous nemesis, is called “Joker.” My colleague Nate Jones posed this important question two weeks ago: When did everybody start calling him “Joker” instead of “the Joker”? Jack Nicholson’s famous line was “You can call me Joker,” but Christopher Nolan referred to his character as “the Joker” in interviews. Now, in Todd Phillips’s iteration, it’s crystal clear: Arthur Fleck is just Joker, baby — adding an article is for sissies.
Joker is a movie about jokes and loneliness and jokes about loneliness, but it’s also about the absence of a certain “the.” So Vulture has put together a handy photo-essay guide to the name of the movie’s main character. Call him by his name — Joker — and hope he doesn’t call you anything at all.
Might I present a lightly edited Drake lyric: “Please do not speak to me like I’m that Joker from
four eleven years ago I’m at a higher substantially lower place.”
Just to reiterate: Joker? That’s his name, don’t wear it out! Other things that should not be worn out include: this tie.
What’s he running from? Oh. A definite article, like one used to denote a proper noun. Perhaps the definite article “the.”
This looks like Robert De Niro in a little movie called Taxi Driver, but I promise you it’s actually Joaquin Phoenix in a little movie called Joker. Again, that movie was called Taxi Driver, not The Taxi Driver, so this movie is called Joker, not The Joker. You see what they’re getting at here?
INT. 1994 TOYOTA COROLLA. CALIFORNIA. DAY.
“You’re not even worth state tuition, Arthur.”
“My name is Joker.”
“Well, actually it’s not, and it’s ridiculous.”
“Call me Joker like you said you would!”
“You should just go to City College. You know, with your work ethic, you should just go to City College and then to jail and then back to City College, and then maybe you’d learn to pull yourself up and not expect everybody to do — AHHHHH!!!!!!”
This is the scene where Joker says, “Call me Joker.” He doesn’t say the Joker, just Joker — that’s how you know that his name is, again, “Joker.”
Hey! What? Just wanted to take another look at you, Joker.
I pinky promise you, as someone who has seen Joker, that there is a scene where, inexplicably, Justin Timberlake arrives and says: “Drop the the. It’s cleaner.”
Anyway. In conclusion: