Theory: Joker Is "What If Batman Was The Son Of Trump?"
Already, it appears that the movie is posing the question of "what if Thomas Wayne was corrupt and deceitful instead of altruistic?" He's evidently unfaithful and has an illegitimate kid, while any Trump comparisons coming out of Hollywood are not going to be flattering to say the least.
But, assuming Arthur Fleck is his son, these parallels also appear to extend to the offspring; just as Bruce left Gotham to train and returned to find the city worse than ever, so too do the character descriptions state that Fleck starts Joker coming home and finding a dire landscape. The distinction comes in where they return to, and that life stems from Thomas' character and treatment of them; Bruce was cared for even after his father's death, while Arthur's mother has been cast aside and left to die. It would seem that Thomas' personality and actions are, ultimately, what lead to the creation of his son's true form: be that Joker or Batman.
It wouldn't be too extreme an extension for this ruthless Thomas to not have a Marta or a Bruce, and for the film to essentially posit that Joker is the natural endpoint for Batman when Thomas Wayne is Trump. It's an extreme case of nurture over nature, showing how Joker comes not from innate psychosis but mistreatment (bad people aren't born bad, a sly refute of Trump's immigration policy, perhaps), and conversely nudging how Batman comes from just a kernel of true goodness.
This is certainly bold, but it would explain the level of talent that the film has attracted, the easy justification for a Batman-less Batman villain movie (a hurdle Venom is currently wrapped around) and lines up almost perfectly with Phillips' previous film, weapon-dealing comedy-thriller War Dogs. Again, there's no hard evidence, but the potential thematic coal to be mined is actually there.
Joker Is Going To Be A Trump-Era Batman Film
Joker is, by the nature of production, the first Trump-era Batman film. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy was heavily influenced by the Presidency of George W. Bush (The Dark Knight) and the financial crash (The Dark Knight Rises), while Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice similarly took cues from the previous Republican government ("if we believe there's even a one percent chance that he is our enemy we have to take it as an absolute certainty"). Making a movie in 2019, Todd Phillips is going into new territory, a world of greater divides, confusion and extremes - and is directly responding to that.
Whether or not he goes quite as deep in its exploration of the character as we've theorized, Baldwin's casting makes at least some flirting with the current political climate in America unavoidable. Initially, the decision to set Joker in the 1980s felt like a nostalgic move, a shortcut to evoking Scorsese's classic work in the crime genre. However, if a Trump-like figure is at the core of Arthur Fleck's descent, then it has a much more clear and present purpose. The business practices of the 1980s directly led to the 2008 crash and the state of the world today. If Trump, even inadvertently, creates the Joker, then it's a damning indictment on the effects of his very real Presidency.
What is the Joker movie? Is it a Scorsese homage? A gritty Elseworlds tale? A Trump takedown? It may actually be all three - and that's very interesting.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020