Well folks, I didn’t think I’d have to write this hot take but everyone seems obsessed with making The Joker a thing and a main character so we’re going to have to talk about how everyone does the Joker wrong in live action.
The character’s issues mainly revolve around people trying to force him to be a main character because oh my god is he not that. He’s a villain, you guys. And not just that, he’s the villain who perhaps makes for the least interesting possible protagonist. Make a Doctor Doom movie. Or a Lex Luthor movie. Or a Venom mo—wait nevermind. But don’t, please god don’t, make a Joker movie. I’m not saying the forthcoming movie will automatically be terrible.
It could be good, in which case I’ll eat all these words. But they’ve already announced the major changes they’re making to the character, which are necessary because the Joker is not a protagonist. And here’s why.
10. He Doesn’t Have Concrete Motivations
There are many things you need to be the protagonist of a story and The Joker has none of them.
But first, motivations. In a story, a character will have motives and drives and specific goals. Belle wants to find a match that respects her for her brains and not her body. Spider-Man wants to use his powers for good. Robert Graysmith wants to solve the puzzle of the Zodiac Killer. The Joker wants… well that’s the problem. He wants… to cause destruction? He wants… to cause carnage?
His wants and goals are all related to whatever makes him the scariest villain. Like, if you can show me a panel where the Joker gives his motivations on panel, I can find you another one where he gives a fundamentally different explanation. And that is not a thing you can build a film around.
“I want anarchy” is a motivation, if a weak one, as is “I want revenge” which is, it sounds like, going to be the motivation in the upcoming solo movie. But neither are especially strong.