I wouldn’t call the Joker exactly easy to write – Paul Dini
Life was never easy for Arthur Fleck, and the harder he tried to make something of himself, the harder the world made it for him.
While fate laughed at and taunted him on a daily basis, Arthur shrugged it off and carried on as he always had, until one day, he simply snapped and decided to pay back every injustice that he’d ever been forced to endure with a lifetime of accumulated interest.
Joker, Todd Phillips unflinching exploration of one man’s descent into despair and insanity that focuses on Arthur Fleck’s journey, is brutal, hard, refuses to pull its punches, and is the source of an unexpected plot twist that has the potential to turn the established mythology and canon of the Batverse upside down, inside out and seven ways from Sunday.
By suggesting that Arthur might be Bruce’s brother and the son of Thomas Wayne, Joker implies that the hatred that both men will eventually feel for each other wasn’t just inspired and created by their shared exploits, but was inflamed by the knowledge that their father not only lied to them, but that he was never the man that either of then thought he was.
Family Ties – The Bruce And Arthur Connection
Initially treated as an incidental plotline that Arthur chooses to fixate on, the idea that the Joker and Batman might be brothers, became the source of endless online debate among comic fans who wondered how true it might be, and if it did become part of extended mythology, what the long term implications for both Bruce Wayne and the Joker could be.
Having said that, the film, while providing the answers that the audience wants, does it in such an ambiguous way that you’re left wondering if there is some possibility, some slight sliver of a chance that Arthur and Bruce were both fathered by Thomas Wayne.
What We Do Know About Thomas And Arthur
If you’re looking for a spoiler-free answer to the question, then you’ll probably want to skip a few paragraphs as there’s no way to actually talk about the relationship between the characters without discussing the plot of Joker.
We know that Arthur, having found a letter from his mother, who used to work for Wayne Enterprises, to Thomas Wayne about their supposed affair that implies that Thomas might be his father, confronts Wayne Senior in an attempt to discover the truth.
Wayne denies that there was ever any impropriety, suggests that Arthur’s mother was, and is delusional, and beats Arthur for daring to suggest that he might have crossed the ethical and moral lines that separate the professional and personal worlds.
This confrontation sets in motion the chain of events that lead to Arthur completely disengaging with the world and assuming the Joker persona.
After all, it was Wayne’s adamant denial that made Arthur steal his medical records, which in turn led to him discovering that he had been adopted by his mother and abused by her partner.
It’s one truth too many for the already fragile Arthur, who then murders his mother and finally gives up on trying to fit in with and be part of the society that has so completely and totally rejected him.
All of which would leave the viewer to conclude that the idea that Arthur Fleck was the son of Bruce Wayne was merely a fantasy dreamt up by his mother in an attempt to assuage the guilt that she felt for letting her adopted son be abused.
But what if the truth wasn’t that straightforward and simple?
Could Arthur Be Bruce’s Brother?
While Phillips pushes his audience to believe that there isn’t any semblance of truth to the idea and that it’s merely a plot device designed to finally drive Arthur over the cliffs of madness and become the Joker, it’s worth remembering that it’s a film based on a comic book character, and in the four-color world, anything is possible.
When, after he confronts her with the irrefutable truth, Arthur’s mother suggests that his medical files are merely a hoax perpetrated by Thomas Wayne to absolve himself of any responsibility and deny parentage, there’s a tiny part of you that wants to believe that maybe she’s right.
After all, Thomas Wayne is the richest and most powerful man in Gotham and if anyone can make that happen, he can.
Gotham, as has long been established in the comics, is a city built on lies, corruption, and deception, so why wouldn’t its favorite son adhere to the founding principles of his beloved home and eliminate anything that could and would link him to Arthur and his mother?
Then there’s the question of the multiverse.
We don’t know for a fact that Joker is set in Earth-Prime, and as it’s already been established that Thomas Wayne had two sons on Earth-3, the older of which Thomas Wayne Jnr, murdered his parents and younger brother and became Owl Man, the possibility that Joker is set on another Earth whose version of Thomas Wayne is a philandering, corrupt and selfish narcissist is too much to ignore,
And it isn’t the first time that Thomas has been accused of fathering a bastard, as one of the prominent council members in Scott Snyder’s Court Of Owls, Lincoln March who befriends Bruce under false pretenses later claims to be his older brother.
While Snyder doesn’t emphatically say one way or another whether March is Bruce’s brother, it does increase the possibility that maybe, just maybe Arthur’s mother was telling the truth in Joker. There is, as a wise man once said, no smoke without fire.
Is Blood Really Thicker Than Water? The Final Word
Whether or not Arthur Fleck is Bruce Wayne’s brother is one of those questions that will probably never be definitively answered. He probably isn’t, but then again, he could be.
It all depends on how you interpret the narrative that Todd Phillips has created with Joker and whether you believe that no matter what happens, no matter how much adversity and sorrow life serves you on a silver platter, the one thing that it can’t take from you, is hope.