In Defense of Jared Leto’s Joker

I know right now, I’ve probably lost a few people based on the title of this article alone. Let’s not make this discussion a fight between who is the better Joker. You can all have your opinions, as I do as well. But, let’s talk for a moment about Jared Leto’s rendition of the character in 2016’s Suicide Squad. This film centered around a group of well-known criminals within the DC Universe who are brought together as an unlikely group of heroes that need to save the world. Surprisingly, the Joker is not the main villain in the film, something that the director himself acknowledged. So, Leto was already at a disadvantage, as other Jokers have had entire movies to present themselves, whereas I believe Leto had only about fifteen minutes of screen time to make an impression to viewers.

As a subject of criticism and ridicule, Leto’s Joker really didn’t bode too well with fans. Why not? What was so bad about his Joker? Yes, he looked different than the ones we have seen in the past. The tattoos and mouth jewelry has been a big problem for fans, who just simply don’t think he represents what the Joker looks like in their mind. But, this version of the Joker is comic-book accurate and anyone else would have looked out of place in Suicide Squad. The 2016 movie was chaotic, punkish, and unpredictable. To have someone in a suit and tie just simply wouldn’t go with the tone of the film. Leto’s Joker was more akin to a mob boss, who was eccentric, but still very unpredictable. The scene alone when the Joker went from stone-cold serious to grinning while slipping into the lap of the terrified guard who had terrorized Harley Quinn solidified Leto’s performance for me. He was what the Joker is meant to be, he just challenged your visual perception of the character.

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Let’s talk about Harley as well. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the first time the character was brought to the live-action screen. Prior to that, we only saw her in cartoons and any other Joker we’ve seen has been missing his Harley. So, it was easy to criticize Leto’s Joker and his treatment of Harley Quinn. Before I go any further, let me say that no, I don’t condone the behavior. But, the Joker and Harley Quinn have never been “goals”. He has never been good to her and their relationship will never be something that you should romanticize. I also dislike the background story of Harley created in the 52 Comics, but I recognize that this was the backstory they were going to use, as it went with the tone of the movie. The Joker and Harley Quinn, whether it’s in the comic books, cartoons, or live-action movies, will always be toxic and dark. And that’s exactly how Leto and Robbie played the parts, to make you root against their relationship, no matter how hard they “fought” for each other.

Another Perspective 

Although I have a lot to say, I’m going to let my colleague Kevin Scott now take over the discussion, as he too feels that Jared Leto’s Joker has been improperly criticized.

So, I love Leto’s Joker. One of my favorite things about Leto’s Joker is the whole gangster approach to him. We’ve never seen that before in any other Joker, and Leto absolutely crushed it. He was the eccentric badass that I’ve wanted to see for a while. Like not only was he clearly off the hinges, but he was a G, and he knew it. And his outfit for the movie was easily one of my favorite of all time; the slick-backed hair, face tattoos, and that grill…super badass. His big scene in the club was easily his best scene, that’s the kind of talent Leto has and the kind of Joker he could be. He meshed so well with Robbie has Harley Quinn and that whole storyline was one of the most underused parts about Suicide Squad.

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Granted, I get people didn’t like Leto’s Joker, and I’m not bashing them for it. But at the same time, it’s hard to criticize a character like the Joker when he was on the screen all of like 15 minutes. I think that’s the biggest issue with Leto’s Joker is he didn’t get the correct exposure or screen time. All of the Suicide Squad promo material and trailers made it seem like the Joker was going to be an important part of the film, and then he wasn’t and people, including myself, were upset. Heck, I even remember seeing a TV spot that was devoted solely to Leto’s Joker. Is he the best Joker of all time? Surely not; but to say he sucks as the Joker just isn’t fair to him. The Joker is one of the hardest characters to portray in any genre of movie, period. Everyone who has played Leto’s Joker has brought something different to the role, and  And instead of bashing Leto’s Joker, I think we should take the time to appreciate the job he did, and hope we get to see him again in a bigger role as the Joker.