Like many, I've had mixed emotions about the new DC Cinematic Universe. On one hand, getting a Batman v Superman movie is awesome, on the other, why the hell does Aquaman look like a roided up King Triton? But one thing I have unequivocally loved is this Saturday's new Jared Leto Joker photo. And not just because of the return to the acid washed skin and vibrant green hair comic readers are used to, but for the attention to detail.
Many have pointed out the eastereggs in the tattoos, but what I believe is more telling of this new Joker's character is his carefully placed pose. Many have identified this as taken right from "The Killing Joke," but I'm not convinced...
Look at the mouth specifically, "the Killing Joke" Joker sports a huge grin, relishing in his own madness. He's crazy, yet happy. Contempt in that fact. But does the new Joker look happy? The wide eyes and gaping mouth look more like anguish, frustration, like... Well, something like this:
This is Edvard Munch's "The Scream," a 1893 oil on cardboard (yes, cardboard) painting that would come to be regarded as the pinnacle of modern art. Look at it compared to the Leto picture, the pale skeletal skin, the eyebrow-less face with sunken in eyes, the look of sheer terror, and the hands clasping the head. The similarities are striking, and I believe that this similarity may subtly give us a deep understanding about how Leto will portray the Joker.
To understand this we must first understand modern art, now give me a second here! I know this sounds boring and pretentious but hear me out. So, modern art is a loose term for any art made from the late 1800s to the early 1900s that's generally... Weird. It deals with Freudian issues of the subconscious and the surreal, choosing to deal with emotions rather than solid subject matter like painting in the Renascence. The Scream is not so much a painting about a man screaming so much as it's about the terror that this scream conveys.
Munch latter wrote about his inspiration for the paining:
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
So the choice by the DC /WB creative team to make the Joker reminiscent of this painting clue us into his emotional state. Unlike the Jack Nicholson or "Killing Joke" versions who love the madness, this Joker knows he's going insane and it terrifies him. He's a man loosing (or who has already) lost everything and has no choice but to become the psychopathic killer we know him as. The pose from the Scream shows us that his anguish is not just average but primordial, and deeply physiologically based. He hurts from the inside, as the hands on his head are trying to "hold in" the madness.
The similarities between Saturday's Joker photo and the Scream show us the true nature of the fragile, broken man who became the flamboyant clown prince of crime. They portray the tragic figure that'll come to us is' the Suicide Squad", the "beautiful mess" as Leto put it. I believe by analyzing the art history present in the photo we can gain a deeper understanding of the character as well as an appreciation of the creative teams behind him.
I have no idea if this was intended or merely coincidence, but I can say which ever... It's pretty damn impressive.
Also, can we call this photo: "The Day the Clown Screamed?"