It seems forever ago that the Internet lost its mind over the reveal picture of Jared Leto as The Joker. The massive backlash, the uproar, what fun times. Have we not learned our lesson when it comes to comic book films and portrayals of classic characters? How many countless times have we been proven wrong? The Internet hated Heath Ledger being cast as The Joker in The Dark Knight and the Internet was quite displeased with Anne Hathaway’s look as Catwoman. Yet both actors ended up giving fantastic performances with the hate they received eventually disappearing.
Internet backlash follows a routine cycle. The fanboy community becomes outraged that filmmakers did not follow a character’s specific aesthetic from the comics. Footage of that actor in the role is shown, and the fanboy community starts to backtrack on their hateful comments. The film is then released in theaters and by this point the backlash has overturned to acceptance or even praise.
When it comes to Jared Leto as The Joker, there was no exception to anger from the fanboy community, as previously mentioned. Some vehemently hated the tattoos, particularly the ones featured on Jared’s face. Others online were convinced David Ayer was going in a different direction that would benefit the Clown Prince of Crime. While the rage over the look has calmed, some remain unconvinced that Ayer will give DC fans a version of the classic Joker. But I argue that while Leto has a grill and tattoos, there is still classic Joker in his rendition. He’s perma-white, has the Ace Chemicals origin and has seemingly killed a Robin. He seems like classic Joker to me.
Do you want the same iteration over and over? At least Ayer and Leto are trying to bring a different take to the iconic villain. The two could have easily done a variation of Ledger’s interpretation. They didn’t, though. Frankly, the tattoos add an even greater sense of insanity and instability to the character. I find it to be an intriguing touch. The tattoos are also delightfully self-referential, fitting the character’s lack of subtly.
If audiences are not offered different iterations of classic characters, they ultimately become stale. For a genre that is quickly becoming oversaturated, reinvention is critical for survival. Would fans have accepted a more classic Joker look for Leto? Sure, no doubt. However, playing it safe will not win you the game. If Ayer had constructed a Joker similar to Ledger’s, Leto’s performance would ultimately be considered out-of-date and not progressive.
Classic characters like Superman and The Joker need to be reinvented through the years. New interpretations offer different looks at established characters, as well as reignite interest in those characters. While every iteration of a character may not be a complete success, audiences should nevertheless try and give all iterations a chance. There is nothing harmful with attempting to reinvent.