Poppy lives near Tokyo, Japan and loves to catch up with the latest movies, indie and blockbuster.
Joker has smashed blockbuster records since its release in October 2019. Though produced on a relatively low budget of $70 million, this intense psychological thriller has climbed its way to being the biggest R-rated movie of all time, surpassing even the highly popular Deadpool.
This fantastic movie provides a lot for audiences to think about, such as the way our society lets down its most vulnerable people and mental health. However, there's another thing that got me thinking after watching it at cinemas twice - are Arthur Fleck (Joker) and Bruce Wayne (Batman) actually half-brothers?
Arthur Fleck finds a letter from his mother addressed to Thomas Wayne, a powerful local celebrity and a hopeful runner for mayor. His mother, Penny, has written a letter begging Wayne for help, saying repeatedly that Arthur is his son. When he confronts her, she says that she and Wayne were in love, but couldn't be together to "keep up appearances." Now living in poverty, she's been asking him for help, but her letters have been ignored.
Later, Arthur steals record files from the mental hospital in which Penny was kept, finding an adoption form and various newspaper clippings of him as a child with bruises, stating that she had stood aside while her boyfriend had abused him. When trying to speak to Wayne, Arthur is hit by one of his uncontrollable laughing fits and Wayne punches him in the face. This is arguably one of the final things that finally pushes Arthur over the edge of insanity and finishes his transformation into Joker.
However, there's a lot to suggest that the adoption paper was actually fake, all made up by Wayne to be able to deny his son when the time came. Here are some clues pointing to that.
Clue 1: Alfred's Reaction When He Shows Up to the Wayne Manor
When Arthur goes to the Wayne manor to meet Thomas Wayne, he runs into a young Bruce Wayne and performs some simple magic before Alfred runs up to them. He goes from derisive suspicion to downright alarm when Arthur tells him who he is. Alfred's next words:
"There's nothing to know... Why don't you leave before you make a fool of yourself?"
All this looked highly suspicious. Alfred emplores Arthur to quietly leave, rather than using threats to call the police. His glance from Bruce to Arthur, a sort of "oh no, how much did you tell him?" look, was another big clue.
Clue 2: The Adoption Papers
Arthur finds a document of adoption in Penny's file, right next to the file that says she has mental issues. In reality, adoption is extremely difficult to do, even for married couples who own a home. There's no way that a young, mentally unstable, single woman would have been able to adopt a little boy.
The whole thing smells of lies.
Clue 3: Thomas Wayne is a Millionnaire
When Arthur confronts his mother about the letter, she says several things that suggest she really was in love with Wayne.
"We were in love... but he said we couldn't be together because of appearances... I signed some papers."
Assuming that Penny is telling the truth, Wayne actually forced her to sign a paper of secrecy. It wouldn't be too difficult of a man of his wealth to create a fake adoption certificate to add to her mental health records, just in case she did blab while she was in there. One look at her file and her doctor could prescribe her with delusion and narcissistic personality disorder... sound familiar?
Clue 4: "Love That Smile..."
Near the end of the movie, when Arthur is getting ready to go on the Murray Franklin Show, he finds an old photograph of his mother. On the back is written the following:
"Love that smile... TW."
TW, of course, could stand for Thomas Wayne. Why would Wayne have written that on the back of Penny's photograph if she was merely his coworker? Some viewers have argued that Arthur imagined the whole thing, but I'm not convinced.
Clue 5: Penny Didn't Show Any Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Delusion During Her Entire Screentime
Whenever we see Penny on screen, we see a frail, older woman. She's tired and fragile, but otherwise seems to be kind and harmless. She worries for Arthur.
"You need to eat. Look how skinny you are."
People with narcissistic personality disorder are without empathy for others, have an overinflated sense of self-importance, and an excessive need for admiration.
Apart from being sad and desperate for an answer from Thomas Wayne, Penny Fleck doesn't show any signs of either of the mental health issues she was accused of. This is an enormous clue to suggest that her files were fabricated and Arthur is indeed Thomas Wayne's son.
Arguments Against This Theory
Of course, this theory isn't watertight. There are some things to suggest that the adoption papers could be real and Thomas Wayne was the one telling the truth.
Arthur Does Have a Condition Caused by a Head Injury
Assuming that the files about Arthur's injuries and the adoption are all either 100% true or 100% fake, the information regarding his injuries is likely to be true. Penny could easily have dated bad boyfriends who beat Arthur up, contributing heavily to his mental issues and his fits of uncontrollable laughter.
It Would Take a Lot of Time and Money to Plant Fake Documents
Despite the fact that Thomas Wayne is a millionnaire, it is possible to argue that it would have taken a lot of time and expense to plant fake adoption and medical documents in a file in Gotham's hospital on the off-chance that someone would go looking for them.
However, I think the evidence suggesting Penny was telling the truth is far stronger! It's perfectly possible that Penny, having worked for Wayne's company, fell in love with her boss and they had a love affair.
After she got pregnant, Thomas Wayne panicked, first denying his son and then sending her away. Penny, heartbroken and distraught, suffered a mental breakdown and was put in the hospital.
Meanwhile, Wayne fabricated documents about her adopting Arthur and paid people to deny the whole thing happened. Penny, powerless and believed by no one, was then diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder and delusion.
Of course, if this theory is correct, then poor Penny was killed for no reason by an angry and heartbroken Arthur, further pushing him into madness.
Of course, none of this should be taken too seriously. Joker is a stand-alone film, having many contradictions that wouldn't make it fit with the older Batman movies.
However, it's a fun theory to explore, and wild to imagine while watching other Batman films that the Joker and Bruce Wayne could actually be half-siblings without knowing it.
© 2019 Poppy
Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on February 08, 2020:
Excellent eye, Bethany! I guess that theory's out the window...
Bethany on February 08, 2020:
You realize you said BW and Bruce Wayne in regards to the photo?? TW and Thomas Wayne is what you meant
Jay on January 01, 2020:
I liked the move and think they are brothers
Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on October 30, 2019:
Hi Doris, thank you for commenting. Fortunately, Joker 2019 is supposed to be a standalone and focuses more on darker themes than the usual good guy/bad guy superheroes. So this whole theory doesn't have to connect with your favourite classics at all :)
Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on October 30, 2019:
I hope you didn't mind the spoilers, John! Thank you for commenting.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 30, 2019:
Poppy, you've brought up some interesting questions about one of my favorite childhood comic characters. However, I just wish the modern-day story tellers would leave our old classics alone, and I do consider Batman a classic. My generation grew up admiring heroes like Bruce Wayne and despising antagonists like the Joker, so I don't even want to consider the possibility that they might be half brothers. Let 'em be, I say. Remember how some wannabe Margaret Mitchell butchered Scarlett O'Hara in her wannabe sequel to Gone with the Wind?
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 30, 2019:
This was very interesting. I really want to see this movie and you gave me all the more reason for wanting to. Good job.