The Art of the Unreliable Narrator in Joker

One of the important and rather interesting aspects of Joker is Arthur’s position of an unreliable narrator. He invents an entire relationship with a female character in the film, which makes the question of his paternity that arises later even more interesting, with questions around whether his mother did the same, based on the reaction from the Waynes when he attempts to investigate.

Arthur’s lack of reliability also seems to suit the typical murky origins of the Joker character, as having appeared out of nowhere and not really having a clear "origin" compared to the other characters in the DC universe.

Explore the use of unreliable narration in the film. How does it contribute to the film’s overall message? If there weren’t these same questions in the film, how would the film have changed?

Feel free to draw on other examples of unreliable narrators in film or fiction, or on other depictions of the Joker for examining this.

  • This is an excellent topic. Also could look at a film like American Psycho with Christian Bale as another example of a unreliable narrator. – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
  • It could extend even further, you could look at other works based on this like memento, shutter Island, fight club, mr robot. Plus it could also be a discussion about how the audience will side with the character they've spent the most time with despite their actual actions. As an example, despite Walter white's actions the audience still roots for him to win. – Shinji15 3 years ago
  • Something to be cautious of or to jump into is especially his mental illness. Some believe that the Joker is a terrible portrayal of those with mental illness, that it’s too extreme. Is there a way to think about how this unreliable narration could be a source of that? That maybe Arthur views himself as worse than he is? The portrayal of himself is very fascinating. – lizzietheck 3 years ago
  • Agreed with Sean... EXCELLENT TOPIC!! It may be helpful to reference characters like the narrator from Fight Club, Amy from Gone Girl, and Leonard from Momento... These are the three most unreliable narratives I can think of throughout any film that I've ever seen. Hope this helps!! – carly 3 years ago
  • The best instances of unreliable narrator I've seen show up in the works of Caitlin Kiernan. Both the author and many of her characters have schizophrenia, and so in any given story it's often virtually impossible to tell whether something's really happening to a character or whether they're just imagining it. – Debs 3 years ago

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