Joker: The Wayne Family May Not Be Who We Thought, Posits Trailer Theory

The new film asks us to take a second look at the familiar narrative.

The Joker may be Batman’s mortal enemy, but the final Joker trailer implied that the man behind the clown paint is nothing more than a doormat, pushed to the brink by none other than Thomas Wayne and society’s obsession with wealth accumulation.

The Joker has always been the bad guy of the story, but even the new film asks us to take a second look at the familiar narrative. Given Joker’s focus on the rich, one thought-provoking theory suggests that Bruce Wayne’s parents are actually the villains in the story, not the victims.

As cultural perceptions about wealth have shifted over the last few decades, so too has the perception of the Waynes. Men like John D. Rockefeller were admired in the early 20th century for philanthropy and incredible wealth. Today, the wealthy are faced with much more scrutiny. This decade began with Occupy Wall Street, which drew more attention toward the growing wealth gap and the inequality that comes with it. Even The Great Gatsby’s Jay Gatsby, known for throwing glamorous and decadent parties, destroyed himself in an attempt to attain that which is considered the ultimate success: having an insurmountable amount of money. In the modern era, the rich are arguably the enemy of many and not the hero, and are often at the core of corruption. It seems Joker is attempting to say the same, with the usually evil clown’s origin story shifting to include his anger toward Dr. Thomas Wayne.

Thomas and Martha Wayne — known best as Bruce Wayne’s dead parents and the catalysts in Bruce’s journey toward becoming Batman — are essentially no different than the wealthy elite like Rockefeller. Now best known as the one percent, redditor u/morpheus360 posits that Thomas and, by extension, Wayne Enterprises, is at the center of all of the Joker’s problems.

“He is trying to gather evidence of the corruption that’s taking place in Wayne Corp. Thomas Wayne’s doing everything he can to shut Joker up,” they write.

Dr. Thomas Wayne
Dr. Thomas Wayne

On the surface, it sounds like an unusual idea. After all, the Waynes have always been known as the nice rich people. They never did anything immoral with their money, right?

A scene from Batman Begins offers an example of how Thomas was using his money to help Gotham City flourish by building better transit and infrastructure. Additionally, Batman mythology has always maintained that Thomas and Martha’s deaths were a big reason why the city began to crumble and saw the rise of more corruption.

The Waynes were painted as Gotham’s heroes. But, what if it was Thomas who had always been corrupt and his death only served to destroy the public philanthropic facade he’d created? Had he been hiding his shady side all along? 

It’s not an impossible thought, especially since his son has lived his entire adult life being both Bruce Wayne and Batman and hiding his secret from everyone. The theory certainly gives us some food for thought, especially since Joker is meant to be a standalone film that exists outside the Batman mythology we already know. There’s also the fact that the original script, which leaked online, has been rewritten several times, so we won’t know what the full story is until the film’s release. Whatever the case may be, Joker looks like it’ll be one wild ride.

Joker hits theaters October 4, 2019.