Joker Analysis | The Sociology of Crime and Deviance (2023)


The joker is a brilliantly crafted character study by Matt Reeves that reveals how crime and deviance are formed through sociological forces; namely conflict theory and social strain.


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Comedy is subjective, murray, isn't that what they say all of you, the system that knows so much.

You decide what's right or wrong, the same way that you decide what's funner or not within a few lines.

The joker invites us to reflect on who makes the rules in society who decides what's funny who creates social norms? Who decides what is criminal to answer these unsettling questions? We can turn to good old sociology.


Theorists argue that deviance and crime are not objective facts, but are socially constructed to benefit the dominant and powerful interests of society, often at the expense of the marginalized.

What we define as deviant or criminal, therefore, is inherently ideological.

From this perspective, we can see that some individuals are able to avoid legal scrutiny because of their privilege and power.

They can determine the controls of the law and, in some cases, can even become its representatives in matt, phillips's joker.

We see the wealthy thomas wayne run for mayor, despite it being suggested that he is illegally skirting his responsibilities as the father of arthur fleck luke pal, I'm not your father, because you were adopted and I never slept with your mother.

What do you want from me money? No, I don't.

I wasn't adopted thomas's natural response is to reach into his pockets lying and offering a bribe to make the problem go away, whilst literally washing his hands of it.

The law is on his side.

Similarly, we also see the three wall street guys harass.

A woman on the subway before brutally beating up arthur arthur later kills them, which causes a sensation in the news.

Yet the media doesn't even consider what illicit deeds may have caused their murder.

Instead, they focus on their high rank as employees within wayne investments.

How could such respectable members of society ever commit wrongdoing? Yes, all three were for white investments, good decent educated, although I didn't know any of them personally.

Meanwhile, we see the law fail.

The downtrodden arthur fleck at the beginning of the film he is presented as a troubled, yet upstanding citizen that works hard to support both himself and his mother.

Yet he is powerless to prevent his sign being stolen from work by a gang of thieves that later use it to beat him instead of the thieving kids being arrested for assault and forced to pay back the damages, the suspicion falls on arthur and he alone is expected to fix the problem.

Kenny's, music uh, the guy said you disappeared, never even returned his sign because I got jumped.

Didn't you hear.

First sign was [ __ ].

If you don't return the sign, I got to take it out of your paycheck.

The law is clearly not on arthur's side, whilst wayne avoids any suspicion for illegally dodging child supports, and the wall street guides avoid any mention of assault.

Fleck ghana's suspicion for a petty crime that he didn't even commit.

This inspires his taking matters into his own hands through taking randall's gun.

If the law cannot protect him, he needs to protect himself.

You got to protect yourself out there.

Otherwise, you're gonna get [ __ ].

This brings about a further question.

Why is an upstanding citizen such as arthur flex so neglected by society? The film paints a portrait of arthur's, constant struggle for recognition and love in a world where he is invisible.

Even his social worker doesn't listen to him.

He don't listen to you.

I don't think you ever really hear me.

I said for my whole life I didn't know.

If I even really existed.

Arthur goes through his life not being taken seriously by anyone.

His passionate dream to become a comedian does not inspire encouragement, but ridicule laughter and applause come not when he makes a joke, but when he is used as the butt of a joke.

When I was a little boy and told people, I was gonna, be a comedian.

Everyone laughed at me, well, no one's laughing! Now you can say that again, pal arthur with his history of mental illness, childhood neglect and relative poverty is excluded from the conventional means to achieve his goal of becoming a comedian.

Instead, he needs to seek out alternative ways to achieve his dream.

Initially, these methods are simple and relatively harmless.

Arthur uses his imagination, he imagines having a father figure and being loved and supported, which gives him the encouragement he needs to pursue.

Stand up everybody's telling me that my standup's ready for the big clubs, of course, no one actually tells him that his stand-up is any good, and so it's only a matter of time before this imaginary illusion begins to crumble, as social services are cuts and the reality of his abusive neglectful, childhood becomes clear.

He can no longer deceive himself.

Arthur begins to pursue more deviant ways of achieving his goals.

How about another joke? What do you get? I don't think so when you cross, I think a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trump called the police.

I'm telling you what you're calling the police get what you [ __ ] deserve.

This is what robert merton describes in his theory of social strain when confronted by a lack of opportunity, some individuals are forced to seek deviant ways to achieve traditional goals.

Others may go even further and completely reject conventional pursuits altogether.

By becoming social outlaws, they deliberately become enemies of conformity and champions of anarchy.

This is eventually where arthur finds a home and where he is transformed into the joker.

Of course, the joker is not alone in this.

He is joined by a group of anarchists that identify themselves as clowns directly rebelling against what thomas wayne and the elites of society would call a good life.

Those of us who have made something of our lives will always look at those who haven't there's nothing but clowns.

Therefore, the clown mask quickly becomes a symbol for those who rebel against this subjective ideal of the good life.

In this sense, the clown movement reflects the consequences of widespread social strain.

Some sociologists theorize that when legitimate opportunities are blocked, disenfranchised members of society will come together to create new opportunity structures.

These are often deviants materializing as subcultures or criminal communities within the anarchist criminal community of clowns.

This alternative opportunity structure is there to be seen, respect, admiration and, most importantly, to the joker visibility is granted to clowns that commit the boldest acts of anarchy.

This is why the joker is so happy and confident at the end of the film he has founded a new culture that he fits into one where he can actually achieve his goals.

Stop laughing you freak.

This isn't fun yeah the whole [ __ ] city's on fire.

Because of what you did all units.

I know you're beautiful notice how the definition of good has changed since the start of the film earlier we saw thomas wayne use the word good to describe the life of decent educated members of society like the wall street guys now the joker associates the word good, with looting, rioting and murder.

He never stood a chance of becoming a good comedian, but he can become a criminal mastermind through the joker.

We see that these dynamics of deviance are not isolated to gotham city.

They are also present in today's social world.

This is why the film has attracted so much controversy.

It is simply too close to home corruption.

Alienation and lack of opportunity are all key sociological forces that lead to crime thanks for watching.

I hope you enjoyed this video I'd really like it.

If you could just show your appreciation by giving this video a quick like and maybe hitting the subscribe button.

Thank you very much.


What criminology theory is in the Joker? ›

The strain that Arthur Fleck goes through in the film will also be discussed. Merton's strain theory posits that people who are unable to accomplish their goals due to a lack of resources may resort to criminal behavior as a means of coping with their environment.

How is the Joker deviant? ›

But the Joker's deviance is more extreme than that of Batman's other villains, as he appears to be motivated not by personal gain but by a desire to push the boundaries of morality—even to the point of self-destruction.

What sociological theory explains deviance and crime? ›

While there are many different sociological theories about crime, there are four primary perspectives about deviance: Structural Functionalism, Social Strain Typology, Conflict Theory, and Labeling Theory.

What are the three sociological theories of crime and deviance? ›

Since the early days of sociology, scholars have developed theories that attempt to explain what deviance and crime mean to society. These theories can be grouped according to the three major sociological paradigms: functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory.

What is the main message of Joker? ›

If I had to drill down on one overarching theme for me, it's about the power of kindness and a lot of people miss that. I think if you don't see that you either don't have a soul or you're being reductive to make up for your own struggles in that area.

What was Joker's social experiment about? ›

The Joker has essentially set up a social experiment to see if one group would kill another to save itself and whether that would be the “good” or “bad” citizens. From a utilitarian point of view, it is morally acceptable for either boat to go through with this action, because at least half the lives would be saved.

How does the Joker manipulate? ›

The Joker uses aporia to manipulate people and control them to achieve his goals. The Joker is able to break down the established identities of his targets through doubt and uncertainty. Batman and Harvey Dent are both vulnerable to the Joker's manipulation because of their own identity crises.

Who did Joker manipulate? ›

Though the Joker's most identifiable sidekick and partner-in-crime for years was Harley Quinn, who was manipulated and seduced by the Clown Prince of Crime to join him in terrorizing Gotham City.

Does the Joker have a real identity? ›

Batman finally discovers the Joker's real name

Thus, the Joker's real name is none other than Jack Oswald White; however, the story about the discovery of his identity has a storyline.

What are two theories of crime and deviance? ›

Conflict theory suggests that deviant behaviors result from social, political, or material inequalities in a social group. Labeling theory argues that people become deviant as a result of people forcing that identity upon them and then adopting the identity.

What is an example of a sociological deviance theory? ›

For example, juvenile gangs provide an environment in which young people learn to become criminals. These gangs define themselves as countercultural and glorify violence, retaliation, and crime as means to achieving social status. Gang members learn to be deviant as they embrace and conform to their gang's norms.

Which sociological theory best explains deviant behavior? ›

Conflict theory suggests that deviant behaviors result from social, political, or material inequalities in a social group. Labeling theory argues that people become deviant as a result of people forcing that identity upon them and then adopting the identity.

What is the sociological explanation of deviance? ›

Deviance or the sociology of deviance explores the actions and/or behaviors that violate social norms across formally enacted rules (e.g., crime) as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores).

What are the four types of deviance sociology? ›

The theory suggests that there are four types of deviant behavior: subcultural, serial, situational, and cultural. Merton”s theory is based on the idea that there is a tension between goals and means in society.

What lesson does the Joker teach? ›

Another important thing 'Joker' teaches — something some people have chosen to ignore — is that, the moment you give into self-pity and loathing, you are inevitably becoming a part of the society you abhor so much.

What lesson can we learn from the Joker? ›

Arthur never learned to forgive and held grudges. He ultimately killed some people to take his personal revenge that eventually destroyed all the success he had achieved. The lesson here is, to forgive others and don't take revenge.

Does the Joker show any value for morality explain? ›

In the story, Joker is also showing an indication of moral subjectivism characteristic as mentioned in the theory, which is, nothing can be said as right or wrong about something as everyone is having their own view and nothing can be debate over it. Someone can express his view without looking someone else's view.

How does the Joker reflect society? ›

Arthur wants to be treated with decency and wants to live a respectful life, but when he is essentially pushed out of society and has his identity wiped, he becomes the Joker, similar to how vulnerable people can become incels.

What is the Joker's ethical dilemma? ›

Joker tries to mess with people's beliefs by trying to get them to be hypocrites when he sets up the ethical issues discussed in part 2. He wants to prove that everyone's morals are meaningless since they will break them when they are faced with tough situations.

How did the Joker become sane? ›

When the Joker traps Batman in an explosion, he believes that he is finally rid of his archfoe. As a result, his insane mind returns to sanity, and the Ace of Knaves forgets his bloodstained past, starting a new life as the average citizen "Joseph Kerr".

What is the climax of Joker? ›

Arthur trying out stand-up

The climactic scene ends with Arthur confessing to the subway killings and shooting Murray. From here, the film, which has been a slow burn for most of its runtime, is kicked into overdrive. Arthur is driven in a police car as he watches the riots he's inspired.

How is the Joker an antagonist? ›

Both Batman and Joker have their own visions of what they want Gotham to be. Batman wants order a Gotham without crime, Joker wants to upset the establishment and create chaos. To conclude, that's what makes the Joker such a formidable villain.

Who does the Joker represent? ›

While Batman represents justice and order, the Joker is his complete opposite, seeing himself as an agent of chaos, the living embodiment of the cruel randomness of fate.

Why is the Joker manipulative? ›

The Joker has always been a masterful manipulator because he understands the human psyche. While most view him as insane, in the comics he was always extrapolating about the complexities of the human mind. He used his astute observations to taunt Batman, by altering his worldview and breaking his will.

Was Joker a mastermind? ›

In his comic book appearances, the Joker is portrayed as a criminal mastermind.

Does the Joker have an ego? ›

Arthur's psyche had a semblance of a workable interaction between the Freudian psychic agents. His ego was able to transform the instinctively driven impulsive consciousness — which arose from Id — into a more rational and moral one based on the demands of the super-ego.

What is Joker's secret identity? ›

Martha reveals that she forced Psycho-Pirate, a villain capable of knowing all of DC's timelines, to tell her everything she knew about the main DC. It is at this point that Psycho-Pirate revealed that the Joker's real name is Jack Oswald White.

Why is Joker so white? ›

In the original comic conception of the archvillain — vividly rendered by Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman — his skin was bleached white due to a chemical accident. But in recent portrayals by Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and now Joaquin Phoenix, the chemical disfigurement has been replaced with greasepaint.

What are 2 deviant behaviors that are not considered crimes? ›

Answer and Explanation: Examples of non-criminal deviant behavior include speaking loudly during a theatre performance, wearing inappropriate clothing at church, picking your nose, or farting in public. Although these are not considered crimes and do not break any laws, they go against social expectations.

What are the two main types of crime sociology? ›

Violent crimes (also known as “crimes against a person”) are based on the use of force or the threat of force. Rape, murder, and armed robbery fall under this category. Nonviolent crimes involve the destruction or theft of property but do not use force or the threat of force.

What are 2 functions of deviance? ›

Deviance has several functions: (a) it clarifies norms and increases conformity, (b) it strengthens social bonds among the people reacting to the deviant, and (c) it can help lead to positive social change.

What is the relationship between crime and deviance? ›

Deviance is behavior that violates social norms and arouses negative social reactions. Crime is behavior that is considered so serious that it violates formal laws prohibiting such behavior. Social control refers to ways in which a society tries to prevent and sanction behavior that violates norms.

What are the five main sociological theories of deviance? ›

  • Cultural transmission theory. Views deviance as a learned behavior through interaction with others.
  • Structural strain theory. Proposed by sociologist Robert K. ...
  • Conflict theory. Believing that competition and social inequality lead to deviance.
  • Control theory. ...
  • Labeling theory.

What is the psychoanalysis of the Joker in The Dark Knight? ›

In The Dark Knight, the Joker is a loner, glib, unemotional and very violent. These behavioral traits are very consistent with psychopathy.

What theory is the criminal justice system based on? ›

Retributive justice theory posits that deterrence provides the foundation for the criminal justice system and for maintaining law and order. Contemporary versions of retributive justice theory emphasize rational choice and deterrence.

What is insanity theory criminology? ›

The insanity defense is essentially the claim that the state of mind of the agent at the time of his/her unlawful act prevents conclusive inference from the act to a defective level of moral/legal motivation (as being its necessary condition), hence it provides a release from culpability.

What is an example of labeling theory? ›

What is an example of Labeling? An example of labeling could be saying that a young man across the street is a thief because he was seen in the company of other young men with deviant behavior. Even though he may not be a thief, it might cause him to steal due to the label given to him.

What psychological issues are presented by the Joker? ›

Personality disorders. In general, Arthur appears to have a complex mix of features of certain personality traits, namely narcissism (since he craves attention by any means) and psychopathy (since he demonstrates no empathy for his victims).

What psychological issues does Joker have? ›

Although Joker is never diagnosed with any specific psychological disorder in the film, his symptoms indicate that he has delusional disorder, bipolar disorder, and pseudobulbar affect.

What is the character analysis of the Joker? ›

The Joker's main characteristic is his apparent insanity, although he is not described as having any particular psychological disorder. Like a psychopath, he lacks empathy, a conscience, and concern over right and wrong.

What are the 3 theories of criminal behavior? ›

After three decades of research, three major psychological theories of crime have emerged: psychodynamic theory, behavioral theory and cognitive theory. Learning these criminology theories and how to put them into practice is a component of an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree program.

Which theory best explains criminal behavior? ›

Criminal behavior is learned behavior. Sutherland's theory of differential association is basically correct; however, it needs to be revised in terms of recent advances in the psychology of learning. Operant behavior is behavior that is maintained by its consequences.

What are the 4 theories of criminal justice? ›

The biological, social, psychological, and environmental theories underlying crime and deviance are explored, as well as current approaches to punishment, treatment, and prevention.

Can insanity justify crime? ›

Overview. The insanity defense refers to a defense that a defendant can plead in a criminal trial. In an insanity defense, the defendant admits the action but asserts a lack of culpability based on mental illness. The insanity defense is classified as an excuse defense, rather than a justification defense.

What is the strain theory of deviance? ›

Strain Theory of Deviance

Strain theory, developed by sociologist Robert Merton, posits that when people are prevented from achieving culturally approved goals through institutional means, they experience strain or frustration that can lead to deviance.

What is an example of a criminal insanity case? ›

What is an example of criminal insanity? An example of criminal insanity is the case of John Hinckley Jr. Hinkley Jr. attempted to assassinate former president Ronald Reagan due to a delusion that it would make Jody Foster notice him.

What is an example of strain theory? ›

An example of strain theory is someone turning to crime to earn money after losing their job. What is this? This theory, which is also referred to as classic strain theory by criminologists, attempts to explain why some individuals turn to deviance in order to achieve success, while others remain law-abiding citizens.

What is an example of anomie theory? ›

People living in high-rise residencies feel disconnected from one another and struggle with loneliness. People engage in organized theft because they do not have other ways of accumulating wealth. Individuals resorting to criminal activities (e.g., looting) during times of war or military occupation.

What is social bond theory in criminology? ›

American criminologist, Travis Hirschi, developed the social bond theory which suggests that people who have strong social bonds with others will follow the unwritten social norms of society as opposed to those who have weak relationships.

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