Every day when I get off at my subway stop in New York City, I see a big “For Your Consideration” advertisement with the Joker’s face on it. I get into the office, pour myself a mug of tea, and turn on my computer. There, sitting in my newsfeed is a promoted trailer for Birds of Prey, the big new movie about Harley Quinn, the Joker’s ex-girlfriend. Somebody makes a Facebook post about the Joaquin Phoenix Joker controversy. I see an Instagram ad for the R-rated Harley Quinn series coming to DC’s streaming service. People chat in the office kitchen about whether or not the clown could show up in the upcoming The Batman film.
When I get home, I kick off my shoes, step into my slippers, and turn on my PS4. Maybe I’ll play some Fortnite with my friends. Maybe I’ll pull up Netflix and watch Cheers. I don’t know. I just need to clear my head. But then I get a notification: “The Joker is now available for download in Mortal Kombat 11.” I try to avoid it. But the download is automatic. Before I know it, the Joker is literally being beamed into my face. For those of us who bought the DLC Kombat Pack, the fighter was available as of January 28 for download; he’ll be available for everyone else on February 4. And even though I refuse to open up MK11 to see him in action, gameplay footage of the Joker is all over YouTube the next day anyway.
The clown character. He’s everywhere. I can’t escape him. Not on Twitter, not at my job, not with my friends. It’s almost impossible to go a day in 2020 without hearing something about the famously twisted DC Comics villain. And we’re not even into February yet. At this rate, we’ll have a dozen more appearances from the character before 2021.
I get it. Things are chaotic right now, and the nihilistic clown conveniently represents how we feel about the world. He laughs in the face of madness. We’re all only one bad day away from becoming something just like him. It’s easier to live in a world without meaning if you, yourself, deprive yourself of any meaning. It works.
But I can’t take it anymore. When I close my eyes, I see the clown. I hear his laugh. I can’t stop thinking about his stupid white make-up. Please, I’m begging you, pick a new character to talk about! Anyone! Thomas the Tank Engine! Moe from The Simpsons! Wario!
In any other time, the Joker showing up in a Mortal Kombat game would be cool as hell. The character has a long history with NetherRealm, the studio behind the MK games as well as the DC Comics fighter franchise, Injustice: Gods Among Us. The clown plays a major role in the Injustice series, where he manages to destroy Metropolis, kill Lois Lane, and turn Superman dark. The Joker’s appearance in MK11 is reminiscent of his fighting style in Injustice. He’s gadgety, with little bombs and prank boxing gloves and other classic clown shit. Sure, he’s fun to play.
The Joker is also a full-on sadistic freak in MK11. Unlike the PG Injustice, the latest Kombat is rated M for Mature. That means the Joker’s attacks spew actual blood this time. He’s got a fatality that involves shoving a Jack-in-the-Box into his enemy’s chest. Like I said, in any other time than 2020, this DLC character would be something really exciting. But I don’t think anyone would argue that we are well past our Joker threshold right now.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe society needs more Joker. Maybe the Joker should have his own talk show. There should be a social media outlet just devoted to Joker news. Maybe all movies should have the Joker. I don’t know. Do people really love the Joker this much? I’m starting to lose track of what’s real and what’s all a big joke. Maybe after all this time, it’s me who’s becoming the Joker.