Quentin Tarantino Has An... Interesting Take On JOKER's "Profound" Talk Show Scene

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino has shared his thoughts on Todd Phillips' divisive Joker movie during an extensive interview, dissecting one "profound" scene, in particular.

Well over a year after its release, Todd Phillips' Joker still has the power to stir up discourse, which is evident from Quentin Tarantino's recent comments about the film.

The always outspoken filmmaker took part in a three-hour podcast chat for Empire along with Shaun of the Dead director and Edgar Wright, and when talk turned to subversion in cinema, Tarantino began to speak very excitedly about Joker and its climactic talk show sequence, in particular.

Though the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood helmer had some issues with the movie overall ("[it's] very efficient, but a little one-note"), he is of the opinion that the scene in which Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) appears on the Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) Show is a "profound" example of "subversion on a massive level."

"It’s not just suspenseful, it’s not just riveting and exciting, the director subverts the audience because the Joker is a [frick]ing nut. Robert De Niro’s talk show character is not a movie villain. He seems like an asshole, but he’s not more of an asshole than David Letterman. He’s just an asshole comedian, talk show guy. He’s not a movie villain. He doesn’t deserve to die. Yet, while the audience is watching the Joker, they want him to kill Robert De Niro; they want him to take that gun, and stick it in his eye and blow his [frick]ing head off. And if the Joker didn’t kill him? You would be pissed off."

"That is subversion on a massive level," he continued. "They got the audience to think like a [frick]ing lunatic and to want [Arthur to kill Murray]. And they will lie about it! They will say, ‘no, I didn’t [want it to happen]!,’ and they are [frick]ing liars. They did.”

Umm, okay. We're not sure that last part is necessarily true, but we certainly get where QT is coming from.

What do you guys make of Tarantino's comments? Do you agree with his take on Joker's controversial talk show scene? Let us know in the usual place, and be sure to check out our spoiler breakdown if you fancy a recap.

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Meet Arthur Fleck

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We are introduced to Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) almost immediately, and it's clear from the start that this guy has some serious issues.

Arthur suffers from an unspecified mental illness, along with a condition that forces him to burst into fits of laughter in stressful situations. Living and caring for his mother (Frances Conroy), he gets by on medication, weekly therapy sessions and focusing on his job as a street clown. But a violent assault from a gang of kids that steal his sign kicks off a series of events that will take Arthur down a very dark path.

The Neighbor Who Wasn't There

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Arthur meets a sympathetic single mother named Sophie Dummond (Zazie Beetz) who lives in his apartment building. The two seem to hit it off and actually embark on a romantic relationship, but something about it always seems a bit off (she's fine with him stalking her for a start), and we eventually find out why.

We're jumping ahead here, but towards the end it's revealed that Arthur was actually imagining all of his dates with Sophie and embracing the delusion of companionship. This is fully confirmed when he walks into her apartment and she reacts with fear, barely recalling his name.

One Bad Day...

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Okay, so it's a lot more than one bad day in Arthur's case, but a certain series of events in close succession do ultimately tip him over the edge.

A seemingly altruistic clown colleague gives Fleck a gun when he hears about the assault, but when it falls out of his pocked during a visit to a children's hospital, Arthur is fired.

His boss also tells him that the same workmate that gave him the gun denied all knowledge, and actually said Arthur tried to sell it to him.

The First Kills

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On the way home on the subway, Arthur is mocked and assaulted by three wall-street jocks who had been hassling a woman on the seat across from them. When Fleck begins to laugh uncontrollably, they target him.

Not a good idea, boys.

Arthur guns two of them down and chases the third outside where he mercilessly executes him on the steps to the street above. Afterwards, we're treated to a haunting scene of Arthur dancing slowly in the bathroom, preparing to fully embrace a whole new persona.

Thomas Wayne

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Arthur's mother is obsessed with Mayoral candidate Thomas Wayne, who used to employ her. She writes him multiple letters, none of which are ever responded to.

After the subway murders, Arthur decides to read her latest letter and discovers that Wayne is actually his real father. Upon confronting his mother about it, he decides to go to Wayne Manor and winds up running into a young Bruce Wayne. 

The future Batman seems unimpressed with Arthur's magic tricks, and a butler-type (could be Alfred, but seems unlikely) steps in. He tells Fleck that his mother is crazy and gets a near-throttling for his trouble.

"You Think This Is Funny?"

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Arthur decides to get answers from Wayne (Brett Cullen) himself, and poses as a bellboy (a little nod to his comic book counterpart's penchant for disguises, perhaps?) at the opera in order to confront him in the bathroom.

Things do not go well, as the ruthless Wayne denies being Fleck's father and reveals that he never even slept with his former employee, who spent time in Arkham Psychiatric Hospital back when he knew her. When Arthur begins to laugh maniacally and grows angry, Wayne punches him and returns to his seat.

Disturbing Revelations

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Still not convinced, Arthur goes to Arkham to check his mother's records. The orderly (Brian Tyree Henry) tells him that he can't reveal any details, so Arthur steals the file and uncovers the shocking truth.

The mentally ill woman Arthur believed to be his mother actually adopted him, and a police report reveals that she allowed one of her boyfriends to sexually abuse him as a child.

Arthur then suffocates Penny Fleck with a pillow, telling her that he now views his life as a comedy.


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A representative for popular talk-show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) calls Arthur and asks him to come on the show to discuss a video of his excruciating stand-up act that Murray mocked earlier in the movie.

As Fleck prepares by putting on his makeup and holding a gun to his head, two former colleagues - one of whom gave him the gun drop by to make sure Arthur never said anything to the police. Arthur erupts in violence, brutally stabbing the bigger man to death with a scissors.

He shows a glimmer of humanity and allows the other to live, telling him he was "the only one who was ever nice."


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Arthur arrives for his Murray Franklin appearance, asking the host to introduce him as Joker. He begins by telling a few off color jokes before admitting that he killed the men on the subway. Franklin soon realizes he's not joking, but continues to antagonize his clearly unstable guest.

Although it initially seemed as if Arthur intended to kill himself live on air, he decides to tell one final joke ("What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I'll tell you what you get. You get what you [frick]ing deserve!") and shoots Murray instead.

Put On A Happy Face

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Inspired by Fleck's actions and Wayne referring to Gotham's underprivileged as "clowns," a large number of Gotham citizens stage violent riots across the city. As Arthur is being taken to prison, an ambulance crashes into the side of the car and a pair of mask-wearing rioters free him from the back.

Arthur dances on the bonnet of the car while the city erupts in chaos around him. As he paints a smile on his face using his own blood, we see Thomas and Martha Wayne being gunned down in an alley in front of their son, Bruce.

"You Wouldn't Get It"

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There's no post-credits scene, but we do get an epilogue of sorts which finds Joker at a therapy session in Arkham.

As he begins to laugh we briefly cut to Bruce Wayne standing in shock as his parents lay dead at his feet.

The therapist asks Fleck what he find so funny, and he tells her he thought of a joke, but she wouldn't get it. We then see Arthur leaving the room in slow-motion, leaving bloody footprints. This clearly implies that he murdered his therapist, fully giving himself over to the the monstrous Joker persona.
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