Can we say that in the movie “Joker”, the protagonist Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, tries to constitute himself as a subject? Are we witnessing a subjective construction?
Firstly, we could ask ourselves if it was Fleck who constructed his “artistic name”? Was it not the talk-show host, Murray Franklin, played by Robert de Niro, who named him “Joker” after showing the recording of his stand-up comedy show? It is only before the show goes live, near the end of the movie, that Arthur requests that Murray introduces him as the “Joker”, a reference to Murray’s previous mockery.
Secondly, can we consider Fleck’s laughter as an “ironic” one? I believe that there is nothing ironic here; rather I would suggest that it is a laughter absolutely outside-of-meaning [hors-sens], without any purpose to attack the link with the Other, which is the essence of irony. Also, such as he received from the Other his artistic name, he also received from the Other (probably the psychiatrist) the nomination for his laughter outside-of-meaning: the little piece of paper that he shows to the mother’s child on the bus at the beginning of the movie, where it is written that he suffers from a head trauma that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times.
Thirdly, when Fleck kills Murray during the talk show, can we call this an “acting out”? I think it would be perhaps more appropriate to consider it as a “passage to the act”, albeit in a paradoxical way because it is carried out on the stage, during the “show”. However, Fleck seems to be out of any dialectical bond to the Other at that moment. Interestingly, after his “passage to the act”, he gets off the stage and goes in front of the camera, thereby breaking the “fourth wall” and exiting the world’s stage [la scène du monde].
Furthermore, considering his first murder (the three drunken businessmen), one could suggest that he did it mainly because he had at that moment a gun with him, a gun that he did not seek, but was given to him, in an imposing manner, by his co-worker.
With that in mind, I think that rather than speaking of “knowing-how”, “structuring function” and “suppletion”, one could state that the “Joker” is ‘a body inhabited by the Other’, which is another way of saying that there has been no subjective construction.