PROJECTIONS: Psychoanalytic Investigation of The Joker

PROJECTIONS: Psychoanalytic Investigation of The Joker at Freud Museum London

Freud Museum London
20 Maresfield Gardens London
Event time
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Friend of the Museum
Patron of the Museum
4 Apr 2020

The dominant image of DC Universe’s notorious crime boss The Joker is that of a killer clown with a maniacal laugh hellbent on undermining Batman’s influence and unleashing chaos in Gotham City. Another version of the Ace of Knaves, popular in mid-20th Century comic books, portrays a relatively harmless camp prankster and thief. The Joker thrives on his mutable identities and uncertain origin story; he enjoys tricking self-proclaimed ‘decent people’ into doing very bad things, sadistically corrupting their perception of virtue and eroding the boundaries between good and evil.


“There’s a great freedom to The Joker. Any character who operates on the outside of society and is deemed a freak or outcast, has the freedom to do what they want. Insanity is in some scary way the most freedom you can have, because you’re not bound by the laws of society.”TIM BURTON, DIRECTOR, BATMAN (1990)


This intensive day course is dedicated to iconic representations of The Joker on television and in film. The goal is to showcase the pathology of an enigmatic Supervillain who weaponises comedy, inspires delinquency, and claims unreliable accounts of a traumatic personal history (“If I’m going to have a past I prefer it to be multiple choice”). Reference will be made to texts by Alan Moore, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Slavoj Zizek, Albert Camus, and Friedrich Nietzsche.


What sets The Joker apart is that he displays virtually no instinct for self-preservation, and doesn’t really stand for anything — in this way he is a fascinating psychoanalytic subject because he embodies the irrational. In the current culture wars it is fashionable to ‘cancel’ The Joker because he lacks a moral centre, but in doing so we miss the broader philosophical significance of his character. The Joker does not seek to resolve the problem of a narrative — the proposition is that his nihilistic outlook, far from serving a toxic function, reveals The Joker as a valuable aesthetic force to be reckoned with.


Advanced viewing is optional; brief bespoke video montages will be screened.


Session 1

Cesar Romero – Batman: The Movie (1966) dir. Leslie H. Martinson

Mark Hamill – Batman: The Animated Series (1990s TV)

John DiMaggio – Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) dir. Brandon Vietti


Session 2

Jack Nicholson – Batman (1990) dir. Tim Burton

Cameron Monaghan – Gotham (2010s TV)

Jared Leto – Suicide Squad (2016) dir. David Ayer


Session 3

Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (2008) dir. Christopher Nolan

Joaquin Phoenix – Joker (2019) dir. Todd Phillips


  • 9.30am – open
  • 10.00am – first session
  • 12.00pm – lunch
  • 12.45pm – second session
  • 2.45pm – tea break
  • 3.00pm – third session
  • 5.00pm – finish

Tea and coffee will be provided during both breaks. Please note: there is no cafe on site, however, you are welcome to bring your own lunch, which can be consumed in the classroom, or the Museum garden if the weather is fine.


PROJECTIONS is psychoanalysis for film interpretation. PROJECTIONS empowers film spectators to express subjective associations they consider to be meaningful. Expertise in psychoanalytic theory is not necessary – the only prerequisite is the desire to enter and inhabit the imaginary world of film, which is itself a psychoanalytic act. MARY WILD, a Freudian cinephile from Montreal, is the creator of PROJECTIONS.

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