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The Seinfeld Fan Theory That Has Fans Looking Twice At 2019's Joker

For nearly a century, the Joker has been a perpetual thorn in Batman's side, earning him the status of the Dark Knight's greatest foe. Whether he's on the pages of DC Comics, at the movies, or in animation, the Clown Prince of Crime has repeatedly given his caped foe a run for his money. However, as a consequence of this dynamic, he doesn't often get a spotlight of its own, making it difficult to look at the Joker as an individual and not just the pinnacle of Batman's rogues' gallery. Still, that didn't stop director Todd Phillips from giving him a solo movie.

2019 saw the arrival of "Joker" at the movies, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. In this DC continuity, he's a failed clown and comedian named Arthur Fleck, who allows his hatred for society at large to get the best of him. With the downtrodden and ignored behind him, he becomes the Joker we've all come to recognize. The film won awards galore and grossed a hefty sum of cash, which is astounding considering how far it deviates from the source material. After all, it's largely an original story, or at least that's what Warner Bros. pitched it as.

According to some "Joker" fans online, the film isn't all that it proclaims to be. Their evidence? An episode of "Seinfeld."

Did Joker base its story on the subplot of a Seinfeld episode?

As pointed out by folks on Reddit, "Joker" bears a striking similarity to the Season 4 "Seinfeld" episode, "The Opera." The installment in question features a clown (Peter Crombie) who loses his temper and eventually reaches his breaking point. He walks around in his clown makeup and costume and even takes out a bothersome group of troublemakers in public, much like Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck. The original post also lists off a string of other perceived similarities, but as pointed out in the comments, these additional examples weren't actually in the episode.

So, what's happening here? Did "Joker" rip off a "Seinfeld" episode? Probably not. This is likely just a case of parallel thought, and besides, Todd Phillips hasn't hidden what pieces of media inspired his Joker origin story. For instance, at the Venice International Film Festival in 2019, he noted that the "Killing Joke" comic storyline and the famous 1928 silent film "The Man Who Laughs" heavily influenced the story. Not to mention, stylistically, "Joker" is quite similar to such Martin Scorsese classics as "Taxi Driver" and "The King of Comedy," which released in 1976 and 1982, respectively.

While there's no denying the eerie similarities between "Joker" and "The Opera," it stands to reason there's nothing more than a strange coincidence to this story. Then again, maybe Todd Phillips will confess to borrowing the plot of a "Seinfeld" episode for his feature film down the road.