Is the Joker from Batman actually queer? Here are some intriguing fan theories

The Joker forcing himself to smile but crying

Ahead of the Joker sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, fans are pondering whether the Joker is bisexual, or otherwise queer in some way.

The DC villain’s sexuality has been the topic of long-running speculation for years, with many noting that much of the character’s history is explicitly queer, or queer-coded.

The Joker’s first solo comic series, published in 1975-6, featured a series of moments that fans have always believed are rooted in queer identity. One sequence sees the Joker applying red lipstick, beautifying himself.

Additionally, Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth unused sketches see the Joker in Rocky Horror Show style drag. This similar style was used in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight where Heath Ledger’s Joker dons a female nurse’s outfit.

Though feminine stereotypes like dresses and lipstick are problematic when it comes to defining queerness, the Joker’s aesthetic is just one part of the puzzle. 

The Joker and Batman – are they besties, or dating?

The Joker becomes pregnant. (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Heath Ledger as The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Night (Warner Bros. Pictures)

For starters, the relationship between the Joker and Batman isn’t the typical supervillain-superhero connection. The Joker and Batman seem to tease each other within their rivalry. 

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Fans have also pointed out that Batman’s arch-nemesis is a lover of chaos – hello, major chaotic bisexual energy! While the Bat-Signal summons the hero, the Joker is called forth by the potential of mayhem.

In Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Death Of The Family comic book, the Joker calls Batman “darling,” describes their battles as “dances” and refers to himself as “yours” during their interactions. 

On Quora, one user shared that though the Joker was obsessed with Batman, he seemed to have no clearly defined sexuality. 

They note: “I think the reason we’ve never really thought too seriously about the Joker’s sexuality before Suicide Squad is because doing so humanises him to some degree. We don’t like to think that the Joker can have human interests. We don’t like to believe that he experiences the same instinctual pull that the rest of us do.

“That being said, I do think that, if the Joker is portrayed as a sexual person, he should be portrayed as he was by (Jared) Leto, as being fluidly bisexual… I’m not a huge fan of the Jared Leto Joker, but I do think that the bizarre sexual tension that he injected into his performance was one of the few things he did right.”

The Joker
The Joker – is he a queer icon? (Warner Bros)

This individual’s sentiment is shared by many. So much so, that a now-expired petition was started by Elena Shestakova which calls for DC Entertainment to “Make The Joker Gay Again”.

“The Joker is a character with almost 80 years [of] history, half of which he was portrayed as homosexual,” Shestakova states, CBR reported. 

“Neal Adams claimed that the Joker was and always had been homosexual [..] in the ‘Batman Files’ book. This opinion was shared by other comic book authors and artists for decades. That is why it’s so important to me and other queer readers to return his homosexuality.

“The Joker repeatedly confessed his feelings to Batman and showed an interest in other men,” she writes. “Also there was Joker’s unnamed boyfriend in the graphic novel Devil’s Advocate.”

Shestakova is not alone, many fans have ruminated on the Joker’s queer sensibilities.

“Joker is 100% gay coded, which is true of nearly all iconic villains lol,” one Reddit user posted in a Batman subreddit asking about the Joker’s gay subtext. 

Another shared: “Aside from Joker being flamboyant the man quite literally lives for Batman. Nobody else entertains Joker like Batman. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joker was bisexual.”

Several creators related to the Joker’s storylines have also stated their thoughts on the character’s queerness.

In the 2016 point-and-click video game Batman: The Telltale Series, featuring the Joker, the villain character remarks on the attractiveness of both Bruce Wayne and Harley Quinn.

That version of the Joker was confirmed to be bisexual in a Tumblr post from former Telltale Games director, Kent Mudle.

Explaining why his version of the Joker was bisexual, Mudle wrote: “It happened very naturally. The basic idea from the start was that John was obsessed/idolized Bruce and Batman, and it sort of just shifted into something more romantic as the season went on.”

Is the Joker transgender?

A comic books strip showing a clearly pregnant Joker and another character. Dialogue reads: Well, what we have here? I think you're pregnant. I think you're right. Do we have a good OB-GYN we use?
The Joker wakes up pregnant in a 2023 DC Comic. (DC Comics)

If you’re hungry for Joker content and can’t wait until October, The People’s Joker is a queer parody you need to watch! 

Written, directed, edited and starring comedian Vera Drew, the 92-minute indie film is an irreverent reimagining of the Joker’s origin story as a trans super-villain.

The film has been widely praised for its emboldened perspective of gender identity that sees this rejected comedian form a new anti-comedy troupe but come up against a caped crusader.

The People’s Joker has a 96 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the first 54 critic reviews available, only two were negative.

Also, in 2023, DC made the Joker pregnant in a comic book called Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing.

In the short story the Joker has a confrontation with magical being Zatanna – and his decision to flirt massively backfires. Zatanna casts a backwards curse on him: “On eno esle lliw reve evah ruoy ybab!” (“No one else will ever have your baby!”).

This results in the Joker waking up pregnant.  Be careful who you flirt with, Joker!

What we know about the Joker sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux

Whether the Joker will ever be declared canonically bisexual remains up for debate, but it’s possible that Joker: Folie à Deux – the sequel to Todd Phillips’ 2019 film – may hold some answers. 

Joaquin Phoenix returns as the titular villain opposite Lady Gaga as Dr Harleen Quinzel (Harley Quinn) for what is set to be a musical thriller. It certainly seems that musical elements will be included in the film as the trailer hints, set to the 1965 song “What the World Needs Now Is Love”.

Joker: Folie à Deux – which is French for “madness shared by two people” –  seems as though it will focus on the complicated bond and criminal relationship of Harley Quinn and the Joker.

Also, Variety reported the sequel will be a jukebox musical featuring 15 “reinterpretations” of popular songs.

Joker: Folie à Deux will be released on 4 October 2024.