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You might not expect Todd Phillips’ Joker to be much of a rich text for Easter eggs or hidden references in the way that so many comic book movies are. After all, Joker is not connected to the DCEU (or what’s left of it) or any other films. Heck, we’re still not even sure that Arthur Fleck was the Joker. Nevertheless, it seems that Joker fans have noticed a sly reference to Tim Burton's Batman in the film. Check it out:
Man, the things you can discover with extensive movie knowledge, a great memory, and the time and willingness to really hunt for these kinds of references. As you can see, in the frame from Tim Burton’s Batman, Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier/Joker is walking past and eyeballing a fancy painting. This occurs during the dance scene at the Gotham Museum of Art, where Joker and his henchmen destroy much of the art on display.
Eagle-eyed Reddit user googsmaster over at the awesome Movie Details subreddit spotted this painting again in Todd Phillips’ Joker. The painting appears on the wall in Arthur Fleck’s living room. It’s slightly harder to see, but it definitely appears to be the same artwork. It’s smaller in Joker than it is in Batman, and the lighting and difference in the color palette make the colors look different, but it looks to be the same.
As noted by some other users on Reddit, this painting is a 1770 work called The Blue Boy from artist Thomas Gainsborough. The subject has never been totally determined, but it is believed to depict the son of a wealthy hardware merchant. The portrait is full length, standing at about four feet tall. So the reproduction shown in Batman was a bit closer to the original than the smaller one in Joker.
It’s definitely a neat Easter egg that actually works on a couple of levels. It is first and foremost an obvious reference in Joker to Batman, which is one of the first films to truly show the potential of comic book movies. Secondly, the painting appears in a scene featuring Jack Nicholson’s Joker, one of the progenitors for Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the character.
Furthermore, in both films, this painting appears in a scene where Joker is dancing. This was no happy accident; it seems far more likely this reference was intentional, as a bit of homage to what came before. What’s also interesting is that director Todd Phillips might not have even known that this Easter egg was in his movie.
The director has previously said that he doesn’t really like to include a ton of Easter eggs, and that any that appear in Joker are either mistakes or the result of the art department on the film going rogue. The only one he’s really copped to is having the young Bruce Wayne slide down a pole in his jungle gym as a reference to Adam West’s Batman. So this painting in Joker definitely seems like it could be the art department’s handiwork.
If that's the case, this reference to Batman is fine work on their part. In fact, the work of everyone involved with Joker has been acknowledged thanks to the film’s whopping 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. We’ll see if Joker scores some golden trophies to go along with these Easter eggs when the Academy Awards air on February 9.
Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what movies are headed to theaters this year, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest comic book movie news.