We've all been there — scrolling through our social media feeds, liking photos of people posting their workout routines, funny memes, prank videos, or maybe clips of people eating dirt as a result of engaging in some foolhardy stunt. But every once in a while we'll end up coming across a meme posted by a self-important individual that shares some faux-intellectual "hot take" that's really just an excuse for someone to show how much smarter they are then everyone else. That, in essence, is the Joker "We Live in a Society" meme.
Why's the Joker associated with the phrase, "We live in a society"?
If you've never come across these types of memes that edgelords post where they attempt to highlight the inadequacies of "the masses" in a bite-sized meme form, then you can see a pretty great example of what that is right here.
If you're wondering what a comic book villain has to do with this meme, a lot has to do with the fact that the Joker's anarchist tendencies have long been an icon of counter-culture for people who fancy themselves outsiders.
This could probably date back to Heath Ledger's Joker's monologue about social norms that he gives to Harvey Dent when he was placed in the hospital after getting half of his face burned to a crisp. You may remember the scene as Harvey hilariously doesn't recognize the Clown Prince of Crime until after he removes his surgical mask.
The Joker tells Harvey after this wonderful moment: "You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go 'according to plan.' Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all 'part of the plan.' But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds."
Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Arthur Fleck, a disturbed, beaten-down grown man who lives with his mom, hallucinates having a girlfriend, and dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, struck a chord with some people. Arthur eventually has enough with the "meanness" of people and society in general, and the dumpster fire that is his life culminates in him murdering a late-night TV show host who brings him on to make fun of him after he bombs (the non-violent kind) in a comedy club.
Arthur's monologue at the end of the film before shooting the host (Murray, played by Robert De Niro) touches on a similar social discourse:
Joker: "How about another joke, Murray? What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a system that abandons him and treats him like trash? I'll tell you what you get. You get what you f***ing deserve!"
The origin of the Joker "we live in a society" meme might start with edgelords, but everyone's using it now.
Everywhere you look on social media, people share photos of the Joker, offering up their own take on what's wrong with "society," either seriously or in irony.
Now, it appears that the meme has become DC canon of some sorts, because Jared Leto's Joker himself says "we live in a society" in Zack Snyder's massively four-hour long and much anticipated "Snyder Cut" of the Justice League flick, which debuts on HBO Max on March 18, 2021.
New scenes were shot for the film that feature Jared Leto reprising his take on the Joker yet again, however, he seems different from the much maligned, tattooed version he greeted fans with in Suicide Squad. He tells Batman in the trailer, "We live in a society, where honor is a distant memory. Isn't that right, Batman?"
This new "world weary" version of Jared's Joker is now being used in memes, even by the actor himself who retweeted director Zack Snyder's post of the new Justice League trailer, which debuted on Valentine's Day 2021. Jared's commentary on the retweet? A simple five word message: "We live in a society."
The fact that this was added to the script's dialogue is either a happy coincidence (for meme-lovers everywhere) or Zack Synder getting in on the trolling fun. In any event, people are running with it and it's already adding to the voluminous annals of Joker "we live in a society" memes.