Chapter 8

Arthur Fleck on 60 Minutes

[Ed Morris seated next to twin photographs of Arthur Fleck: his paint-faced mugshot, and his natural look taken the day of the interview].

“Six months ago America’s most populous city was seized with a brief but violent spasm of unrest. When the smoke cleared the next morning ten had died, two at the hands of the police, five due to confrontations with the mobs, and three by one Arthur Fleck, whom the people of Gotham and the newspapers had already come to call the Joker. Many in the crowds wore clown masks or white face paint, emulating the Joker’s weeks earlier killings of three Commerce Way stock brokers, a clear rebuke to the forces of law and order that often have a very difficult time keeping Gotham’s streets safe. Among those dead were perhaps one of Gotham’s most prominent citizens: Thomas and Karina Wayne, owners of Wayne Enterprises. I spoke with Arthur Fleck at his new home in Arkham Asylum.”

[Shot of plain-faced Arthur Fleck speaking].

“If there’s anyone carrying more shame over what happened I’d like to meet him.”

“Are you saying you’re sorry you killed those people?”

“What I’m saying is I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t raised right. My mother was abusive she used to beat me and lie to me. You’ll notice you’re speaking to me at a funny farm rather than death row. My public defender had the easiest job in the world: insanity plea. I have acute schizo-effective disorder, and I was three weeks off my meds. Why was I off my meds? Because they cut the bleeping program. Shows the failure of underfunded public services, doesn’t it? If I’d had my pills I don’t think I would have done what I did. But if it hadn’t been me to set everyone off there’s no doubt it would have been someone or something else.”

[Shots of Arkham Asylum from outside, then patients socializing, reading magazines, playing ping-pong, seated in the outdoors green area].

“Arthur Fleck lives in the secure wing at Arkham. He shares the space with thirty other patients. He has a room to himself, but he spends much of his days in the green area outside, reading or simply soaking up the sun.”

[Shot of Dr. Lauren Willbur].

“He’s actually one or our best patients. He does what he’s told, eats his food, takes his meds, and he doesn’t fight, with us or any other patients.”

“Do you believe him when he says he’s remorseful?”

“Well I guess so. He sure seems to mean it anyway.”

[Ed Morris speaking to Arthur Fleck again].

“Why do you think the things you did struck such a chord?”

“Because something is seriously rotten in Denmark. Because people were, no, are, hurting. A lot. Something had to give. I guess killing those guys got everyone’s attention. You know, it wasn’t like I planned it. It was totally spontaneous, but everybody hates those guys, who think the world is their little playground. But then also how quickly it went away. Murray Franklin… my God, the Waynes? It was terrible. But now look, the mayor got help from the Feds, they’re training people for jobs, giving people the services they need. I guess it just takes things like this to get people who otherwise wouldn’t to give a bleep. It’s awful, yes, but it’s just how it happened.”

[Ed Morris voiceover with images of a young Arthur Fleck and the neighborhood he grew up in].

“Arthur Fleck, born of Greek emigres in August, 1970, lived much of his young life in a West Gotham public housing project with his single mother, Penny, who, mentally unsound herself, often insisted Arthur’s birth was on account of an affair she’d had with Thomas Wayne himself while she was working as an administrative assistant at one of Wayne Enterprise’s infectious disease research labs. She too died at Arthur’s hands on the day of the riots.”

[Arthur Fleck].

“She used to beat me, curse me. Once they found me chained to a radiator. Yes, I killed her too. You think I won’t forgive myself? I couldn’t help myself! I never knew how much rage I had in me. She was not a shining example of parenthood, but she was the only family I had. I moved back in with her about four years ago. She needed someone to take care of her and I needed to live low-rent. We were not happy together. I’ve never been happy anywhere.”

[Ed Morris].

“After graduating high school in 1988 Arthur worked odd jobs around the city until 1990, when he was hired as a clown to perform at birthdays and schools, or to spin signs on the sidewalk.”

[Arthur and Morris].

“I mean, Gotham is a rough place, there’s no getting around it. I used to get beat up a lot growing up. There’s so much anger out there, just looking for a way to express itself.”

“There’s no denying what you did had ramifications.”

“I guess not. I hope it doesn’t happen again. Of course they’ll never forgive me, the victims’ families I mean, and it’ll probably piss them off to learn that I’m even happy here, at least more than I’ve ever been before. It’s a pretty simple life I lead now. I’m even writing a book.”

“You’re writing a book?”

“I am.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a novel, kind of a modern staging of an urban Robin Hood. It’s set in Gotham. I guess it’s a romanticized take on what I used to think the city needed.”

“What, to steal from the rich and give to the poor?”

“Exactly.”

“Do you think it’ll ever be published?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. If it’s good enough. I’ve sure got the profile now. You’re proof enough of that. And I think it’s safe to say my homicidal clown days are gone.”

[Ed Morris speaking to the camera].

“Arthur Fleck is right when he says the violence he inspired garnered political attention. Mayor de Cristo might be the first to tell you so. While the scourges of crime and poverty remain stubbornly persistent, it’s fair to say that the culture of Gotham has changed, after having reached some kind of reckoning. Indeed, the clown masks that were so briefly omni-present all throughout the city’s many and diverse neighborhoods, are now nowhere to be seen. The Joker himself no longer wears them either. However, based on the focus already applied to him, a kind of connection between himself and the citizens of Gotham, the glowing reports of the Arkham staff that looks after him, and his own as if inadvertent penchant for self-promotion, it’s probably fair to say that the world has not heard the last of Arthur Fleck.”

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