Did ‘Suicide Squad’ Director’s Tattoo Regret Ruin Joker’s Image?

Did the tattoos on the Joker in “Suicide Squad” tarnish the character’s cinematic reputation?

By Amitabh Mukherji
August 18,2023

The creative decisions behind the portrayal of iconic characters in superhero movies often spark debates among fans and critics. In the case of David Ayer’s 2016 film “Suicide Squad,” the director’s choice to give the Joker tattoos became a point of contention that still resonates today. This article delves into the director’s recent admission of regret regarding this creative choice and explores the reasons behind the audience’s strong reactions.

Ayer’s Admission: Regretting The Tattoo Idea

Jared Leto
Jared Leto

The character of the Joker has undergone various interpretations on screen, with each actor bringing their own flair to the role. However, Jared Leto’s rendition in “Suicide Squad” garnered mixed responses, largely due to the visual alterations made to the character’s appearance, such as the prominent tattoos. One of the most noticeable tattoos was the word “Damaged” inked across the Joker’s forehead.

In a recent tweet, almost eight years after the movie’s release, director David Ayer acknowledged the divisive nature of the decision to give Joker tattoos. While he took full ownership of the tattoo idea, he expressed regret for the acrimony and division it caused among audiences. Ayer even revealed that he had initially contemplated a different tattoo, “Blessed,” but ultimately recognized that not every creative idea translates effectively.

Controversy Surrounding Joker’s Tattoos

jared leto joker

Joker’s appearance has evolved across various media adaptations, but the addition of tattoos was a significant departure from his traditional comic book portrayal. Notably, Heath Ledger’s memorable portrayal in “The Dark Knight” had left an indelible mark on the character’s cinematic history. When Leto’s Joker made his debut, it marked a substantial gap between the two portrayals, both visually and conceptually.

The backlash against Joker’s tattoos, particularly the “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead, stemmed from its perceived overt nature. While Joker’s damaged psyche is a fundamental aspect of his character, the decision to literally inscribe it on his forehead was seen by some as heavy-handed storytelling. This choice contradicted the “show, don’t tell” principle, which suggests that a character’s actions and behavior should reveal their personality and traits, rather than relying on explicit symbols.

The tattoos also sparked comparisons to Ledger’s Joker, highlighting the stark contrast between the two interpretations. Ledger’s portrayal relied more on subtle nuances and mannerisms to convey the character’s instability, while Leto’s Joker leaned on visual cues, including the tattoos, to communicate his deranged persona.

Moving Forward: Joker’s Cinematic Future

jared leto joker

Despite the controversy surrounding Leto’s portrayal of the Joker and the tattoos, the character’s cinematic journey did not end with “Suicide Squad.” Leto’s return in Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” particularly in the Knightmare timeline, presented a different perspective on the character. Notably, the absence of the “Damaged” tattoo in this iteration reflected a departure from the earlier creative decision.

As the cinematic landscape continues to evolve, future storytellers will have the opportunity to interpret the Joker in their own unique ways. Ayer’s admission of regret underscores the dynamic nature of character adaptations and the ongoing dialogue between creators and audiences. Whether the Joker’s tattoos will be revisited or discarded in upcoming projects remains uncertain, but the discussions sparked by these creative choices continue to shape the discourse surrounding superhero movies.


jared leto joker

David Ayer’s regret over the Joker’s tattoos in “Suicide Squad” highlights the complexity of translating iconic characters to the big screen. The tattoos’ controversial nature and departure from traditional portrayals ignited discussions about storytelling subtlety and character interpretation. As the Joker’s cinematic journey unfolds, the dialogue between creators and audiences continues to shape the evolving landscape of superhero narratives.