When the first photos of the “antihero” superhero film,Suicide Squad, first cropped up online last year, it was Jared Leto’s Joker that had everyone talking, mostly about his silver grill and the tattoos that covered his body. It was an unexpected surprise to see the Joker rocking so much ink, when previous portrayals of the villain were consistently tattoo-free, and it was the “Damaged” forehead tat in particular that left a sour taste in fans’ mouths. Well, David Ayer, director of this summer’s most highly-anticipated flick, has finally spilled the beans about that “Damaged” tattoo, revealing the backstory behind the Joker’s infamous ink.
During a recent interview with Empire, Ayer talked about the reasoning behind the Joker’s forehead tattoo, saying, “This is sort of my personal thing and maybe less about a larger connection. But Joker killed Robin and Batman basically smashes his teeth out and locks him up in Arkham Asylum. It’s in the asylum where Joker would have done the ‘damaged’ tattoo as a message to Batman saying, ‘You’ve damaged me. I was so beautiful before and now you’ve destroyed my face.’” That’s also where the Joker’s silver grill comes in, in case you were wondering.
While none of this is discussed in the actual movie, which is now in theaters, Ayer explained in the Empire interview that the Joker’s grill and tattoos help tell a certain story about the Suicide Squad character, who, according to Ayer, was actually modeled after drug lords. “If a guy like him really existed today, where would he come from,” Ayer asked himself when developing the character. “How would he do business? Who would he know? What would he look like? In my mind, I took a lot of inspiration from drug lords on Instagram. It’s a great way to understand the lifestyle of a villain.”
Rather than attempting to portray a “modern” Joker though, the grill Leto wears in the film is meant to illustrate a long and painful history between Batman and his arch enemy, "the clown prince of crime" and Robin’s killer. As for the “Damaged” tattoo on the Joker’s forehead, it may be his most hotly-contested ink, but it’s not the only tattoo the supervillain rocks in the film. He also has a tattoo of a skull wearing a jester hat, a “J” tattoo, a tat of four aces, a couple of Cheshire-cat-like smiles, and a series of “Ha Ha Ha’s,” among others, none of which have been explained. According to Ayer though, “The tattoos tell a very specific story. And eventually people will decipher them and understand what’s going on.”