joker society meme

Suicide Squad/Warner Bros.

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ brought an iconic Joker meme to life

At long last, he says 'We live in a society' out loud.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Feb 15, 2021   Updated Feb 15, 2021, 8:49 am CST

“We live in a society” is the most iconic line the Joker never actually said onscreen. Starting out as an unrelated meme in 2018, the line gradually became linked with the Joker until fans actually petitioned for Joaquin Phoenix to say it in 2019’s Joker. Now, Zack Snyder has made that dream a reality.

Yes, Jared Leto’s Joker—a late-in-the-game addition to the Justice League cast —actually utters this widely-memed line in the new trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. And depending on your perspective, this is either an epic punchline or a symbol of everything wrong with the movie. The full line is a lot more dramatic, but the important thing is that you can now make an official screencap of the Joker saying, “We live in a society.”

What does “we live in a society” actually mean? Well, the original meme format poked fun at the popularity of mediocre, normie ideas compared to more profound or offbeat interests. It was a popular choice for self-deprecating gamer jokes, overlapping with the kind of topics you see in “chad vs virgin” memes. This made it a perfect fit for the ultimate misunderstood edgelord, the Joker.

Tens of thousands of people petitioned for Joaquin Phoenix to reference the meme in Joker, but to no avail. To be fair, it really wasn’t that kind of movie. Director Todd Phillips was extremely keen on being taken seriously. But Zack Snyder is a lot more in touch with internet fandom, and decided to throw Joker fans a bone. It immediately became one of the most-discussed moments in the trailer.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is basically a feature-length victory for the “we live in a society” brigade. The theatrical cut was reshaped by Marvel’s Joss Whedon, whose humor would theoretically be more palatable toward mainstream audiences than the gritty violence of Batman v Superman. The result was kind of a flop, and after three years of intense campaigning from die-hard Snyder fans, Warner Bros. capitulated and agreed to release a director’s cut. The studio subsequently spent tens of millions of dollars on a project with niche appeal: a four-hour cut featuring tons of semi-obscure comic book references. Is this film for normies? Absolutely not.

But it is the society they want.

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*First Published: Feb 15, 2021, 8:47 am CST