This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes.
After reading the title, I am quite certain that the manhwaphiles have already guessed the identity of The Joker in Painter Of The Night: Lord Min. I have to admit that I connected Min to The Joker the moment I saw this panel: In this picture, the character’s facial expression stands in opposition to his words. First, he expresses his surprise and shock with his face, while in reality he is just asking for a confirmation. Therefore the contradiction indicates that he knows something and he is expecting a certain outcome. Secondly, his open mouth and big eyes oozes a certain lightness and ease, whereas he is talking about a serious topic: the death of the painter. Because of the discrepancy, the manhwalovers can detect Min’s fakeness and as such hypocrisy. He is neither shocked nor moved by the low-born’s death. And this important panel made me think of The Joker, the villain from Batman. [https://shiftermagazine.com/film/evolution-of-the-joker-1966-2019] Why? It is related to the contrast between seriousness and comedy, intelligence and stupidity, genuineness and fakeness represented by the character’s face and behavior. The famous antagonist is often portrayed with a huge smile and a hysterical laugh, very similar to Min. (chapter 54) Furthermore, The Joker’s eyebrows are quite distinguished due to the make up and Min is recognizable with the special form of his eyebrows too. Besides, the Joker’s make up outlines the importance of his eyes too. Observe that Min opens his eyes so much, reminding us of The Joker’s from 1966. (the actor on the left). Although The Joker is dressed like a clown due to his make-up, his actions have nothing to do with comedy at all. He actually embodies destruction, chaos and death, therefore his disguise contradicts his behavior, explicating why I came to associate Min to The Joker. Due to this connection, I came to realize the character’s true role and personality. This explicates why I will divide “The Joker” in two parts. In this essay, I will only focus on Min’s function in the story as a joker, while in the second part, I’ll study his personality.
First, it is necessary to take a look at the definition of a joker, because it explains why the authors Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson came to give the name to their supervillain:
- a special playing card that can be given any value and is used in some card games instead of any other card
- someone who likes telling funny stories or doing stupid things in order to make people laugh
- a person who has done something that annoys you https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/joker
These different significations explain why joker has a lot of diverse synonyms: card, actor, clown, buffon, jester, trickster, prankster etc. That’s why I would like to study Min’s behavior under the aspect of a joker first. What kind of joker is he?
First, Min could be considered as a special playing card. The joker doesn’t abide to the card rules. This signifies, the joker represents an exception to norms and conventions corresponding to Black Heart’s behavior. First, Min shows no respect social norms and traditions. That’s why he doesn’t feel bothered smoking opium so openly on the street. He has no problem to have sex with a low-born, hence he asks his host to bring the painter to him twice (chapter 33, 52) (chapter 52) And notice that his desire to taste the painter contrasts so much to Jihwa’s words in chapter 18. The joker in chapter 52 even insulted Jihwa as sodomite, showing that he doesn’t consider himself as a homosexual per se. His sex with other men has nothing to do with love. Unlike the main lead, Min associates sex with fun. Since sleeping with a commoner is considered as a taboo, Min can only get curious and feels the desire to experience sex with Baek Na-Kyum. And now, you understand why I associated Min to The Joker from Batman. Both show no respect laws and social norms, they are breaking them, bringing uproar, chaos and destruction in the end. (chapter 53) Here, the readers can observe that Min is criticized for creating a ruckus contrasting to “discreet fun”. Hence we can describe Min as an extremist. He loves scandal so much that he takes pleasure in ruining friendship and relationships. And since for Min and The Joker, laws, social norms and true values (love, friendship, family) should be eliminated, then we can describe them as nihilists.
“In philosophy, nihilism is the complete rejection of moral values and religious beliefs. It is such a negative outlook that it denies any meaning or purpose in life.” https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/nihilism#:~:text=In%20philosophy%2C%20nihilism%20is%20the,existing%20political%20and%20social%20institutions.
However, both characters are not advocating destruction of the social system for its own sake. They commit crimes and violate social norms due to their selfishness and their own pleasure. There exists no real plan behind their actions. Since Min is associates to extremism and annihilation, you can comprehend why Min’s actions lead to the destruction of the door in chapter 53 and to his bloody face . He literally ignores manners, even risking his own safety. He knew Yoon Seungho’s anger and rage, as he was a witness of the topknot incident concerning Jihwa. (chapter 59) Even if it is Jihwa’s friend who is speaking here, we have to imagine that Min was also there due to his words in chapter 53: He must have seen how Jihwa was powerless and couldn’t stop his childhood friend to humiliate him. Besides, Min had even seen what the host had done to Deok-Jae, therefore he was well aware of the repercussions, if he kept provoking the protagonist with his mockery. And now, the readers can understand why the joker is a synonym for trickster or prankster in the end. Because the joker is not attached to rules and laws, he can play tricks and fool people around him.
And now, if the manhwaphiles behold the Joker as card, they all will notice that the joker is dressed like a jester or buffon. https://depositphotos.com/vector-images/joker-card.html
During the Middle-Age and Renaissance, the jester or also called fool, was a member of a household of a nobleman or a king hired to entertain his guests. And the manhwaphiles can understand why a joker is “someone likes telling funny stories or doing stupid things in order to make people laugh” (definition 2). However, The jester’s role shouldn’t just be reduced to an entertainer, as he could also use insolence to make critical comments. That’s why in the Korean movie “The king and the clown”, the clowns put on a performance ridiculing the council members by implying that they receive expensive gifts for favors. In this movie, it becomes visible that a clown is walking on a thin line between success and failure. His closeness to the king can lead to fame, but also to loss of freedom and tragedy. And now, if you remember the role played by Min, you’ll observe that in chapter 52, he was indeed acting like a jester, mocking the host dressed like a king. He kept asking rhetorical questions, making comments without waiting for Yoon Seungho’s answer. It was, as if Min was acting like an entertainer. However, we should remember that despite his role as jester, his true goal is not to entertain his host or his friends. He is behaving like that out of selfishness. He is the one who desires to have fun. (chapter 66) With his mockeries, he expressed his wish to taste the painter and Yoon Seungho understood his insinuations, therefore the main lead voiced Black Heart’s wish and even accepted his request, because he was terribly annoyed by Min’s interrogation. That’s why we can say, Min was in that scene not only a jester, but also a trickster (referring to the third definition). He manipulated the main character to achieve his goal.
At the same time, the joker can be in different card games an extremely beneficial or an extremely harmful card because of his special function. And this fits Min’s role concerning our main couple. While bringing misery to Baek Na-Kyum (the idea of the murder and a gangrape), he actually forced Baek Na-Kyum and Yoon Seungho to realize their true feelings for each other. When Yoon Seungho imagined that the artist would never love him, because he considered himself as a prostitute, the lord never questioned his own emotions. This illustrates that Yoon Seungho had deeply internalized social values and father Yoon’s doctrines in the end: a noble is superior to a low-born, and no aristocrat would lower himself to admit his affection to a commoner. An abnormity in this historical period and since Min shows no respect to social values, he could only question the lord’s behavior and actions. And now, you understand his role as jester in chapter 52. First, he cornered the protagonist and forced him to be in denial. This reminds us of a fool who makes critical comments leading the monarch to question himself and his politics. In Yoon Seungho’s eyes, since he was the noble, only the commoner should confess his affection. However, when the mischievous aristocrat kissed the low-born, the main lead could only react instinctively. He had to push away Black Heart. For Yoon Seungho, Baek Na-Kyum was his lover, even if he was in denial. But observe that the main lead wasn’t the only one who had internalized certain values. The artist had a similar mind-set. For him, it was impossible that such a powerful and rich aristocrat could love him, who comes from the brothel and has unknown origins. That’s why he denied the aristocrat’s feelings. And due to Min’s trick, Yoon Seungho was hurt, as he considered it as a rejection. Note that in that scene, social norms played a huge part in the denial of both protagonists, although they were never directly mentioned. Min as the joker was a reminder of scandal and as such of standard norms.
But let’s go back to our initial observation. Min as the joker can be an extremely beneficial or an extremely harmful card to our main couple. We have another incident, when this is palpable: The abduction and the murder. When the painter was fearing for his life, he recalled the noble’s gentle smile and screamed for his help. Yoon Seungho was the last person he was thinking of, when he imagined that he could die. And let’s not forget that the artist was still in denial after the second confession and their second love session. He kept denying the obvious and recognize the noble’s feelings. For him, it was also too beautiful and incredible to be true. At the same time, his denial stopped him from realizing his true feelings. Yet in front of death, Baek Na-Kyum couldn’t control his emotions and thoughts pressuring him to voice his deepest desires. And the artist’s disappearance had a similar effect on the main lead in the end. First, in the storage room, he confided his real wish before “destroying” the painter with sex. That’s why I view this panel as a parallel to the one where the painter was screaming Yoon Seungho’s name. Remember how I described this night (chapter 62-63-64): it symbolized the death of the phoenix. In chapter 66, the noble is finally admitting his complete defeat, he lost the war against Baek Na-Kyum. First, he admits that he can’t resist against the painter’s protest. Then he is not even trying to hide the painter in front of Min. He is indeed carrying him like a treasure, while feeling no embarrassment. And this explains why Min has to provoke Yoon Seungho again, by revealing Jihwa’s involvement. Since Min has realized that the main lead is no longer in denial and doesn’t consider it as a scandal and secret, then Min has to use another secret in order to annoy the main character. Since he couldn’t ruin the relationship between the painter and the noble, he needs to destroy the friendship between the red-haired aristocrat and the main lead. Note that in that scene, Min even recommends the main lead to be lenient and not become angry at Jihwa. Here, Black Heart is actually using an antiphrasis. He is actually hoping that with his words, the main lead will become angry at his former friend and retaliate against him. This scene is important as it exposes Min’s nihilistic mentality. He feels the need to annihilate something, if it is not the painter, then it must be Jihwa.
And the joker doesn’t realize that his actions have the opposite effect. This new revelation is the reason why Yoon Seungho surrenders during the next night. Like my follower @seunghosimp observed it correctly, this gesture symbolizes his capitulation and submission. Due to Min’s intervention, all the secrets were removed so that the relationship between the two protagonists can be rebuilt on a new and real foundation. The noble has no longer the upper hand in their relationship and will always listen Baek Na-Kyum’s words. Now, Yoon Seungho can trust the painter and will never question his behavior and words. What the main lead fails to recognize is the painter will never see himself as superior and as the lord. For him, love is not a synonym for war or defeat. Baek Na-Kyum will teach him the true nature of love.
But the irony is that Min is not realizing that he is helping the main couple.
For him, commotion and annihilation are a synonym for fun. That’s why he is a joker and as such The Joker. He is trying to tell funny stories or make stupid things in order to make himself laugh. He is the actor and the spectator at the same time, which is quite similar to The Joker from Batman. From my perspective, they both are trapped in their own world, therefore they can ruin relationships and kill people. This explicates why Min could even laugh, though he was getting punched. It was, as if he couldn’t feel any pain, as his “joke” had provoked such a reaction. And now, you understand why The Joker is wearing a make-up as a clown in the end. He isn’t only the joker from the cards, but also the jester from the Middle-Age. At the same time, he embodies selfishness and destruction contrasting to the real function of a clown. But his role is not just to bring chaos and ruin Gotham, but also to question the society and its values.
Let’s return our attention to Black Heart. Since he failed to hurt Yoon Seungho and even separate the main couple, we have to envisage that the more the scandalous relationship will get support, the more this vicious man will get bothered. The reason is simple: normality stands in opposition to uproar and ruckus. At some point, their relationship will be accepted signifying that he won’t be able to taste Baek Na-Kyum. Note that each time, the noble asked the main lead to bring the painter to their sex session, he used the other nobles as an excuse. That way, he could hide his own desire and weakness. This shows his own hypocrisy. He will never reveal his attraction to the painter. He will use “fun” or “the other nobles” to hide his own secret. The irony is that the more he meddled, the further he got from the painter. Consequently, his urge to taste the painter will increase more and more, while he has to witness how the main lead gets closer to Baek Na-Kyum. This can only annoy the jester. His interest for the artist can be explained by the following:
- his jealousy towards the main lead
- his attraction towards the painter
- Baek Na-Kyum represents the opposite of Min: sincerity, genuineness and selflessness. Don’t forget that Min witnessed how the artist reacted to Yoon Seungho’s charisma and deep down, Min wished to provoke such reactions as well.
After describing Min’s role, the manhwaphiles can grasp why this character is liked by many readers. He reminds us of the supervillain from Batman. Min’s weapons are secrets, that’s why he could manipulate Jihwa and the main lead in the end. And now, it is important to ask ourselves: who will stop Min and destroy him? Where is the Batman in Painter Of The Night? With this, I would like to incite my readers to find an answer to this question, but I have to admit that I have already found the answer (or better said, a possible answer).
Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and the support.