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Willem Dafoe Playing The Joker Would Undermine His Green Goblin

Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of the Green Goblin has led to an interest in seeing him play The Joker, but this would undermine his version of the Goblin.

Willem Dafoe gave the superhero film genre one of its greatest villains in Spider-Man, but the popular fan casting of him as The Joker would undermine his iconic Green Goblin role. Dafoe’s depiction of Norman Osborn in both 2002’s Spider-Man and 20201’s Spider-Man: No Way Home has led numerous film goers to express interest in seeing him play the similarly jovial murderer, The Joker, in a DC film. While Willem Dafoe would certainly be an incredible Joker, the character is not quite the same as the Green Goblin, and conflating the two does a disservice to both.

Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis, the Green Goblin, was the antagonist of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film. Just as Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were perfect in their roles, Willem Dafoe captured the menace, duality, and murderous glee of Norman Osborn flawlessly in the 2002 film, and proved that he hadn’t lost his touch when reprising the role in the MCU’s No Way Home. In only two appearances, Dafoe proved that the Green Goblin was not only Spider-Man’s most dangerous foe, but also one of the greatest threats to whatever Marvel universe he finds himself in, having nearly collapsed the multiverse into the MCU’s mainstream reality.

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While many superhero film fans have wished to see Willem Dafoe play The Joker for years, his No Way Home appearance reignited and significantly increased the public’s interest in seeing him play the Clown Prince of Crime. Willem Dafoe himself has responded to the fan casting’s popularity, suggesting that he could play a Joker doppelgänger in a sequel to 2019’s Joker. The problem with the fan casting is that Dafoe’s performance as the Green Goblin wouldn’t translate directly into The Joker, and repeating his performance of the Green Goblin as The Joker would cheapen both supervillain roles.


Joker and Green Goblin

The Green Goblin and The Joker share numerous similarities. Both are cackling mass murderers with a specific theme and an obsession with their arch-nemesis, and both are among the greatest threats to their respective universe due to their cruelty and resourcefulness rather than their literal power. The two have several fundamental differences, however, as most versions of The Joker follow an ideology of sorts, wishing to settle a score with society, prove themselves as a macabre comedic genius, or simply be the center of attention. The Green Goblin, on the other hand, simply relishes in his unbridled cruelty and power, killing and tormenting for the sake of it and not having a particular set of ideals.


Willem Dafoe’s fan-casting as The Joker is largely tied to his iconic depiction of the Green Goblin, but the superficial similarities and motivational differences between the two characters mean that Dafoe would need to either repeat his Goblin performance as The Joker or drastically reimagine his version of The Joker. Either way, it’d be detrimental to both characters. Dafoe using his Goblin performance as the Joker would cheapen his Marvel role, but changing his version of The Joker wouldn’t be giving fans what they wanted in the first place.

Dafoe’s suggestion of playing a Joker impostor in a sequel to the 2019 film is a compromise of sorts, allowing him to take either route without harming either character. The best option, however, is simply having Dafoe reprise his Green Goblin role in future Marvel films, which is possible, thanks to the growing prominence of the multiverse. Willem Dafoe is more than talented enough to give an excellent performance as The Joker, but there’s no need for him to take the role when he’s already proven to be the best Green Goblin in his Spider-Man appearances.


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