Since the Bronze Age of Comics, the Joker has been interpreted as an archetypal trickster, displaying talents for cunning intelligence, social engineering, pranks, theatricality, and idiomatic humor. Like the trickster, the Joker alternates between malicious violence and clever, harmless whimsy. He is amoral and not driven by ethical considerations, but by a shameless and insatiable nature, and although his actions are condemned as evil, he is necessary for cultural robustness. The trickster employs amoral and immoral acts to destabilize the status quo and reveal cultural, political, and ethical hypocrisies that society attempts to ignore. However, the Joker differs in that his actions typically only benefit himself. The Joker possesses abnormal body imagery, reflecting an inversion of order. The trickster is simultaneously subhuman and superhuman, a being that indicates a lack of unity in body and mind. In Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, the Joker serves as Batman's trickster guide through the hero's own psyche, testing him in various ways before ultimately offering to cede his rule of the Asylum to Batman.
Rather than the typical anarchist interpretation, others have analysed the character as a Marxist (opposite to Batman's capitalist), arguing that anarchism requires the rejection of all authority in favor of uncontrolled freedom. The Joker rejects most authority, but retains his own, using his actions to coerce and consolidate power in himself and convert the masses to his own way of thinking, while eliminating any that oppose him. In The Killing Joke, the Joker is an abused member of the underclass who is driven insane by failings of the social system. The Joker rejects material needs, and his first appearance in Batman #1 sees him perpetrate crimes against Gotham's wealthiest men and the judge who had sent him to prison. Batman is wealthy, yet the Joker is able to triumph through his own innovations.
Ryan Litsey described the Joker as an example of a "Nietzschean Superman", arguing that a fundamental aspect of Friedrich Nietzsche's Superman, the "will to power", is exemplified in all of the Joker's actions, providing a master morality to Batman's slave morality. The character's indomitable "will to power" means he is never discouraged by being caught or defeated and he is not restrained by guilt or remorse. Joker represents the master, who creates rules and defines them, who judges others without needing approval, and for whom something is good because it benefits him. He creates his own morality and is bound only by his own rules without aspiring to something higher than himself, unlike Batman, the slave, who makes a distinction between good and evil, and is bound to rules outside of himself (such as his avoidance of killing), in his quest for justice. The Joker has no defined origin story that requires him to question how he came to be, as like the Superman he does not regret or assess the past and only moves forward.
The Joker's controlling and abusive relationship with Harley Quinn has been analysed as a means of the Joker reinforcing his own belief in his power in a world where he may be killed or neutralized by another villain or Batman. Joker mirrors his identity through Harley in her appearance, and even though he may ignore or act indifferent towards her, he continues to try and subject her to his control. When Harley successfully defeats Batman in Mad Love (1994), the Joker, emasculated by his own failure, severely injures her out of fear of what the other villains will think of him. However, while Harley recovers, the Joker sends her flowers which she accepts, reasserting his control over her.
Harley's co-creator, Paul Dini, describes their relationship as Harley being someone who makes the Joker feel better about himself, and who can do the work that he does not want to do himself. In the 1999 one-shot comic Batman: Harley Quinn, the Joker decides to kill Harley, after admitting that he does care for her, that their relationship is romantic, and that these feelings prevent him from fulfilling his purpose. Removing the traditional male-female relationship, such as in the Batman: Thrillkiller storyline where the Joker (Bianca Steeplechase) is a female and involved in a lesbian relationship with Harley, their relationship lacks any aspects of violence or subjugation.