'We live in a society': Why this line from the new 'Justice League' trailer is trending

Jared Leto's Joker utters the much-memed phrase in a teaser for the Zack Snyder cut

A handout photo of Jared Leto as The Joker in Suicide Squad (Clay Enos / Warner Bros. Pictures) *** Local Caption ***  BLOG14jl-suicide-joker.jpg

If you use social media, chances are you will have seen it before.

The five little words are often used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, whether protesting an act of idiocy, deriding a public figure or ridiculing grand assertions of intellect.

Yes, we're talking about the "we live in a society" meme.

The seemingly profound phrase is, more often than not, accompanied by a photo of The Joker, one of Gotham City's most notorious villains, whether immortalised in cartoon form or taking the shape of one of the many actors who have portrayed him through the years.

However, the popular phrase has long been a misattribution – until now.

It actually stems back to a 1991 episode of Seinfeld, as spoken by George Costanza when he's pipped to the post at a payphone by a queue jumper.

Yet, in recent years, it has become intrinsically linked with the Joker, portrayed by the likes of Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix on the big screen.

The character is believed by many to be behind the term, yet the antagonist has never uttered the words on film or in print.

However, a newly released trailer for Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League includes a meta, self-aware use of the phrase.

Towards the end of the two-minute clip, Jared Leto's Joker appears, before uttering: "We live in a society ... where honour is a distant memory."

The simple, blink-and-you'll-miss it inclusion sent fans into a tailspin.

"The entire development of Zack Snyder's Justice League was just a years-long prank to put 'We live in a society' into a trailer," one Twitter user joked.

Even actor Leto gave a nod to the in-joke, replying to the official teaser post on Sunday with the comment: "We live in a society."

The phrase had even sparked a petition in 2018, with more than 50,000 participants calling for Warner Bros to include the line in 2019's Joker, starring Phoenix as the tortured villain.

While the addition of the line may be new, Justice League is not, having debuted to disappointing reviews in 2017.

Snyder had worked on the production before stepping down after the death of his daughter. He was replaced by director Joss Whedon, who is credited with having significantly altered the tone of Snyder's original vision.

Following the film's box-office failings, fans have long petitioned for a version crafted by Snyder that is more faithful to his intentions, resulting in the new four-hour revamp, helmed by the director.

Actors including Ben Affleck, who plays Batman, and Amber Heard, who plays Hera, shot new scenes for the cut, while Leto, who wasn't even involved in the original production, now makes an appearance.

Zack Snyder's Justice League will be released on HBO Max on Thursday, March 18.