The Clown Prince of Crime
The Harlequin of Hate
The Ace of Knaves
I know what I am talking about is old but since the Dark Knight is scheduled to rise again in 2012 I thought it’s a good time to get at the reason for this ascension. Very early on in The Dark Knight there’s a chilling moment involving a demented villain and an everyday thug .It’s over in an instant but from that point on the Joker has us hooked.
The Joker has been around for about 70 years now but never has he been so central to the scheme of things. The original Joker back in 1940 was based on the character of Conrad Veidt from “The Man Who Laughs.”, [the 1928 silent movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. The Joker from then onwards has gone from being a plain old mass murderer, a psychotic killer to an outright comic with the obvious exception of Jack Nicholson’s version which restored some part of the original idea. But somewhere along the line he’d always lacked the substance he warranted. He had ceased to be the anarchist and was now just another themed criminal.
On this occasion though Heath Ledger and writer-director Christopher Nolan created the perfect blend of psychosis and maniacal joy, coming out with a Joker who was just as ready with a bomb as with a joke. As the movie played along I thought to myself there’s more to the Joker this time than the usual representation of his true intentions. Before going to The Dark Knight I decided to re-watch Batman Begins. You can’t help but notice the similarities between the two movies. The main ‘villain’ in Batman Begins, Ra’s al Ghul (played by Liam Neeson) heads a secret society which is trying to rid Gotham of all the sins and hardships albeit using very draconian means. As David Goyer (writer) puts it “He’s not crazy in the way that all the other Batman villains are. He’s not bent on revenge; he’s actually trying to heal the world.” I had also recently reacquainted myself with Freidrich Nietzsche. He believed that every once in a while revolution was essential to maintaining a healthy society. He also believed that if a group of noble men overthrows a failing establishment most certainly they too will, after a certain duration lose sight of the values they initially represented, thus presenting the need for yet another revolt. The Joker tries to bring out the deficiencies of society as we have it today, the plans, the order, and the rules. What also gives him credibility is that he always seems to keep his word, though that is not his only noble trait, by rejecting his half of the loot he exchanges reward or social status for an objective greater than himself. The basic idea of the Joker is that if we all could get away with murder, we would murder someone. He acts as someone who is the wish fulfilment part of us. The joker can make fun of the fact that because Wayne’s parents are killed in the street he has to go and dresses up like a circus bat. What we must not lose sight of here is the fact that our protagonists are not superheroes, possess no superpowers and are products of their environment.
The following is an excerpt, which I feel encapsulates the film, from The Joker’s monologue to Harvey Dent:
“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am; I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know; I JUST DO THINGS. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. Gordon’s got plans; you know; they’re schemers; schemers trying to control their little worlds. I am not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So when I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know that I’m telling the truth. It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer; you had plans and look where that got you. I just did what I do best-I took your plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. You know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!!! Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I AM AN AGENT OF CHAOS. Oh and you know the thing about chaos, its fair.”
The true sense of the Joker’s being can be gauged from his inclination (sentences in bold) towards the idea that the current establishment has been present for so long that the establishment has become more important than the individual. People have in general been so thoroughly brainwashed that they only tend to panic when the authority itself is threatened.
On the other side of the mirror is the Batman, using his cold hard logic trying to rid Gotham of all its evil. But Batman, in all his noble rage is probably more of a cause than the solution. Probably Ra’s al Ghul’s arson would’ve saved Gotham. Batman operating above the law is still acting as an agent of the authority and preventing much needed change. As the Joker says to the Batman” You complete me” you just have to believe him. One on this occasion most definitely cannot exist without the other. The Batman too as the Joker claims is in his own way a wrench in the gears.