I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately with headlines like “Why Heath
Ledger’s Joker Will Never Be Matched”. I was going to do a take down of
that for several reasons; he’s largely a product of a post-9/11 world
that will eventually move on from that mindset, The Arkham game portrayals are better really, etc. But while I was mulling over that listicle I really sat down and deconstructed The Dark Knight.
I’ve come to the conclusion The Joker is actually the hero of the
film. More than that, he’s arguably better at it than Batman.
consider how we meet The Joker in that opening scene which will go down
as one of the greatest heist scenes ever shot. Joker stages an
elaborate plot to rob a bank and even though there’s a dramatic reveal
near the end we all knew it was him because the clip had been released
as a promo long before it came out. So everyone who saw that film was
already in the mindset, “Here’s The Joker, what crime is he going to
The thing is, he doesn’t pull a crime. He stages
an elaborate bout of vigilante justice worthy of Batman himself. The
bank is a mob bank. It houses millions of dollars of funds gained
through extortion, drugs, theft, murder, you name it. Not only does The
Joker rob the bank, he does so in a way in which all his criminal
accomplices murder each other one by one thinking that they’ll get a
bigger cut if they do. This is supposed to look diabolical bit of
insanity but it’s really him immediately eliminating five dangerous
murderers while he’s literally in the middle of crippling the mob
Swap The Joker out for, say, The Punisher
for that scene. Sure, he’d be a killer with a gun and killers with guns
are how we know guys are bad in Batman movies, but the real result is
that The Joker completes a major anti-mob strike while getting a quintet
of thugs off the streets for good. He doesn’t kill any civilians, and
only wounds the manager with a shotgun in self-defense. Even then he
lets the guy live with a joke.
In fact, for the whole movie his target is mostly the same mob that Batman has apparently been unable to really stop since Batman Begins.
Not only are these crime families still going strong, but they are
augmented by the fact that Batman was unable to stop the spread of
Scarecrow’s fear toxin, creating a permanently deranged underclass that
are now presumably desperate and starving. It’s these largely forgotten
downtroddens that The Joker recruits for his army, which implies that
Gotham has left them to rot.
granted, The Joker also wages a war against the institutions of law in
Gotham including assassinating judges and commissioners. That is clearly
wrong, but again, look at it from The Joker’s point of view. We know
that the police and the courts are corrupt. It’s one of the main reasons
that Bruce Wayne became Batman in the first place and why he only
trusts James Gordon and Harvey Dent. No one else is incorruptible.
if the system is so broken that it requires a man like Batman to
dispense justice then why is it worth preserving in the first place? If
you’re The Joker and you hate the mob then why would your plans stop at
robbing them and killing their henchmen? The upper echelons all have the
supposed legitimate government catering to them, which is the sort of
joke that might indeed make a man become The Joker…
“You must be angry at exploitation and things like that”
panel from crazy american anti-communist christian propaganda comic.
From ‘Marx, Lenin, Mao and Christ’, a title which accidentally hints to the anti-capitalist nature of Jesus Christ, the original revolutionary (as I’ve heard that evangelical monks used to say in the 60s). The comic was published in 1977, a year after Mao died, by Open Doors.