Joker: The Perfect Villain

by talkbackty on Apr 11, 2012

Part 10 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. To see all entries, click here.

Heath Ledger as Joker in The Dark Knight is one of the greatest performances ever captured on film. Any person on the planet could spend a lifetime studying every frame of that movie and never be able to copy Ledger's performance. An actor's ability is just one part of the overall impression viewers are left with, the rest is created by the script, stylists, make-up artists, editors, cameramen, and, obviously, the director's vision. However, Nolan's Joker will be remembered as one of the greatest villains of all time because he represents a portion of humanity that exists within all of us, that bubbles underneath the surface, encompassing the thoughts we think in those still, small moments when we are alone. Joker is us, and that is why he is terrifying.

The first scene that attempts to explain Joker's particular brand of insanity occurs between Bruce Wayne and his faithful butler Alfred.

Joker is presented as a man "who wants to watch the world burn." A psychopath to the fullest extent imaginable, uninterested in any logical process and solely invested in bringing about chaos. A far cry from most "normal" people who only wish to live their lives pursuing the things that make them happy. But when Wayne questions Alfred about why a man would steal if uninterested in making money the butler's only response is, "...because he thought it was good sport." The Joker finds enjoyment and meaning in the things he does, that is what drives him. Is that not the same thing we are all seeking, to find enjoyment and meaning in the things we do?

Later in the film, when Batman is interrogating Joker, the villain comments on the "bad joke" society has created.
By saying that individuals are "only as good as the world allows them to be," Joker is setting up his final soliloquy. Of course, he is hardly the first to point out this fatal flaw in humanity. Every post-apocalyptic story ever told, written or filmed is about how quickly civilization can come undone. And those stories are a reflection of the horrors all around us, from poverty-stricken third world countries to the looting and rioting after Hurricane Katrina. Like an assembly line, the safest, more profitable areas of our world produce men and women of impeccable morality. But move those men and women to a place where they are continually threatened or fighting for the basic necessities and how long before their morals evaporate?

Joker's confrontation with Harvey Dent allows us to witness the creation of a villain. From high atop the social ladder, given everything the world had to offer, Dent follows the Joker's rhetoric down the rabbit hole until he becomes Two-Face.
Villains are two sides of the same coin. On one side are the schemers, those who believe that through planning and process power can be attained. On the other side are the doers, like Joker, who just act because it feels right. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, bouncing back and forth between schemers and doers. So if Joker is an example of a doer, who represents the schemers? The corrupt politicians and world leaders. The dictator who's people starve while he eats off a gold plate. All the people who figure out the system, and take advantage of the rest of us.

"You see, nobody panics when things go according to plan." The recent Trayvon Martin/George Zimmeran case demonstrates Joker's point. Passions are stirred and tempers are enraged for one simple reason...seventeen year olds are not supposed to die on the street while carrying a bag of skittles. That's not part of the plan. And when they do die on the street, society panics. 

Now imagine you could introduce a new way of thinking, a better way of thinking. A way that guaranteed everything was fair for everyone. How far would you go to insure that the world was fair? Would you tweet about it? Write a blog? Tell a friend? Protest in the street? Destroy a building? Would you be an agent of chaos if the cause was right?

As Joker says, that is all he is, an agent of chaos. Terrifying because viewers can see where he is coming from. Terrifying because he seems to say the things we feel. Terrifying because he blurs the line between fiction and reality. Joker is the perfect villain because everyone is afraid of becoming him.