Dark Knight Joker Analysis

The Dark Knight’s Joker, as portrayed by Heath Ledger, is one of the more interesting villains of recent cinema. While a great deal of praise has been leveled on the character and his portrayal, not so much analysis has been performed on the character itself. This article contains spoilers for those that have not seen the movie.

Dark Knight Joker Back Story

The Joker’s back story is never truly explained, which is interesting in itself as the Joker basically came from out of nowhere as though a force of nature rather than a human being. The Joker himself gives a few explanations as to his history, but each of them is essentially a lie about some sort of failed family unit. Despite this, there are some conclusions which can be drawn concerning the Joker’s back story by judging aspects of his personality and appearance.

The first is that the Joker was at least once the victim of a gang related attack as the smile cut across his face, called a Glasgow Smile, is associated with gang related activities. This suggests that the joker either was himself in a gang or was the innocent victim of a gang attack.

The second aspect of the Joker’s back story that can be ascertained is that he had poor family experiences. While both of the stories he tells are lies, they both include family tragedy as aspects of that lie. This suggests that he has some sort of family-related trauma in his past.

What Does the Joker Represent?

The Joker really represents the Dionysian, the underlying savage nature of humanity. However, rather than being a typical villain that simply represents the Dionysian, the Joker is aware of what he represents and seeks to show Gotham City that they are actually all like him underneath it all. Thus, all of his actions in the Dark Knight are actually him trying to show Gotham how evil they truly are when the rules of society are no longer of benefit to them all. Due to this, the Joker actually gets defensive when he is called crazy, defending the validity of his views and even getting visibly upset when they are proven wrong towards the end. The Joker is thus not an anarchist or psychopath, and is not truly a nihilist. The Joker seems to hold the view that legitimate morality exists on a theoretical level, but that humanity will always choose against it when it goes against their personal wishes.

Relationship Between Batman and the Joker

Dark Knight Joker Interrogation Scene

The relationship between batman and the joker is that they both work outside the laws towards a goal, as well as adopt a theatrical persona to head towards achieving that goal. The difference between them is that the Batman aims ultimately to restore order and law to Gotham whereas the Joker aims to completely free it from it and expose Gotham for what it really is. In a way, the Joker was actually created by Batman as before him the theatrical concepts did not exist. The underlying theme is that Batman’s presence in Gotham rids the city of some crimes, but attracts a different sort of criminal.

Did the Joker Win?

One confusing aspect of the Dark Knight is attempting to figure out who truly won. Earlier in the film, Alfred stated clearly that, ‘some men just want to watch the world burn’ in reference to a Burmese criminal, and by inference the Joker. However, a little later in the film Alfred states taht in order to catch the criminal they burnt the forest down, which seemingly prompts Bruce Wayne/Batman to use Lucius Fox’s sonar technology to spy on the entire city of Gotham. If the Joker’s point here was that people abandon their moral beliefs in times of trouble, he certainly seems to have provided ample evidence of this as:

Harvey Dent was corrupted
Batman spied on the entire city, eroding the very civil liberties he was defending
Lucius Fox believed the spying was wrong, but still went along with it
Police commissioner Gordon then goes on to lie to the entire city

However, while the above is true, the Joker also lost in the end as Batman never broke his rule not to murder others. Furthermore, Gordon never stopped trying to help the city of Gotham and the prisoners did not destroy the other boat.

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