The Dark Knight is a movie about Batman’s struggle to remain a hero. When the Joker declares that people will die every day that Batman doesn’t take off his mask, the people of Gotham become restless. They call for him to turn himself in to the Joker. The Joker is a misunderstood character, however.
The question this week is: Is the Joker really insane? Does he believe in anarchy like he claims?
Let’s start with how Alfred explain the Joker to Batman. He says, “With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that you don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.”
“So why steal them?”
“Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Alfred tells how this bandit raided a caravan and simply threw away the precious stones he stole. He is saying that some people just want to cause hurt to the world just because. This is how Bruce Wayne sees the Joker from that point on. He sees him as a man with nothing to lose, and nothing that will make him crack. He sees him as a man who has no structure. He sees him as a man who just does. Let’s look at another point of view, from the Joker himself. Here is what he says to Harvey in the hospital.
“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’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic… their attempts to control things really are. I took your little 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. Hmm? You know what… 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 ah, gang banger will get shot or a truck load of soldiers will be blown up. Nobody panics. Because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die. Well then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy! Upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.”
Alfred, though he doesn’t refer to the Joker exactly, says that he is a man who just wants to see the world fall apart. Joker says that he doesn’t have plans. He just wants anarchy: A society without rule. We hear multiple times in this film that Joker is crazy, insane, a freak, etc.
Here’s the thing. The Joker has a facade. He claims to be someone who just does. Who doesn’t scheme. The truth is, he is the biggest schemer of them all. The opening bank scene. The grenade in his jacket. The mayor’s assassination attempt. The judge’s car exploding. The cell phone stomach bomb. The hospital explosion. The battleship sequence. The clown-civilian swap. Those plots were complex, thought out, and all driven by human behavior. His plans never involved solely a time bomb that was going to explode. Each and every plan involved humans acting on impulse. His plans were heavily coordinated. He brought the darkest side out of humans, and knew how they would react so well that he based his plans on human impulse.
The opening scene. Joker has school buses full of money after robbing multiple banks. Later on, he burns his share of money given to him by Chechen. He knows that Chechen is driven by money, and burning his own share infront of the criminal would make him afraid. The Joker must really be nuts, is what is going on in Chechen’s head. The Joker understands what makes humans tick. He is not insane. In fact, he is quite the opposite.
His whole master plan is coordinated. He admits that he has a plan to Batman.
“This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.”
“Until their spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist fight with you? No. You need an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.”
“What did you do?”
“I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!”
He attempted to strike fear into the people of Gotham, and in case it didn’t work, he has a corrupted Harvey Dent. To see the face of Gotham, the white night, become corrupted, would destroy all hope that the people of Gotham may have.
Does Joker believe in anarchy? No. He is a very methodical villain, and he distracts people from that fact by acting like a rabid dog: unpredictable and scary. The Joker’s goal is simple. Not only is it to break Gotham, but to have Batman break his rule. Batman’s one rule is simple: Don’t kill. The Joker knows it very well. As he is on the street, Batman charging at him with his Batpod, he yells, “Hit me! Come on, hit me!” Batman yells as he veers away from the Joker, tumbling off of his Batpod. The anger that Batman feels is just what the Joker intended. The Joker knows what angers Batman. He knows that he won’t break his rule. We know that Bruce Wayne feels like he is not fit for the role of Batman any longer, and this part of the movie contributes to that feeling. If he can’t kill this “lunatic” who has killed multiple civilians already, how can he carry on with his responsibility as Batman?
The question this week is: Is the Joker really insane? Does he really believe in anarchy like he claims? I strongly believe that the answer to those questions is no. Please leave your thoughts in the comments. Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know below.