Friday, June 01, 2007
Heath Ledger's Joker
You've probably seen this already - Heath Ledger as The Joker in next summer's The Dark Knight. I've delayed responding to it because I was just sort of made...uncomfortable?
Am I alone in thinking that this is wrong, though? And not just wrong, but wrong, wrong, wrong.
The immediate problem, to my mind, is that this Joker seems to lack the very neurotic vanity that nearly ever other incarnation suffers from. As many have suggested, there's something so neurotic about him that suggests he's hyper-rational - not one hair is out of place, his suit always looks 'just so', and his various plans to kill Batman are meticulous in the Rube Goldberg sense. Such a Joker is also purely a sadist - he gets off on the pain he causes others, not on his own, and is only captured because he enjoys the pain more than the victory. He would prefer to allow his victims some small victory so that he can put them through hell one more time. But that Joker is not the one we see in this picture.
We could also argue that the Joker is the death-drive given human form, and that he represents both Batman's and his own secret desire to enjoin in a ritual of repetitive trauma until one or both dies - the superbeing's tacit realization that they can't survive every battle, that the whole struggle is just a big joke that will end with their death. Joker's very ordered appearance, though perhaps no longer neurotic (though I can't see why these two interpretations are mutually exclusive), is an element of this highly ritualized performance. There's something masochistic about this kind of Joker - he desires to lose to Batman, to be captured, maybe even more than he desires causing him pain. This is self-inflicted pain, sure, but only in the most abstract sense - he wants to be defeated by his mirror-image.
The implication that the Joker has carved up his own face (or is celebrating his scarring somehow), just doesn't fit either model for me. It suggests some sort of unspecific psychopathology, a sadomasochist in the most superficial sense - and that's simply boring.