“You just couldn’t let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” – the Joker.
I saw The Dark Knight a few weeks ago and fell in love with Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker. He was dark but funny, psychotic yet calculated, perverted yet… perverted. Watching him wreak havoc on the streets of Gothom City was confronting because, in many ways, he reminded me of myself. I’m sure a lot of people felt the same.
Why the Joker reminded me of myself
Let me get this clear. The Joker didn’t remind me of myself because I take pleasure in killing people. I don’t. In fact, my friends will tell you that I am not even that fantastic watching overly violent movies. So it wasn’t the murderer part of him that did it. What about the guy who likes to cause chaos for no reason other than that he likes to see people suffer? Nope. Not that either.
So why did the Joker remind me of myself? When I was sitting in the cinema watching the Joker licking his lips and blowing up the District Attorney I couldn’t help but feel some connection. But why? Maybe it has something to do with this quote:
“Don’t talk like one of them, you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak–like me. They need you right now. When they don’t…they’ll cast you out. Like a leper. See, their morals, their code: it’s a bad joke. They’re dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. You’ll see, when the chips are down these civilized people will eat each other.”
And I think that’s where the connection came from. I felt a little bit guilty. This crazy madman was speaking words that made sense to me. And the fact that Heath Ledger delivered them in the most amazing piece of “acting” I have seen in a long time made it all the more powerful.
You see, I am a little bit like one of those people he is talking about. It is quite easy to be a nice and kind and compassionate person when it is sunny and warm outside. But when things start to look grey and aren’t going my way I seem to lose that sense of morality. I snap. I am impatient. I am selfish. And that was the Joker’s main ambition in life – to prove that when there is chaos people will “eat each other”.
But what about Batman?
Batman, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. He believed in the good in people. He thought that, when under pressure, people would choose to do the right thing. Whatever you want to call it – divinity, buddha nature, inherent purity, etc. – Batman believed in it and he wanted to embody it. He wanted to be a physical manifestation of that inner goodness to show people that they could do the same.
And that is what I believe. Deep down I know that the basic nature of a human being is goodness. It is not evil.
But that is not what freaked me out about the Joker. As far as I can tell the Joker never said that the basic nature of humans was evil. No. What he said was that when the chips are down they would “eat each other”. And that concerns me.
I often wonder whether I would choose to do the right thing if the chips were down. Would I put other people before myself in a crisis or would I just work to save my own skin? I’d like to think that I would be a “Batman”. But as I sat in that cinema and watched Heath Ledger taunt Batman with these questions a little bit of fear crept in to my mind. I was afraid he was right.
So… the chips are down… are you Batman or are you the Joker?