With Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Gotham’s most infamous villain, the Joker, receiving early critical adulation, talk surrounding the Bat’s archnemesis has begun again. Some fans are already comparing his interpretation to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance, using glimpses of powerful moments seen in the trailer. However, others have reinitiated a far different discussion — traversing a landscape only “real fans” occasionally dare to travel.
DC enthusiasts and comic book aficionados have started to ask, once again, why the Joker proves so fascinating. What about the Joker makes him eerily captivating? The ironic part is, an origin story may do away with an integral part of his identity — the absence of complete understanding. However, this remains one piece of the puzzle.
Reason 1: His goal is merely to make room for chaos; ordinary motivations are amiss
The Joker is one of the most horrifying villains in the DC Universe, for he does not murder from a place of loss. He does not act out from revenge; as one fan puts it, “He wants to aid the universe in its ultimate goal by slowly dismantling everything order and making way for chaos.”
The Joker enjoys the madness; the torture, the chaos, the killing, the pain he inflicts upon the city…it’s all part of his game. While most people play a round of cards, the Joker excuses himself from the deck for a far more twisted pastime.
The Joker is so compelling for he lacks typical human motivations; however, using the word “crazy” is an understatement, and a misnomer, for he is so level-headed and calculated in his approach. He is madly intelligent to a fault; thus, he almost always wins several rounds against the Bat, allowing the game to grow, and fueling his next outing.
An origin story may work to change this very facet — showing how the Joker comes to be can take away a bit of the filmic mystery; however, the idea of the Joker, the representation already forged for the character, will likely live beyond this singular installment.
Reason 2: The Joker doesn’t want to kill Batman
This reason is one of the most unsettling of them all, for, in the history of comics, when has a villain wanted its counterpart to keep on kicking? The Joker wants Batman alive because, without him, the Joker’s game comes to an end. Joker’s life fulfillment ceases to be with Batman’s death, virtually killing the Joker’s reason for existence. The two are interdependent. One fan explained:
Strange as it seems (and as he tells Batman in quite a few versions himself), the Joker and the Batman are quite similar. While Batman has one thing that he will never do, kill another person, the Joker will never kill Batman because he “makes life interesting” for him.
The fact that the Joker’s continued chaos and motivation for madness exist within Batman himself makes the villain so compelling. Unlike typical villains, his death leads to more than just saving the day; the Bat kills a counterpart to his own identity. Batman won’t kill and the Joker won’t kill Batman; together, they live on to repeat the cycle, only further delving into each other’s broken psyches.
Reason 3: Heath Ledger intensified the admiration
Though less complex than the two reasons above, you cannot argue that the Joker’s popularity, and fans’ fondness for the character, rose to a different level after Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn. This is not to say that Jack Nicholson’s interpretation was weaker, it’s just to say that Ledger’s was more captivating in terms of the degree of madness at play. One fan stated:
…the popularity of joker increased when “heath ledger”(joker of dark knight rises) won oscar for his role, it was the first and last time that a actor won oscar for his role as superhero or super villain. more to this his acting took the madness and performance of joker character to the whole new level…
Heath Ledger’s Joker gave the character a newfound resurgence in popularity that has yet to die down; his Joker, as one fan explained, is easier to idolize than Batman, for “madness is like gravity…all it needs is a push.” And with Joaquin Phoenix in an origin story, we will, at last, see one possible story behind the iconic villain’s “push.”
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