First and foremost, the thing that strikes me about The Joker is that nothing he says is incorrect, and he is proven correct time and time again. The Joker's main philosophy is that self-interest is the language of the world, that it's every man for himself, and he is proven wrong twice, and twice only, throughout the movie: first, in the climactic scene of the Prisoner's Dilemma played out on ships, and second, in Harvey Dent turning himself in as Batman. In the first scene, neither ship blows up the other even though it's in each ship's best interest to do so. I could argue that each does this only to escape from the guilt, but that's an essay for another time. As for the second scene, Harvey Dent later shows himself to be just like all the others, so I think this is a moot point. Every other time, from trying to kill a politician to save themselves, to gangsters attacking each other with snapped pool cues to save themselves in "tryouts", to The White Knight himself turning dark and killing police officers and people in power.
I find that one of the most effective quotes in the movie is Joker saying to Batman, "They need you right now, but when they don't... they'll cast you out. Like a leper. See, their morals, their code: it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these, uh… these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster; I'm just ahead of the curve."
People, carved by thousand of years of evolution, only function in their own self-interest. The Joker is such an effective villain because, more than proving a foil for Batman, The Joker symbolizes human nature itself. The Batman's idealism is proven repeatedly to be a futile force, while The Joker's cynicism is proven to be spot on. This conflict is exemplified in the struggle of Harvey Dent/Two-Face, who starts off sharing The Batman's idealistic views of hope and altruism and self-sacrifice, but is corrupted to the views of the masses and becomes what would be the symbol of evil if Bruce Wayne had not taken the fall (thus corrupting even the remaining symbol of good in Gotham).
Many people think that The Dark Knight has a relatively happy ending, what with The Joker being captured and Harvey's rampage being ended and all, but the way I see it... Batman loses. He's forced to see that his principles, the views that people are inherently good and work for the good of all, is misplaced. Indeed, he's forced to accept that, to defeat evil, he'd have to break his moral code and become exactly what he hates most, a morally abstentious monster. Thus, evil will never go out of style; even if The Joker has been captured, he's proven that the very people that Batman works to save are just as bad, if not worse. How do you win if your duty is to protect the evil you are fighting? Can you blame me for being cynical?
I plan to write another essay on another film. The public's homework is to watch Fight Club. Jason and Jack will concur that it's freakin' fantastic.
- Adarsh Nednur
We have your children. Unless you like our Facebook page here, we're going to give them back. Ew, kids.