In honor of the upcoming film “Suicide Squad,” I have decided to focus today’s article to the Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker. Widely considered to be one of the best villains of all time, both in the comics and on screen, I wanted to dedicate this article to discovering what exactly makes him such an interesting and pivotal character as well as how he has affected cinema as a whole.
His Relationship With Batman
The Joker has one of the most unique relationships with a protagonist in the history of both cinema and comics. In comics particularly, he stands out for his color in flair. Back in the golden age of comic books, when the Joker made his debut, the relationship between a hero and a villain was pretty well established. The hero was bright and colorful, fighting for hope and the american way, and the villain was dark and evil, fighting for his own wealth and power. However, when it comes to the Joker and Batman, the Joker is the colorful one. He is the one who wears bright colors and fantastic comedic gadget to get what he wants. Batman on the other hand, is dark and twisted. He dresses like a nocturnal creature known for its ability to frighten people and is constantly shrouded in black.
Even more than the simple color switch, which became increasingly common in batman villains, The Joker regards his arch nemesis in a truly novel way. While other villains are constantly obsessed with their own personal hatred for the hero, or are just trying to get him out of their hair, the Joker seems to genuinely like, or at least appreciate, Batman. He is often quoted remarking that he couldn’t live without the Bat and that with every agent of chaos there must be an agent of order. This is an idea that was perfectly supported in The Dark Knight, where Heath Ledger’s Joker outright says he does not wish to kill Batman.
The Joker is also a unique villain when it comes to his origin story. As expressed in The Dark Knight, people fear what they don’t understand. Joker’s strange mindset and ability to mass murder millions without remorse is certainly alarming, but not knowing what propels him forward is even scarier. Since the Joker’s debut 70 years ago, many other villains in cinema have had their origins shrouded in mystery. Ever the original though, the Joker continues to be one step ahead of all the competition. It has been revealed that the Joker is so insane he cannot remember his origin either. This helps account for all the different suggested origins given in the comics, as well as making the Joker even more frightening. This development means the Joker kills for pure joy and not motivation. He is basically an amnesiac, just instead of pulling a Wolverine and seeking out his past, he simply wants “to watch the world burn.”
In addition, he doesn’t care about gaining money or power. In this way, Joker is the true incarnation of Chaos. He represents an evil that no other villain in cinema possesses. In many ways, Joker is without motivation and acts purely on impulse and joy. He is a true sociopath and feels no remorse for his victims or those he’s injured. Like his name suggests, he sees life as a big game.
There is an unspoken rule about the Joker, he can frown for a couple of seconds or fake a certain emotion to manipulate someone, but he must smile or laugh constantly. As long as he remains the immovable, laughing maniac we all know, it is impossible for any film to portray him badly.
The character of the Joker has changed cinema and comics as a whole. The most obvious example of this is the creation of more psychotic villains. This is truly relevant when it comes to the rest of Batman’s rogues gallery and the litany of Joker rip-offs. (Riddler and Trickster anyone?) However, there is a more surprising impact as well. The Joker changed the way the world looked at villains. They were no longer 2-dimensional beings with simple and selfish objectives, they could be dark complex and brutal. No one feels sympathy for the Joker, yet it is still partially because of him that so many films put ample focus on the villain. The rest of DC’s complex and interesting villains would never have existed without the success of the Joker. Other non-superhero films that revolve around traditionally bad guys, like the Godfather, without Joker proving that the POV of a villain is just as, if not more, interesting than the heroes.
Strangely, despite the growing amount of Joker-centric stories he remains the same. Since the beginning he has been a heartless murderer who felt nothing for the swarms of people he tortured and killed. It is impossible to feel sympathy for him and it is impossible for him to want sympathy. There is no villain completely like him and he will remain a crucial part of cinematic history for eternity.
By: The ScreenRat