The joker and I

The Oscars this year disappointed me. I have nothing against Slumdog Millionaire, and perhaps it was the best candidate for all the awards it got. But not best director and best screenplay. To me, if "The Dark Knight" did not get these awards, then yes the Oscars are an annual semi-farce. I have heard this 'allegation' from many people at many different times. But this is the first time in my life that I've seen some of the movies that were nominated for the Oscars, and actually had an opinion about the movies which I came up with entirely by myself. :) But I don't wish to speak about biased Oscars, nor about selling India's poverty in the Slumdog Millionaire. And neither do I want to go on at length about a review of the Dark Knight or how Heath Ledger got the Oscar only because he is dead. Instead, I wish to talk about the Joker.

I would rank the insights I've gained from the Joker's character as being close to the kind of pondering I had slipped into after reading Ayn Rand's work. Yes, it has been that powerful. In the perfect world, he says, everyone has a plan. A truckload of soldiers blowing up or a couple of gang members being killed - that is part of the plan. But as soon as someone threatens that a single politician (or in the movie, the Mayor) is about to be blown up, then suddenly everyone panics. Because its not part of the plan. The soldiers signed up to die, and the gangsters deserve to die. Think about it - we've already assigned the work of who needs to live in poverty, who gets the fat paycheck and who gets to toil out at the factory overnight. If you reach a house and there is quite a crowd there, you can immediately tell who to ask for a cup of tea. It is all part of the plan - someone is supposed to fetch you your tea, and you are supposed to lounge about, sip tea and discuss pseudo-secular politics.

For all the cultured discussions and proponents of peace we speak of, and in spite of all our liberal outlook we profess to have, all this falls apart at the slightest hint of danger. And more importantly, it falls apart when we get power over others. Whether you're the Brahmin who sneers at the Kayastha wedding, or if you are the "babu" at the steel plant displaying your power over the other worker, we are still hungry wolves. The Joker would probably have received a PhD in philosophy from some university, or led a revolution somewhere else. To me, the Joker is an immense talent wasted to petty psychiatric fallings of the mind. Yes it is scary to see what such a mind can do when put to the wrong use. But imagine the possibilities with a mind like that put to constructive purposes, or even just to the critique of the society. He'll probably be a philosopher or a best-selling author. Like most philosophies, the ones that come with a certain shock value are the ones that can move you into action and make you think. I think the Joker's philosophy had such potential. It is like the metal which has been purified by fire - while the immediate effect is scorching, it also removes all germs, dust and vice. The Joker test should be the true test of loyalty: like in the movie the boatloads of prisoners and ordinary citizens are given to choose who lives. Are those really the principles you believe in or is it some misguided sense of self-righteousness? When the time comes, will you choose what you believe in or will you choose your own immediate survival? Can you really keep your word, or are you among those squealers who'll abandon friends at the slightest hint of your own danger? Yes, I'm fascinated.


  1. arre, itna upset mat ho!

    IMO, haven't seen both the movies to comment re :P

  2. Manasa, dekh lo dekh lo, and then we can talk :)

  3. I think the joker is really smart, or atleast his character, but i also think that his particular philosophy has to be pretty well formulated to motivate him to do what he does. If he sees the way our society works in the way he does, he hates and sees no hope to fix it and, due to whatever mental disorders, finds no problem in trying to destroy it. His critique of our social order not only points out it's flaws but how spineless and thoughtless most people are. The joker's partiucular perspective on life is what leads him to do the evil that he does. I'm not sure if his brand of thought is so specific and negative that it allows him to do what he does with joy, or if his brand of thought mixed with some mental dissorder or personality flaw is what grants him his lack of empathy. I'll just say that the joker could have used his mental talent for the better of society, but not this particular joker. Maybe some other joker in the multiverse. Forgive the typos, I'm bad at spelling.

  4. Anonymous, first of all, welcome onboard! :) Yours is a very thought-provoking comment, and definitely along the lines of what I had thought of when I composed this post. The joker's critique of the society is very accurate, I'll give you that. But if it justifies the killings, the mayhem and evil he represents - definitely no! You see, if all human beings in the world had the integrity of character and thought the same way the Batman is shown to possess, the Joker would never be able to thrive. His delight is in pointing out that nobody has that - he wants to break the "best of us" to prove his point.. by bribing some, threatening some, making friends kill and/or fight against friends. Therefore, his motive is to give us "a better class of criminals" ... since as he believes we "deserve" it.

    Now, the reason we do not deserve criminals or the evil happening to us is because we accept our shortcomings and work around them. We try to maintain social balance in such an order that the situation of desperate cannibalism and dog-eat-dog does not arise. If it does, yes of course, we would all (or, if you want to debate this, most of us will) fall. The Joker's objective in the movie is to bring up such situations for everyone and "watch as the world around him burns" through everyone failing.

    Some other multiverse - yes, sure! That is the point of the post: that this character had immense talent which by quirk of fate was put to the wrong use. Reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, actually, since he used to rue the lack of good criminals around himself.. telling that he would have been a great one if he decided to. The typos - don't worry... tough to keep track in the heat of the moment when you're trying to desperately capture your thought through your fingertips. :)


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