Monsters, rather fictional or real, all portray a sense of immoral freedom, an escape from social norms and boarders. When we hear monster, normally we think of a supernatural spirit or an inhuman creature or beast however sometimes monsters are those who lurk around us. Sometimes monsters are our neighbors or a regular civilian. One fictional human monster who has been glorified in films over the years is Batman’s nemesis The Joker. The Joker can be portrayed as a monster for many reasons which will be discussed throughout this article. Throughout this evaluation, I have evaluated an older version of the Joker in the Batman film played by Jack Nicholson, a newer version of the critically acclaimed Joker in The Dark Knight film played by Heath Ledger and a modern day Joker named James Holmes who admired the fictional character so much until it became of him.

In the 1989 Batman film, the Joker starts off as an ordinary man named Jack Naiper. Jack works along with crime boss Carl Grissom who is upset at the presence and resilience of Harvey Dent, the new district attorney of Gotham City. Worried that Dent will find out about their connection with the Axis Chemical Plant, Jack suggest that they break in and steal the files that could potentially incriminate them. Carl agrees with Jack and sends him to do the job. During the break in scene at Axis Chemicals, Jack and his man find the safe of the plant files only to discover that all the files are missing. Suspicious of being set up, Jack sends his men to be on watch out, upon the scene, officers and Gordon show up, Gordon orders that Jack be taken into custody alive. However Batman has plans of his own when he corners Jack and catches Jack right before he makes contact with a vat of chemicals. Here comes the big reveal of the transformation of Jack to the Joker! Such a reveal must be a horrific, intense, dark, dramatic and gruesome cliff hanger right? Wrong, Jack falls into a large tank of chemicals that looks like green slime from Nickelodeon, ta-da! Wow, that scene had me at the edge of my seat. Turns out Joker is this sinister, horrifying, mentally unstable person because he fall into green slime- I mean chemicals, that must explain all the malicious mischievous schemes. The cringe worthy scene shows Batman letting go of Jack, allowing him to fall into the chemicals before he rushes away. Gordon orders the officers to not mention what they saw and the next day Jack’s death is ruled as a suicide. Surprise! Jack’s not dead, he just looks like a cheap clown. He goes to see a surgeon to get his face repaired but the chemicals have permanently bleached his skin pale white, his hair green and froze his face so that he has a permanent smile. I get it, Joker is always smiling, everything is comical to him. However, Joker’s smile doesn’t make you want to run and hide in a safe place nor does his smile cause you to tremble in fear, rather his smile looks like he’s had cosmetic surgery or better yet, botox. Now I see the inspiration of every upper class housewife, the Jack Nicholson Joker should be on a poster of every botox advertisement.

The next scene portrays the Joker in action when he returns to the Crime Boss, Carl Grissom’s penthouse, believing that Grissom tipped off the police and set him up to die. He reveals his new face for the first time as he introduces himself as the Joker before killing Grissom. The scene couldn’t be less believable, failing to portray the deranged Joker, he shoots Grissom about three to four times then proceeds to laugh however his laugh isn’t spine chilling, rather it sounds like the hyenas from Lion King. During a meeting with Grissom’s men, Joker tells them that Grissom went away for a while and put him in charge. When the men are not convinced, the Joker “electrocutes” one of them with what looks like a hand buzzer used in childish pranks. In a press conference held soon after, one of the crime bosses announced that Grissom is missing and his associates control the Grissom Empire, excluding Joker. Joker then appears at the conference and seeks revenge. Perhaps he’ll plot some evil well thought out plan or manipulate everyone as he plays puppeteer to a maliciously devised scheme. That sounds like something the Joker would do right? Well I hate to disappoint you but the Joker stabs the crime boss in the throat with a pink feather pen. A feather pen, not really a go to weapon for a criminal but I guess if the city’s most notorious criminal fo to weapon is a pen then it must be dangerous.

The movie goes on and on showing the Joker perform tedious crimes while still wearing that botox smile and sounding like a hyena laugh. The film fails to capture the psychotic break of the Joker, with only a handful of random laughing and dancing throughout the movie. The monster thesis that Jack Nicholson’s Joker connects with is thesis number seven which states how monsters are our children, these monsters question how we perceive the world. The Joker in the 1989 Batman film was a creation of crime boss Grissom who sent him on the mission to steal the files from the Axis Chemicals where the incident of him falling into the chemicals occurred. Batman himself is also responsible for the creation of the Joker in this movie because Batman let go of Joker which caused Joker to fall into the chemicals and as a result of the chemicals, to transformed him into the Joker; Batman could’ve prevented this from happening had he turned the Joker into custody of the officers. Jeffery Cohen explained this theory in a statement, “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.” (Cohen, 1997.) This quote explains how we are familiar with the darkness, monsters because they are a part of us.

The next Joker evaluated is Heath Ledger role in the critically acclaimed movie The Dark Knight. With all the hype regarding the portrayal of Heath Ledger’s Joker, I just had to see for myself. My expectations were meant and without let down, I marveled at the well constructed, well written well directed, and well produced capture of the Joker’s personality and mannerisms. In this movie, Joker starts off in a well self orchestrated crime scene where he is robbing a bank and each man working for him are all wearing clown masks. Throughout the scene each robber reveals that he is to kill the other as he shoots his partner as an order from the Joker so that there is one less share of the money. This continues on until all the men are all dead and all the money is loaded on a school bus that miraculously drives through the bank. There the Joker shoots the last man who helped him load the bus with million of dollars worth of money then proceeds to drive the bus away from the crime scene and onto the street in the midst of several other school bus just as the police began to arrive. What a great way to start the movie off with a strategic plan with perfect precision and timing, truly showing Joker’s thought process in committing a crime. The movie does well to show how the Joker doesn’t care about tedious crimes such as robbing banks when in a later scene he sets all the money on fire. The Joker wears pale white paint on his face, dark black circles painted around his eyes and red paint stretched across his lips. The paint is smeared and dirty as opposed to previous Jokers where they look rather perfectly pout together. His hair is dirty and slightly dyed green; the smear and dirtiness of the Joker’s makeup derives a feeling of fear, his face is scary and unkept like how his mind is unstable. Overall, his appearance adds to the realness, rawness and authenticity of his character.

Throughout the movie, there is a central theme with the Joker, he’s psychotic, he loves the thrill of the game. He orchestrates many plans that put civilian lives in jeopardy in order to get back at the Joker and at times he simply wanted to play the game of life or death merely because he was bored. Within thirty minutes of the movie, Joker explains how he got the scares on his face, he tells a criminal that his dad was a drunk and abused his mother and when his dad saw him, his dad saw him, he grabbed a knife and asked “Why so serious?” as he cuts slits on both slides of his mouth which makes him appear like his smiling. This is a drastic contrast from the 1989 Joker where he became Joker by simply falling into chemicals, the 2008 Joker has a more sinister, dark past. This background explains the reason behind the Joker’s face and personality and how it has effected him. As a result, he carries a knife with him everywhere he goes throughout the movie. In one scene where he is finally caught and arrested, the police investigate his stuff where they found multiple knives in his pocket. However, in another scene, he began to tell another fib about his scar, saying that his wife also told he’s too serious, he needs to smile more. One day they carve her face and he didn’t have money to afford her surgery to repair her face. She cant take it and he wants to see her smile again so he takes a blade and slits his mouth to show her that he doesn’t care about the scars but after she couldn’t stand the sight of him and leaves him. He states, “now I see the funny side, I’m always smiling now.” This is a contrast from his last story and at the end of the movie he asks Batman the same question, want to now how I got these scars? Throughout the movie you began to acknowledge he’s a pathological liar and you notice his obsession with knives, in one scene he says that guns are too quick, you can’t “savor all the emotions.” He continues on to explain how in a person’s last moments, they show you who they really are, so in a way he knows your friends better than you do. This scene displays Joker’s intense insanity, he would rather kill you with a knife because its more personable, he can watch you suffer.

In the films most infamous scene of Joker and Harvey Dent after the Joker kills Harvey’s love, he reveals how he doesn’t plan, he simply does what he wants. he tells Harvey that he’s like a dog chasing a car, but if he were to catch the car, he wouldn’t k ow what to do with it which ties into his twisted game with the Batman when he expresses that he wouldn’t kill Batman because Batman completes him and he know what do do without him. “In Alfred’s words, once again, the Joker isn’t “looking for anything logical, like money. [He] can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with” (The Dark Knight). The hospital scene shows Joker blowing it up as he walks, almost skips away. This Joker connects to monster thesis three which states how the monster also escapes because it cant be categorized. Other than categorizing Joker as psychosis, his personality is dynamic and his thinking is twisted and not easily understood. There are different levels and types of psychosis, Joker is one that is complex. “The Joker scared audiences in 2008, but not because he was a terrorist. Rather, he was completely unreasonable.” (Davis.)

The modern day Joker is one who admired the fictional character so much he became him. James Holmes Shoots up a Colorado movie theatre in a mass shooting where he kills 12 innocent people. James later referred to himself as the Joker. In a video clip, it shows Holmes entering the movie theatre casually then 30 minutes later employers hear gunshots and frantically looks for a safe place to hide as victims rush out of the theatre in hopes to escape the massacre. Conner Davis explains in his article how the Joker could’ve played a role in Holmes mass shooting. In his article, he states, “one additional way in which the Heath Ledger version of the Joker mir- rors the real-life shooters familiar to the 2008 ticket-holder is his seemingly magical appearance out of thin air. Other earlier versions of the Joker, in both film and comic books, were generally not as mysterious.” (Davis.) Like the Joker in The Dark Knight, who performs various mass shootings just for the thrill of it, his actions reflected the vast mass shootings in today’s society. Davis also mentions a valid point, “The indiscriminate and motiveless cruelty of the Joker finds its nearest ana-logue in reality in the figure of the mass shooter.” The monster thesis associated with Holmes is the six thesis, the fear of the monster is really a desire. Cohen explains how monsters evoke escapist fantasies stating, “the monster awakens one to the pleasures of the body, to the simple fleeting joys of being frightened or frightening.” (Cohen, 1997.)This quote explains Holmes infatuation with the Joker which drives him to perform a similar mass shooting to those displayed in the movie.

Works Cited:

Primary Sources:

Batman. Directed by Tim Burton, performances by Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Gough, and Billy Dee Williams, Warner Bros, 1989.

This movie is the story of Batman from the beginning. It shows how he witnessed his parents murder and how he begins his war on crime with his first major enemy who is the clownish homicidal Joker. This source will be used in showing the evolution of the Joker from the beginning. I will point out the Joker’s characteristics and traits and how he is portrayed in this movie and compare it to the latest Joker. This source is reliable because it is not an article, blog, news report or analysis of the source, it is the source itself.

nydailynews. YouTube, YouTube, 10 Sept. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hVxYeyocZ0. 

This is a clip from the surveillance cameras in the movie theatre, showing when Holmes arrived and when the shooting began. I will use this source to explain the James Holmes massacre and how he planned it out or rather lack of planning. I will also use this source to compare him to the real Joker. This source is a reliable ource because it is the actual clips of the surveillance cameras on the crime scene.

The Dark Night. Directed by Christopher Nolan, performances by Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Micheal Caine, Maggie Gyllenhall, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman, Warner Bros, 2008.

During this movie, Bruce Wayne along with his allies Gordon and Harvey Dent help keep the city of Gotham safe from crime. However, a young criminal by the name of Joker has other plans in mind as he unleashing chaos upon the town. In attempt to stop the Joker, Batman finds himself on a thin line between heroism and vigilantism. This movie will be helpful in comparing how the Joker was portrayed then and now. I will evaluate what changes have been made in the Joker’s character and if it has been effective or not. This movie is a reliable source merely because it is the direct source itself. 

Scholarly Sources:

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

This source states and explains all seven monster thesis and how they can apply to all types of monsters. I will use this source to make connections to the monster I am evaluating. This source is useful when I have to evaluate all three versions of the Joker and explain which monster thesis they fall in to. This source is reliable because it is from a educational  reviewed book. 

Davis, Conner Race. “The Joker, The Blockbuster, The Mass Shootings: Watching the World Burn.” Criterion: A Journal of Literacy Criticism , vol. 7, no. 2, ser. 6, 1 Sept. 2014, pp. 27–34. 6, scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=james holmes calls himself the joker&btnG=&httpsredir=1&article=1041&context=criterion. 

This article is an evaluation of the 2008 Batman movie. It goes into detail about the Joker’s character and how it is portrayed through the movie. I am using this article to help me when I began evaluating two Batman movie and this article gives me more insight on the specific character I will be evaluating, the Joker. This article is a reliable source because it was searched through google scholar, it is a .edu from a university.