The Joker has been one of the most iconic villains in comic book history, he has killed many people and tormented the superhero that he has to face which is Batman within the city he dwells in, Gotham city. His character has been transformed and adapted into many movies throughout the years, and each actor that has portrayed him has brought something different to what should be defined as a monster. There are many different characteristics that make the Joker a monster and fits into the theories that make up a monster. He is considered a psychopath within his story and a challenge for Batman because he shows no empathy for the people he kills nor a motive for his actions other than pure enjoyment. While there has been many different actors that have played the Joker, two of the most popular have been “Batman (1989)” version of the Joker played by Jack Nicholson and “The Dark Knight” version of the Joker played by Heath Ledger. These two versions of the Joker display why the famous villain is a monster and meets the qualities that make up one.
The film “Batman (1989)” had one of the most iconic Jokers’ on screen who was played by Jack Nicholson who portrayed as a mob boss version of this villain. At the start of the film, the hero of this movie, Bruce Wayne, is a child with his parents going home from a play, his parents are robbed at gunpoint and killed, leaving Bruce emotionally shocked and changes his life forever. The event transforms Bruce Wayne into becoming the Batman when he is older, as he tracks down the criminal that took his parents life, Jack Napier. Batman then finds him and pushes him into a vat of chemicals and transforms him into the Joker and alters his mind. This Joker, as mentioned before, is a mob boss that orders his henchmen around and kills innocent people, while trying to kill Batman who is trying to stop him. The Batman has a few run-ins with the Joker and his henchmen throughout the movie, each have their own tricks up their sleeve while there is a psychological problem built up within both of them. It ends with a final battle between Batman and Joker on the top of a cathedral, both of them realizing they created each other in some ways, and Batman kills the Joker by causing him to fall off the cathedral by his grappling hook.
There are many aspects within this movie that show why the Joker is considered a monster and how it connects with the text “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”. The Joker immediately connects with the first thesis of the text which is that the monster changes based on culture and the times that it is being reconstructed. This is one of the many adaptations of the Joker that have been made, however, it is never the exact same as this one is more of a crime boss that orders his henchmen around, but still holds true to the basics of the character who is unpredictable and criminally insane. He also portrays the third thesis well because the Joker stands out from the rest of the average criminals and is unpredictable in the way he conducts his crimes. In one particular scene where Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Vicki Vale, is at a art museum, the Joker specifically targets her as he knocks everyone else out with toxic gas except her, he then proceeds to vandalize the art except for one which he is a particular fan of because of the way it looks. This scene shows he also fits with the explanation that the monster always appears at a time of crisis, which he does repeatedly throughout the film. The last thesis which is that the monster stands at the threshold of becoming, is very important within this film and monster because in a way the hero and villain both created each other, and the Joker even states this “Hey, bat-brain, I mean, I was a kid when I killed your parents. I mean, I say “I made you” you gotta say “you made me.” I mean, how childish can you get?” (Batman (1989)). These are just some of the ways this Joker can be defined as a monster and how it connects to the definitions of a monster through text.
The Batman movie “The Dark Knight” contains one of the most iconic and fan favorite Jokers’ of all time played by the late actor Heath Ledger. His presence is immediately known at the start of the film when it shows criminals robbing a bank and one of them takes off a mask and reveals to be the Joker. He has no origin or background within his story, however, he takes control of the crippling mob that formed in Gotham because the Batman has scared them. He is a pure psychopath and kills for the enjoyment of it throughout the movie, he also has no motives other than to terrorize the city of Gotham, it’s law enforcement, and Batman. He even turns the district attorney for Gotham, Harvey Dent, into a criminal later on in the film because he takes away the love of his life. Throughout the film, the Joker requests that Batman takes off his mask and he will stop his killings, which Batman is pushed to the breaking point to do this while also consider breaking a rule of his which is no killing. Batman eventually stops the Joker from further terrorizing the city, however, is left with taking the blame for the murders that Harvey Dent caused because Batman believed the city needed a hero with a face.
There are many monster theses that connect with this particular Joker and some of them repeat as the other film. It immediately connects with the first two theses of the monster’s body being a cultural body and the monster always escaping because this is a different version of the Joker who is a psychopath and only wants chaos, while being able to escape from imprisonment because of Batman’s moral code of no killing. During the later part of the film, Batman saves Joker from falling with the Joker stating “You won’t kill me because of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you because…you’re just too much fun. I get the feeling that you and I are destined to do this forever.” (The Dark Knight). This Joker also relates to thesis three because he is unpredictable and is alway at the center of any drama throughout the film, as if he and the Batman control the film whenever they are in a particular scene. Thesis five states that the monster polices the borders of the possible which the Joker does because there are people in the real world that are psychopaths and kill with no empathy or thought into it, while they may not dress up like the fictional character, they still pose a threat to society. This Joker and film also do a great job at displaying thesis six which is that fear of the monster is really a kind of desire, which in the film, Bruce Wayne shows his addiction to wearing the mask and becoming Batman so much so that Batman is his true identity and his disguise is Bruce Wayne. There is a particular quote in the movie that relates to the last thesis which Batman is interrogating the Joker, the Joker states “I don’t, I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, No! No. You… you… complete me.” (The Dark Knight). This quote clearly explains the importance of Batman to the Joker, which Batman does realize that in some way he created this monster because the Joker gets enjoyment out of terrorizing people and making the Batman chase him.
It has been ten years since the film “The Dark Knight” and the Joker has reached its peak in fame with fans, and now there have been multiple actors trying to nail the famous villain. While each Joker is unique in their own way, they must still hold true to what the monster is and what they mean to Batman, within the article titled “Joker is still wild years after ‘Knight’”, it explains that there are three current Jokers’ that are being worked on by the actors Jared Leto, Zach Galifianakis, and Joaquin Phoenix. Each of these Jokers’ represent thesis one of the monster thesis which is that they are a cultural body, they all have their own styles and appeal which Jared Leto is going for a gangster Joker that is a crime boss whose look was questioned by fans because of his tattoos and grill in his teeth. Zach Galifianakis portrays his version of the Joker in the popular Lego movie which isn’t as serious and more intended for a younger audience by making kid friendly jokes and basing his story as a relationship with Batman. The newest version to debut as the Joker is Joaquin Phoenix, which his current film has not been released, however, based on the monster thesis we have learned, this villain will in some way fall into the categories that define the Joker as a monster.
Based on the movies and information addressed in this essay, the Joker fits all of the qualities and characteristics that make up a monster according to “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” While there have been many adaptations of this monster, they have all in some way fit the criteria and have grown their own personal fans and critics. The unpredictability and lack of empathy when he is killing is what makes him unique and a fan favorite within not only comic books, but on film as well. The two different types of this monster that are discussed in this essay are two of the best portrayals of the famous villain and show many of the qualities that have been previously shown throughout the essay. The Joker is a monster and one of the most famous ones within the cinematic genre through proper acting and portrayal of the villain.
Bryan Alexander, and USA TODAY. “Joker Is Still Wild Years after ‘Knight.’” USA Today. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=J0E374875415118&site=ehost-live. Accessed 2 Nov. 2018.
Burton, Tim, director. Batman. Warner Bros Pictures, 1989.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
Nolan, Christopher, director. The Dark Knight: Trilogy. Warner Bros Pictures, 2012.