Heath Ledger’s Joker is No Joke

by Kiko Matsing

Heath Ledger, playing Batman’s arch-enemy The Joker, elevates the character into mythic status in The Dark Knight. Forget Cesar Romero’s and Jack Nicholson’s campy take on the character. Ledger’s Joker is no joke. He is not just ‘the bad guy’, the evil villain serving as foil to Batman’s hero. His sociopathy is beyond good and evil: it thwarts the very possibility of moral order. It is like a force of Nature, a principle of chaos. His Joker is the Tarot’s Fool, the Dahomey’s Legba, the Eddas’ Loki, the commedia dell’arte’s Pulcinella (Punch). He gets away with anything through deception, thievery, even murder. He is the malignant embodiment of the archetypal trickster.

Heath Ledger as The Joker
Heath Ledger as The Joker

The Joker in Batman #1
The Joker’s first appearance
in Batman #1, Spring 1940

The Man Who Laughs
Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent
The Man Who Laughs,
from whom Bob Kane based
The Joker’s appearance.

Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero as The Joker

Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson as The Joker

The Fool
Visconti-Sforza Tarot
deck’s The Fool

Dahomey’s Legba (by Irving Penn)

Eddas’ Loki

Punch of the Punch and Judy Show

The Fox (also Coyote) as Trickster

[This review is also posted at the Internet Movie Database.]