The Philosophy of the Joker

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The Joker isn’t just the most fascinating villain in Batman’s rogues gallery, he’s very probably the most fascinating super-villain period. So, even after filmmaker Michael Tucker composed a compelling video essay  quite thoroughly exploring Mr. J’s effectiveness as a foil in the Dark Knight, the folks at Wisecrack have still found plenty of worthwhile ground to examine in their own clip about the Ace of Knaves. Entitled “The Philosophy of the Joker,” the piece looks at numerous incarnations beyond Heath Ledger’s take, analyzing what ideologies the villain has pushed since his comics debut, and speculating on why he has so intrigued audiences for nearly a century.

The most pointed observation, for my money, is that the Joker’s greatest threat is his ability to make normal people just like him, either physically or figuratively. Whether he’s unsuccessfully driving Commissioner Gordon to madness, successfully turning Harley and Harvey mad, or leaving “permanent grins” on his victims with switchblades or Joker venom, he’s always a corrupting influence in his best incarnations.

Find Wisecrack’s take on the Joker stimulating? The channel specializes in applying academic perspectives on pop culture in fun and accessible ways, and it’s covered plenty of other heroes and villains. Another entry in the “Philosophy of…” series looks at a character who’s just as anarchistic as the Joker, but a touch more well-meaning. We’re talking, of course, about Deadpool.

Another series, “Earthling Cinema,” uses the conceit of a dorky alien analyzing artifacts of pop culture out of context, and speculating at their “hidden meaning.” Here, that extraterrestrial host muses on the literary allusions of X-Men: First Class and what they add up to.

“Thug Notes” likewise breaks down the loftier themes of classic and contemporary lit in plainer terms. Here, the titular thug considers whether the ends justify the means, or if there’s actually no meaning to the universe, and other thematic concerns in Watchmen.

Has Wisecrack figured the Joker out? Or do you have a different take? Drop your thoughts in the talkback.

Featured Image Credit: Force Storm Ent.

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