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The Joker as a Satanic Character

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Heath Ledger as the Joker

Why so serious?

Why so serious?

Laughter of the Damned

Given the myriad ways of understanding Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker one notices how difficult the character’s motivations are to discover. Alfred, played by Michael Caine, provides an anecdote of his own experiences and surmises, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Though this view may be correct it does little to deepen the audience awareness of the film’s questioning of whether human conduct is either good or evil at its root.

The best way to get to the heart of the film’s understanding of this dilemma is for the audience to view the Joker as a satanic character—not solely because of his wanton destruction but also because of his philosophical perspective. The Joker’s alluded worldview is that good behavior and civilization are the joke, and that just below the surface everyone is as brutal and vicious as himself. He is all the worst parts of the human Id without any restraints, like an Olympian god who cannot suffer mentally or physically from the crimes he commits. One sees his thesis at work in his deeds. The Joker won’t kill the hapless Wayne Enterprises accountant who will give up Batman’s identity, someone else will do it for him if put under duress which the Joker creates by threatening to bomb a hospital. The same attitude is seen in his plot with the boats. All the people have to do to survive is kill another boat full of people by turning the detonator, an event the Joker anticipates given his belief that someone will want to live so badly they will do monstrous things to each other to remain alive. Of course, the joke is on everyone else; the Joker will blow up a hospital whether or not his demands are met, and he intends to blow up both boats whether or not a dreadful choice is made to murder other people so that one might live.

A close parallel to this mindset is observable in the Book of Job where Satan’s primary argument is against human goodness. Just as the Joker’s main victim is the heroic Harvey Dent, Satan targets God’s righteous servant, Job (Job 1:1). Satan’s contention is “put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (1:11). Satan assumes that deep down, Job is as ungrateful and if God’s favor were taken away—if Job were under the proper duress—the essential evil of his being would emerge (2:5).

In the end, both the Joker and Satan are set back. Decency emerges in difficult times as the would-be victims refuse to blow each other up and Job maintains his innocence, refusing to curse God for his misfortunes. These parallels serve as a solid understanding for not only the otherwise mysterious motivation of the primary villain of The Dark Knight but also the question of human morality that rests at the core of the film.

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© 2009 Seth Tomko


leg moussa on September 16, 2010:

hmm hm

the joker...he is just a man but with a different side of the normal human being and he did not born like that but he was so because of some circcumstancces as he said in the movie he can not feel pain he is a carless man he is smart and foxy and he is full of deep darkness no sense at all he is just not alive he did not born he still locked in a far away dark and he is also did not die...

Seth Tomko (author) from Macon, GA on June 25, 2010:

The position of Batman we're supposed to see as a selfless dedication to protecting the lives and freedoms of other people. Jim Gordon states this fact as the movie ends, knowing Batman will be hunted and condemned for crimes he did not commit so people can retain hope in the good deeds done by Harvey Dent before the Joker broke him and turned him toward revenge. The Joker, too, mentions Batman is incorruptible in his dedication and unwillingness to kill even someone so reprehensible as himself. We are meant so see Batman as a hero because he sacrifices (his easy life as a billionaire, most of his personal joy and private relationships, the physical toll taken on his body, most of his youth--as recounted in Batman Begins--is spent traveling the world incognito to learn about crime and criminals first hand, and so on) so that other people will not have to suffer as he has.

Thanks for the question, girlincape; I appreciate you having taken the time to read and reflect on my hub.

Kasey Rubenstein from California on June 24, 2010:

If the Joker is Satan, I'd like to know the role you think Batman plays. The metaphor of the unstoppable force and the immovable object comes to mind...

valeriebelew from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA on April 30, 2010:

If you did, it wouldn't be the first time; however, you teach English so you probably have better judgment of books than most of us. I'll take my chances.

Seth Tomko (author) from Macon, GA on April 30, 2010:

Thank you for the vote of confidence, valeriebelew. I hope I don't steer you wrong.

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valeriebelew from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA on April 29, 2010:

You know, that makes sense. In a sense I already knew this, but you brought it to light. It appears you've done a number of book reviews. I'll know where to go now, when I want to discover new reading options.

Seth Tomko (author) from Macon, GA on January 28, 2010:

Thanks, r2punks. I'm glad you liked it.

r2punks on January 21, 2010:

the joker is defintely an iconic character even more becase of heath ledger death

r2punks on January 21, 2010:

a rare insight, nice to see an analysis of the joker character from the dark knight movie.

Seth Tomko (author) from Macon, GA on September 02, 2009:

I'm glad you enjoyed it Stevennix2001.

Stevennix2001 on August 31, 2009:

wow, thats a really good analysis there. I never really thought of the Joker that way before, but it does make a lot of sense.

Seth Tomko (author) from Macon, GA on August 26, 2009:

Thanks, James, for taking the time to read my hub since you're busy cranking out substantial hubs of your own.

James A Watkins from Chicago on August 26, 2009:

A very deep thesis here, friend. And I think you have hit the bulls eye. I enjoyed reading your insights.

MistHaven on August 11, 2009:

I thought it was ingenious how the Joker made up such elaborate lies to tell people about the scars. The Dark Knight was a great movie.

Seth Tomko (author) from Macon, GA on August 10, 2009:

I agree. He tells multiple conflicting stories about his scars and clearly they both can't be true. His lies hide any trace of who he might have been before he became the Joker.

MistHaven on August 09, 2009:

Interesting analysis. I never really thought of The Joker as a satanic character, but I do see the similarities. Especially his multiple attempts and success at tempting people to do things against their will. I also think the fact that he could not be identified contributed to his demonic persona.

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