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« Q-Tip, Comments, and the Inactive Imagination | Main | What's scaring me today »

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


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As the one person who still has not seen the film (and I will correct that soon, lest I lose my citizenship), I feel uniquely suited to comment (i.e., I'll comment and be unique in not knowing what I'm talking about).

Here, to me, is the most remarkable part of your post: the idea that the lack of origin in most ways makes the Joker even more terrifying as a villain. The origin story seems to me always problematic because it always leads to a narrative in which someone attempts to therapeutically "fix" the villain by understanding and repairing the damage which caused his/her villainy. In my earlier post on "Profit," I noted that I was pleased that the show didn't go on because, given the whopper of an origin story at its center, the writers would almost certainly have gone down the path of some therapeutic narrative.

I fear that this is a temptation that is just too huge for most writers/producers to reject. Consider Star Trek's Borg. When it first appears in the series, it's one of the most terrifying villains I'd ever encountered. While it had an 'origin story,' it may as well not have because the human narrative that helped created the borg was absent once it was created. It became almost the perfect villain. Resistance was futile--with no psychology harm to be fixed, with nothing but efficiency at the core, there was no way to reason with it, no way to argue.

Such a villain, however, can make for bad storytelling if its powers are too great. Hence, we get Hugh, and then the Borg Queen, all "humans" struggling to be free.

It sounds as if the Joker you describe is what it is--no explanation, no real therapy to be performed. When we're dealing with something which can't be "fixed," which is what it is, we've got a real dickens of a monster on our hands.

(Forgive poor grammar or spelling issues, but I don't have time to redraft this!)

John B.

Actually, I've not seen The Dark Knight, either. From what I've read about it, though, it sounds like it's unspoilable--there's much to ponder in it.

As I read your comments about The Joker's sort of pure presence in the film, I was reminded of Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (the sense is stronger in the film than in the novel). Even in a world shaped by violence, Chigurh's unexplained there-ness frightens. Which is saying something.

"Are you going to kill me?"
"That depends--can you see me?"


Brilliant post. And as John B. says, there IS a connection to Chigurh.

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