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The Joker (The Dark Knight)
The Joker Personality Assessment
By: Ethan Hiscock
"You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push" -The Joker
The Dark Knight - Hospital Scene (Two-Face and...
The Joker is a fictional character from the DC comic,
. He is one of the main villains that go up against Batman in the comics, movies, and television shows. The Joker is known for being psychopathic and highly intelligent. He is also very well known for his sick sense of humor and his maniacal laugh. He wears a purple suit and clown make-up, hence the name “The Joker.”
There has not been any background information about the Joker generated. Not even his real name has been revealed. No one knows where he is from, his age, anything about his family, or why he is the way he is.
There are many versions of the Joker, from the many comics he has been in, to the many different television series there have been about Batman, and to the movies that the character has been portrayed in. The version that I have chosen to focus on is the version from the 2008 movie,
The Dark Knight
. Heath Ledger was the actor that portrayed him in this movie.
“Some men just want to watch the world burn.” -Alfred Pennyworth
The Neo-Analytic approach deals with how a person views himself or herself. Some of the biggest contributors to this approach are Carl Jung and Alfred Adler. While looking at some of the theories that these thinkers came up with, you can see that they can be used to analyze the Joker’s personality quite well.
One of the biggest names in the Neo-Analytic approach is Carl Jung. He had many theories that he applied to the Neo-Analytic approach, one of which was his theory of archetypes. Archetypes are emotional symbols that apply to everyone and they have existed forever. The existence of these archetypes causes us to act in certain ways (Friedman, 2009, pg. 113-114). When looking at the Joker, there is one of Jung’s archetypes that truly stand out. These archetypes are the demon archetype. The Joker is an evil genius and commits many acts of violence throughout the movie. He describes himself as an “agent of chaos” and wreaks havoc on the city of Gotham for no reason other than his sheer enjoyment. This perfectly fits in with the demon archetype. The demon archetype embodies cruelty and evil in a person (Friedman, 2009, pg. 115). The Joker is a genuinely evil person that does not have any care for the well-being of anyone else.
Another big name in the Neo-Analytic approach is Alfred Adler. One of the concepts that Adler proposed was aggression drive. Aggression drive is a concept that a person lashes out against the inability to achieve or master something, as a reaction to perceived helplessness (Friedman, 2009, pg 119). The Joker displays this concept throughout the movie. Towards the end of the movie, when the Joker is trying to get the civilians to blow up the boat that the prisoners are on and vice versa, there is a great example of this. When Batman finally makes it up to the top floor where the Joker is hiding out, the Joker knows that his plan has been spoiled. His only reaction for this failure is to lash out at Batman and he begins to attack him with a crowbar. With Joker’s inability to achieve his plan and due to his aggression drive, the Joker did not know anything else to do but to lash out and physically attack Batman.
Adler also applied his ideas to the Greek belief of temperamental humors underlying personality (Friedman, 2009, pg 122). The Joker would easily fit into the choleric personality type (yellow bile). The ancient Greeks believed that a predominance of yellow bile was indicative of an irritable temperament. If someone has this temperament, then they are angry against the arbitrary controls on one’s life and have poor interpersonal relations. (Friedman, 2009, pg 122). The Joker hates society’s rules and does everything in his power to go against them. He especially is against society’s idea that money is everything. When he finishes his agreement with the mob in Gotham, the Joker receives a large sum of money from it. However, he never planned on keeping it. While meeting with members of the mob, he sets his portion of the money on fire, claiming, “Everything burns.” The Joker is out to destroy society because he is angry at it due to constantly being called a “freak.”
“The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.” -The Joker
The father of the psychoanalytic approach is Sigmund Freud. This approach deals a lot with the unconscious part of a person’s mind. One of Freud’s most well known concepts is that of the id, ego, and super ego. Freud says that the id, the ego, and the super ego comprise the structure of our minds. The id is the part of the mind that contains the basic psychic energy and motivations, also know as the instincts and impulses. The ego is the realistic aspects of the mind. It operates according to the reality principle and is the balancing force between the id and the super ego. The super ego is the part of the mind that internalizes societal rules in our heads and it pushes goal-seeking behavior towards socially acceptable pursuits (Friedman, 2009, pg 67). The Joker is dominated by the id part of his mind. The Joker gets pleasure in committing crimes and acts of violence. The id is the part of the mind that seeks out pleasure no matter what. The super ego of the Joker would be telling the Joker to not commit crimes and to not rob banks, because this is against what society wants from a person. However, the Joker raises terror throughout Gotham anyways and causes the whole city to go into chaos. The super ego strives to make the person follow society’s rules. The Joker completely rejects this notion. During his interrogation by Batman, he explains to Batman that the right way to live life is to have no rules.
Another concept that Freud had was the idea of psychosexual developmental stages. There are five of these stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. These stages come to develop throughout certain stages of a person’s life, and it is possible for a person to become fixated on a certain stage. The Joker shows a slight fixation on the oral stage. Throughout the film, the Joker licks his lips consistently. When a person shows a fixation on the oral stage, they derive pleasure from things such as biting, chewing, or smoking. This is especially show in the interrogation scene between the Joker and Batman. The Joker appears to be very anxious during this scene, and as a result, he is licking his lips repeatedly, perhaps to get pleasure out of it.
Freud also had the idea that the ego uses things called defense mechanisms to “distort reality to protect itself” (Friedman, 2009, pg 77). The Joker displays one of these defense mechanisms while he is visiting Harvey Dent in the hospital after he is burned. The defense mechanism that he shows here is rationalization. When Harvey Dent blames the Joker for the death of his girlfriend Rachel, the Joker begins to give him reasons to try to rationalize why he did what he did. He tells Dent that he does things to show the people who have plans how pathetic they are from trying to control things in their lives. The Joker claims that he does not have plans and that he does not draw up schemes, but everything that he is telling Harvey Dent is actually just setting up one of his plans. The Joker has a plan to bring Harvey Dent down to his level to show the people of Gotham that everyone is actually just like him. Instead of actually telling Dent his reasons for doing things, he is rationalizing his actions to hide the true reasoning behind them.
The Joker is a fascinating and very complex character. He has many extreme views on life, and he finds pleasure in chaos.
I think that the Neo-Analytic approach is a good way to analyze the Joker’s personality because it helps to explain how he is so evil and aggressive. The concept of archetypes helps to show how the Joker could be so evil and cruel. The Joker’s aggression can be explained through Alfred Alder’s concept of aggression drive, in which a person lashes out aggressively when they are unable to achieve something.
The psychoanalytic approach can be used to help explain why the Joker acts the way he does. He uses defense mechanisms to hide his true reasons for his actions. The idea of the id, ego and super ego helps to explain why he has his philosophy on life of having no rules.
It is easy to see why many people celebrate Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in this movie. The version of the Joker portrayed in
The Dark Knight
is extremely disturbing and intricate. The Joker is portrayed as an evil genius with an outlook on life that life without rules is the only way to live. The personality portrayed for the Joker in this movie is unlike any other, which is why the character is loved by so many people.
De La Noy, Kevin (producer) & Nolan, Christopher (director). (2008).
The Dark Knight
[Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.
Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
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