1. Travis Perry says:

    What I didn’t say in my post is I put the Jokers in order from lesser to greater evil, based on my estimation of their character. Which is not the same as my estimation of the moral influence of the movies they came from, which would probably be the opposite.

    But the post was already getting LONG so I’m adding that thought as a comment.

  2. notleia says:

    Once when I was falling down the yootoob hole, I watched a few vidyas about how psychopaths are born, but sociopaths (and narcissists) are made. That seems to be the wrench in the gears for Joaquin Joker, because Joker seems to be cast in a psychopath mold and therefore a sociopath backstory doesn’t fit. And also, that’s not how sociopaths are made anyway.

    I’ve heard some criticism for Joker as being Incel Campus Shooter Manifesto: The Movie. And yeah, pretty much.

    Tho its debatable if Hitler was all that effective as a leader. I’ve heard arguments that he was a convenient shouty figurehead while the real brains like Goring pulled the strings.

    • Travis Perry says:

      I think the Joaquin Joker shows a number of different traits that don’t necessarily go together. Again, while I can easily see this character becoming a killer, he’s the type who would have been caught in a couple of days. The Joaquin Joker is no criminal mastermind.

      And yeah, I certainly see aspects of the Incel Campus Shooter Manifesto in Joker. It can be taken another way though–as a call to be kinder and nicer to suffering people. That’s how the Academy Awards types who nominated it for Best Picture are thinking, most likely. But it has the sinister underbelly, too. (In my opinion, so do a lot of other films, actually. This one is just a bit more obvious than some others.)

      As for HItler, I read a book called The Last Days of Hitler (an early history on him and a big contributor to the debate you mention) which argued that Hitler’s inner circle was a mess of inner strife and conflict and a tremendous lack of real leadership. Historians do universally agree that Hitler’s leadership went downhill over time.

      But there’s been a great deal of pushback on the idea that Hitler was a crap leader from day one. A lot of the early successful ideas in the war directly came from him. And he also had detailed visions of what he wanted to see in German architecture and a number of other things–like coming up with the idea for the Autobahn. Yeah, he was delusional and the end it tremendously contributed to his own downfall.

      But at the very least, Hitler was able to persuade people to follow him. He pushed the right buttons. And that’s something not everyone can do–but at least one version of the Joker managed to make it look convincing, at least to me.

    • …sociopath does not = narcissist. Sociopaths ARE usually narcissists, but a narcissist is not a sociopath. Just… for clarity sake. Sociopathy is a personality disorder. Which can be genetic. But yes, a sociopath is different from a psychopath.

      I thought Travis was just going to say that the real killer that each one of the joker’s was like is Joaquin himself (that was a joke). Seriously though. That guy makes me uncomfortable.

  3. The Dark Knight is probably my favorite out of these. When it comes to the subordinates, I figured they followed Joker out of fear, or because they didn’t realize he was that horrible until they were too far in to escape easily. Or they’re so intent on money and power that they’re willing to take on more risk just to get it.

    But the overall style of the movie is one I like, along with its exploration of psychology and strategy. I heard someone say that the Joker in this film was supposed to represent evil itself, and that evil isn’t something that needs to be explained or understood, simply fought. In a general sense that’s true, the problem is that people have a hard time judging what’s evil, or whether they’re fighting the right way. Like, in the first film you mentioned, it sounds like a lot of people decided that rich people were evil and that beating/killing them was how they should fight that evil.

    For a real life example…psychopaths(as in someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder) or Narcissists(someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NOT someone that’s simply arrogant) are probably the closest to being truly evil. They truly are incapable of caring about other people and are generally very dangerous in some way or another. Supposedly, most don’t become serial killers, but they are abusive to those around them. It’s mindblowing how horrifically they can treat their spouse or children.

    So many might say that standing against that evil means diagnosing people with those disorders and putting them in jail where they can’t hurt anyone. The problem is that diagnosis is difficult and people easily label others as Narcissists or Psychopaths simply because they perceive them negatively. Like, maybe the person scares or unsettles them in some way. Or maybe the person is behaving in a bad or threatening manner, but people mistake the reasons behind the behavior. Supposedly, alcoholics or drug addicts can act like Narcissists or Psychopaths.

    A great example of misdiagnosis comes from a video I saw where a YouTuber discussed why she thought Darkstalker from the Wings of Fire series was a psychopath. Darkstalker was manipulative and power hungry, and did a lot of destructive things, but ironically the reasons behind his destructive behaviors are proof that he isn’t a psychopath at all.

    Darkstalker truly loved many people in his life, such as his mother, sister, girlfriend, and, on a general basis, his tribe. He was born with a lot of power, such as the ability to see the future, read minds, and use animus magic. Right from the start, that meant he knew all the hateful thoughts in his father’s head, and saw many future possibilities of his father(Arctic) betraying/harming his family. Darkstalker always lived in an angry defensive mode because of this. Not only did Arctic pose a threat to Darkstalker himself, but also those Darkstalker loved most(his mother and sister). There were many subtle clues to Darkstaller feeling protective in those instances. If I recall correctly, Darkstalker expressed frustration that his parents fought where his little sister(Whiteout) could hear them. He also hated how his father seemed proud of Whiteout and showed her off in public, but then seemed not to care about her when they were at home.

    One of the few points of relief Darkstalker had from all this was his girlfriend, Clearsight. He could see the future and therefore always looked forward to meeting her. Clearsight was sort of his ray of hope in all his misery. If he were a psychopath, he would not have been able to find genuine joy in the idea of loving/being loved by someone. The reason he was so manipulative toward her later on was because he was trying to keep his goal of attaining power while ALSO trying to make sure she still loved him.

    Was Darkstalker’s behavior right? No, of course not, and he definitely needed to be stopped. But if the right circumstances came about, he would have changed and become an amazing person(well, ok, dragon) over time. He acted the way he did because he was emotionally compromised and got too consumed in his own goals. But as the series progressed, he showed signs of questioning himself in a way that would lead to change. The tragic part of his story was that he had so much power that people couldn’t wait for him to come around. They had to find ways to contain him before he controlled/destroyed everything.

    From a psychological standpoint, his story is pretty realistic for the most part(minus the fantasy elements like dragons and magic type stuff)

    Psychopaths and narcissists can’t love/care. But Darkstalker did care. A lot. The person making the video accusing him of psychopathy kinda mentioned that, but brushed it off as him being ‘on the spectrum’ of psychopathy instead of him simply being a normal being that was just in a bad patch in life. People don’t understand the idea of all consuming pervasiveness when it comes to diagnosing personality disorders. Darkstalker would have had a VERY different story if he was a psychopath. He would not have felt or behaved the way he did and would have had no capacity to ‘see the light’ and become good again(which, as I mentioned, he sort of started to do in later books)

    So that shows how easy misdiagnosis is. Someone can simply take things like destructive tendencies and what LOOKS like insensitivity and say the person is a psychopath when they’re anything but.

    In many ways, Darkstalker was actually reacting out of the desire to protect, or gain justice for everything wrong in his life. But maybe that just shows how bad angry justice oriented behavior actually is. Even when it comes from good intentions, it often makes someone look like a monster even if they actually aren’t one.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Yeah I think your comments on comparing Darkstalker to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker clarify a few points I was trying to make. In the end, in one scene in particular, the Joker acts as if he is incapable of feeling empathy in Joker. But the rest of the film shows he’s very capable of feeling empathy.

      Does it happen that people have been so abused they start lashing out at people and even killing them? Yes. But that doesn’t make a person incapable of perceiving or understanding someone else’s fear. Which what happened in one scene in Joker, in which the Joker murders one ex-co-worker in front of another (who is a midget) and can’t even perceive that the midget would find that disturbing. Which is how a psychopath would act.

      But the rest of the movie makes it clear the Joker is not a psychopath. So I would say the movie failed to be fully realistic in its portrayal.

      • Hm…well, I wasn’t quite trying to make a comparison between Darkstalker and the Joker, moreso just trying to point out how people misinterpret and misdiagnose others’ behavior. There’s some comparisons between the two of them, such as having endured extreme amounts of emotional distress and maybe wanting to be entertaining sometimes or something. But from what I can tell from the previews of Joaquin’s Joker, his underlying personality is vastly different from Darkstalker’s, as are his exact circumstances and motives.

        Exactly how people respond to abuse is complicated, because there’s so many circumstantial and personality type factors that can play in. Extreme abuse throughout early childhood can make someone develop Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But usually that’s due to certain types of abuse that prevent the child from feeling like he can form his own identity. On one hand, that can be a parent spoiling and idealizing a child too much and not letting them ever have freedom or do things themselves. Or, it can be treating them heinously and playing mindgames whenever the child tries to behave and think separately from the parent. But, supposedly, there can be many kids raised under the same roof by the same parents and exposed to very similar types of abuse, yet only one or two of those children develop NPD. Other children may develop something like toxic levels of co-dependency.

        When discussing Narcissism and Psychopathy, though, there’s two types of ’empathy’ at play. One is Cognitive/cold empathy, which is where someone can look at another person and understand what they’re thinking and feeling. Like, they ‘know’ that the other person is sad or angry, but it might not cause an emotional reaction inside the person with cold empathy. Warm empathy is more like when someone not only knows what the other person feels, but has an emotional reaction to it and is more likely to care. Technically the average person is going to have varying levels of both types of empathy. But it seems like Psychopaths and perhaps Narcissists only work with a certain brand of cold empathy.

        Thing is, though, neither type of empathy is inherently bad. The problem is how people actually act on those types of empathy. Feeling other people’s emotions definitely doesn’t translate into treating them well. In fact, it can be worse because a person with higher levels of empathy can behave a little sadistically and enjoy causing negative emotions in others. It’s easier for people to enjoy things that they can sense, after all.

        But empathy and sympathy are tricky. People will only feel those things for certain people. Or, they will ignore those feelings if they think they need to mete out justice to someone that deserves it. I haven’t seen Joker and thus don’t have an opinion on how it was portrayed in the movie, but empathetic people don’t always look empathetic.

        • Travis Perry says:

          I’m affirming, whether the director or actor intended it or not, that in the scene I’m referencing, the Joker demonstrated a complete lack of empathy of any kind to the midget’s fear, either cold or warm. Which certainly isn’t just a normal consequence of his rough life making him more callous.

          If you see it yourself you may disagree with me. Or perhaps not.

          This relates to Darkstalker because you said some people read characters wrong–my assertion in the case of Joker is in essence that I am not reading him wrong. His creators created him wrong–as in, unrealistically. In my opinion. At least partially.

    • Travis Perry says:

      As for The Dark Knight, it’s a movie I like a lot better than Joker both in terms of its gripping action and its message about resisting evil. But I think the entire Two Face element of the story doesn’t really work and it makes no sense to me at all to pin the killing of mob bosses on Batman–along with some other egregious plot holes.

      Joker, in spite of me seeing it as messing up part of the emotional content of Arthur Fleck’s actions and a few improbabilities like him never getting arrested AND also the fact this movie does not really portray a super-villain, in spite of those things it holds together better in terms of making sense than The Dark Knight does.

      As for TDK Joker representing evil itself, I have no trouble with that interpretation. But if one holds evil to be completely aberrant to human beings, then all cases of evil have to be explained. But most real-world cases of evil, as in infamous murderers and evil dictators, defy easy explanation. Some people complicit in mass murder are fun-loving, pleasant people (Herman Goering in WWII). Some are not. Many suffered hardship, but so do lots of other people, and there is no direct correlation between people who are the most abused and the most terrifying killers (though abused people often enough commit murders, they usually do so in a way that they get caught).

      The most common kind of human evil is to create a justification for yourself to act a certain way but condemn the same actions in others. At its worst, this mindset can make a person feel they’re correct in killing other people or even committing genocide.

      Over time, a person who justifies their actions can overcome the natural revulsion of murder, though that’s not the same as being a psychopath.

      Some people, in particular authors, believe showing evil characters justifying themselves in performance of evil is absolutely necessary for a realistic portrayal of evil. That is, “everyone is the hero of their own story.” But that’s not true!

      Some people see themselves as evil but feel compelled to act as they do anyway. That’s how Jeffrey Dahmer described himself. Some people similarly generally recognize they are bad (like a gang member I spoke to in juvenile detention once), though they kinda downplay it, but don’t want to stop because they like the benefits of power, sex, and wealth. Not everyone sees himself or herself as good!

      So it’s just not necessarily, either medically or in terms of justification, that all villains have their motivations explained.

      • I haven’t exactly rushed out to see the new Joker movie because it hasn’t interested me much. The preview I did see didn’t impress me, and it just doesn’t feel like it stays true to the essence of Batman and Joker. Like, there’s many different versions of Batman and Joker, and that’s fine, but there’s several core factors to their characters that just don’t seem present in Joaquin’s Joker. At least based on first impression and from what you’ve said. I wouldn’t mind seeing it some day, but those are some reasons why I kind of agree with some of your assessments of that show and why I haven’t been eager to watch it.

        It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Dark Knight, so I’m hesitant to say whether I think certain elements make sense or not. But it seems like the TDK was built to represent concepts and ideas more than an exact representation of reality.

        I definitely agree that not everyone views themselves as good or that people will know how to explain their actions. There are whys and hows to everything, though. Honestly, a lot of things make a ton more sense in terms of personality type. Not the vague stuff that Enneagram and Myers Briggs tests talk about, but from in depth look at cognitive functions and such. People say that everyone is an individual, but they still don’t understand how people can react in completely different ways to the same stimulus.

        I was listening to C S Joseph talk about one of his friends(an INTP I think. I’d have to check for sure). The INTP recounted a time in his childhood where his brother broke a window in the house, and when their dad got home, the brother pinned blame on the INTP. The father believed the false accusation and thus spanked the INTP. So the INTP got mad, broke a different window, and said ‘If I’m going to do the time, I may as well do the crime.’

        That’s very interesting to me, because as an INTJ, I’d be way less likely to have that reaction. If I was a little kid in that situation I would have been more likely to argue and yell and try to convince the other person of my innocence. And a constant inability to convince others of my innocence would cause me to withdraw and feel like I can’t trust anyone to do simple things like be fair. INTJs CAN say things in the spirit of ‘if I’m going to do the time, I may as well do the crime’, but it’s usually more of a rhetorical device than a natural way of venting their anger. But then personality isn’t the only determinant of behavior. Circumstances and upbringing intertwine very heavily with that. And of course some other psychological things like Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc. may be involved(I’m not saying that those cause violent actions, just that they affect behavior in general).

    • Travis Perry says:

      Final thought on your comment–some people positively enjoy making other people suffer and I would say that is worse than being devoid of empathy. So psychopaths are not necessarily the worst, but they tend to be.

      Though I’ve seen research that there are high-functioning psychopaths who feel no empathy but for some reason don’t hurt anyone.

      Since based on what I just said, psychopathy doesn’t equal evil in a one to one way, trying to treat psychopathy would be more a preventative strike to prevent evil. Some people though may feel that their work in fighting effects of medical conditions amounts to a battle of good verses evil. But I imagine generally not. Most people in mental health professions talk about making sick people well, not good and evil.

      Off on a tangent from what I just said a bit, but I remember touring an Explosive Ordinance Disposal training facility in Afghanistan and the though crossed my mind that the place was like a fantasy “fortress of light.” Everything the EOD guys do is for the purpose of risk their lives to save other lives.

      But that’s not necessarily how they see themselves….

      • From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot that can be said about high functioning psychopaths. Some of those might actually be normal people that were misdiagnosed. Others actually are psychopaths but they were raised in a way that was a little friendlier and made them less inclined to hurt others. Or, they learned that harming others hinders their survival and goals. But, when we say ‘hurt’ in this case, it’s easy to say that in the sense that high functioning psychopaths aren’t serial killers or even physically abusive to their family. But there’s still a lot of times when they can be mentally abusive and such.

        As far as how necessary it is to understand someone, that depends. Obviously if someone attacks with the intent to kill, that’s a situation that requires defense, not an understanding of where that person is coming from. But, outside the context of emergency self defense, understanding the person can be very vital from the standpoint of healing them/making them become a better person, that way we aren’t harming someone that could have otherwise been saved. Or, understanding can help us know how to prevent the worst atrocities from occurring in the first place.

        Sam Vaknin is dual diagnosed as a Narcissist and Psychopath and is probably a good example of one that doesn’t seem to hurt people. He learned that controlling his urges and obtaining Narcissistic Supply by being a famous researcher is a way to get what he wants without any detriment to himself. But there’s still definite signs that he’s not a great person. From some of the things he said, he wouldn’t mind abusing his wife if he wasn’t satisfied with the Narcissistic Supply she gives him. He’s been pioneering what seems to be a sort of cure for Narcissism called Cold Therapy. It doesn’t sound like it would take the Narcissism away entirely, but at least reduce the worst traits so that they aren’t destructive anymore. He says that Cold Therapy could potentially work for other illnesses, too.

        That said, even if he has a lot of good information, everything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes he seems to go crazy labeling everyone under the sun as a Narcissist when they really aren’t. But one has to remember that, as a Narcopath, he doesn’t entirely know what it’s like to be an average person, and being able to label people would feed his ego.

      • A lack of emotional empathy is not necessarily evil. You can choose to help a stranger you have no emotional bond with just because it’s the right thing to do. And feeling empathy does not always lead to just or moral behavior. A lot of “angel of death” doctors see themselves as kindly people who kill out of compassion. (Sometimes they ignore the wishes of those they see as mentally incompetent but it’s done out of the emotion of pity.)

  4. I haven’t seen Joker. But depicting something does NOT mean you’re advocating it. Oedipus Rex did not advocate patricide and incest though the protagonist committed both.

    Some critics argue Joker really isn’t about the Batman villain at all. The character is incapable of committing such crimes and organizing a gang of loyal followers because it’s all a delusion going on in his head. He is leading a fantasy life as a comic book super villain to cope with his feelings of being a pathetic loser. Kind of like the movie Fight Club but angrier.

    One interpretation anyhow.

    I prefer to think that about the Joakim Phoenix movie. Jack Nicholson will always be the Joker for me. Villains should not be too sympathetic unless you are aiming for the redemptive arc narrative.

    I wish we had more heroes. I’m not blaming any one movie in particular but we’ve become too obsessed with evil as a culture.

    We need more stories along the lines of Les Miserables. Though not necessarily musicals.

What do you think?