Dark Knight -- Crazy Good Vs. Crazy Bad

The Joker is, in some ways, a better spiritual role-model than the Batman. He is more dedicated, more effective and more efficient in advancing his cause than the Dark Knight.

The Joker isn't just bad, he's crazy bad. He is so dedicated to destruction and disorder that he inspires others to follow his lead. He embraces his true criminal roots, which are chaos, anarchy and sadism. He doesn't even care about money. Such is the zeal of the Joker's animosity that he eventually usurps Gotham's entire criminal system with a new anti-system.

The tragic irony of Batman's efforts is that he has inspired the Joker to become a particularly accomplished psychopath. Not only does the Joker have to explain this to Batman, he chastises the Dark Knight for his lack of dedication.

The Joker is far more efficient than the Batman because he inspires other people to live and die for his cause. He fans the sadistic/psychotic flames that already burn in the hearts of so many Gotham citizens. He doesn't just inspire henchmen, he inspires new leaders such as Two-Face, a man who used to be a poster boy for law enforcement.

Batman, on the other hand, works alone. He prefers to shun whatever help the police might offer, except when they stand aside and let him do things his way. At the beginning of the movie a few guys tell Batman that they're trying to follow his example, to which Batman says, "Sorry, but your equipment isn't good enough to do what I do."

Also, while Batman's cars, planes and bat-suits require the backing of a large corporation, the Joker simply uses whatever's available to any average person -- knives, guns and gasoline.

The Joker is not conflicted like the Batman, living one life during the day and then another during the night. The Joker is 100% evil, all the time, to his dying breath. He embraces his remorselessness to the point that his conscience is totally clear. He is ready to depart this life at any time knowing that he has dedicated his entire being to advancing the cause of lawlessness.

Batman, on the other hand, can't decide if he is an agent of light or dark, peace or violence, lawfulness or vigilante-ism. If he really put his mind to it, he could figure out how to work during the night and day... after all, the law is already more on his side. Yet he has earned the nickname "The Dark Knight" for sneaking around after hours as if he is ashamed of himself.

Bruce Wayne tries to focus on Harvey Dent as the new face of hope for Gotham, which is a step in the right direction... but the fact that Wayne's efforts end there demonstrates his inability to imagine infectious goodness. Notice what ends up happening: While Bruce Wayne can only think to lift up one man who's already getting the job done without his help, the Joker assembles an army of support and ends up corrupting Harvey on top of everything. Harvey would have been better off not associating with Batman at all.

Bruce Wayne fails to empower the greater populace of Gotham, while the Joker overwhelms Gotham's entire justice system by manipulating these "little people." Batman fails to understand that it's not the single man at the podium or the single man with the high-tech weapons who will change the world, it is the multitudes of average Joes (or Janes) who represent most of the human race.

Batman has a small mind for accomplishing that which is truly good. Gotham as well as the world in general doesn't need someone with super-expensive weapons or really good kung-fu skills, they need someone who is crazy good. In the same way that the Joker is a genius for evil, so also the world needs geniuses for good.

The Joker is zealously dedicated to wreaking havoc on the world; can we imagine anyone who is similarly zealous for goodness, or righteousness? Is there anyone who might inspire us the way the Joker inspires rampant crime in Gotham?

The answer is: Yes. There is one Man who is so good that He is crazy good. He is so crazy faithful and pure-hearted that He not only died for His righteous cause, but God saw fit to raise him again to demonstrate His divine approval. This crazy good Man is Jesus Christ.

In the same way that the Joker propagates evil in all kinds of unexpected and creative ways, so also Jesus Christ propagates life in unheard of, creative ways. He teaches his followers how to embrace an inconquerably hopeful perspective. He trains his disciples to aspire to a mysterious, heavenly quality of life and then go on to teach and inspire others in a similar manner.

It makes sense that Jesus should be the Great Counter-Balancer because he is the only stronghold of righteousness in the world. God has appointed him to be humanity's immovable anchor for purity and life.

Anyone who surrenders to Jesus Christ and doesn't look back will learn the secret of unraveling all the malice, greed, envy, lust and selfishness that entangles every human heart. As the Joker requires 100% dedication and trust, so also Jesus requires 100% from his followers. Batman does not understand this but the Joker does and so should anyone who understands the nature of people, or the natures of good and evil.

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"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority..."
-- (Matthew 7:28-29)

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Batman - The Dark Knight stars Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Michael Cain as Alfred, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox


19 comments:

geeky Heather said...

I love this post. I don't agree with all of it, but I think it's a great starting point for discussion. One thing you missed is that Bruce Wayne's struggle is about how to "do the right thing". It's the classic debate of whether the end justifies the means. He knows how the city as a whole should go, he's just not sure how much of his own morality he should compromise for "the greater good". The bad guys are constantly taunting him with the fact that they know he won't kill them. He refuses to cross some lines, but he seems unsure of where exactly those lines should be drawn (OK, I'm not going to kill him, but how far do I go while beating the crap out of him?).

I believe one admirable thing, though, is that he gives up his reputation for the sake of inspiring the masses. At the end, he is willing to look like the bad guy so that Harvey Dent, though corrupted in truth, will remain a source of inspiration to the people. The parallel I would draw here is that while Christ calls us to protect our reputation, and to become "all things to all people", He also tells us that it's OK to look weak or powerless--things the world disdains--if we're following Him. Batman's giving up his "good guy" reputation with good motive: So someone else that everyone admires maintains his reputation. As you point out, the only crazy good man is Christ. In the absence of true infectious good, Batman's just trying to maintain a pale shadow of that (Dent) for the masses. He does recognize the need for a Symbol, he's just choosing the wrong one.

Slyde said...

That insightfull review of Dark Knight was about 293834838 times better than anything I said over on my blog... well done!

WotUThink said...

Very good preview...
I am so eager to watch this and I enjoyed your thoughts on the difference between Batman and the Joker.

I would only say that it is easier to be bad than to be good in todays world. Its easier to totally dismiss a conscience (like Joker) than to battle with one and try and stay right (Batman).

Patrick Roberts said...

there is of course a limit to this illustration... the fact that it's easier to dismiss one's conscience and be bad is one of the main issues here... at least Batman is trying to be good, right?

The specific question here is, what is revolutionary good? and, what is most effective way to propagate revolutionary good? looking at Jesus' example, the answer would be: live a God-fearing, practical life and deliberately show others how to follow your example.

I'm also trying to point out the different ways the Joker vs. the Batman "make disciples" ... the Joker makes disciples while the Batman does not, so what's the difference?

This discussion also relates to the statement Jesus made in Luke ch. 16, "... the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light."

Jake said...

Nice Post! I loved this movie, and I think you captured some of the deeper elements that were going on. I would love to have you write over on my site!

L said...

Wow... that is one take that you won't see even in the most "in touch with pop culture" church. I love it though. That is one great scene, when the Joker burns off the money,that's where you realize this character has a cause. It is a lot harder to battle against people who believe in cause over interest with a passion.

There goes another Bible trivia for you in cause vs. interest...When the Israelites were all doubtful about facing the Philistines,with their interest invested in saving themselves this sheep herder came out of the blue and asked "is there not a cause?" and got it over with, Goliath and all. I guess he was one of the crazy good guys.

By the way congratulations on your blog, will come around more often :)

Jenni said...

I agree with you for the most part - but people will do what the Joker wants because he uses fear as a great motivator. He's not afraid to burn you alive. There's a little thing called survival instinct that kicks in when someone who's just crazy enough to "hurt you real bad" and maybe kill you (and not very quickly) tells you to do something. You're not actually committed to his cause so much as to staying alive.

It's only when you've completely surrendered your life to Christ that you can conquer that kind of evil - when you absolutely aren't afraid of dying because that's all that this evil can take from you. It's how the martyrs were able to do what they did.

I also think that one of Batman's main beef with the other vigilantes is their use of guns - something that he will never touch because of how his parents died.

Michelle J said...

Amazing post! I happen to like crazy bad! I also happen to like crazy good! I guess there's a fine line inbetween the two huh??

M

Anonymous said...

Great post, didn't really see The Joker in certain ways you did, but that's quite a perspective. I do agree with the adamant drive Joker has throughout the movie. And I also agree with wotuthink, it is easier to do bad than good. geeky heather also said something true here, Batman refuses to cross those lines Joker is pushing him to, and that made him the weaker one. I do symphatize Batman's situation, but of course the greater empathy goes to Harvey Dent. His emotional turn from good to evil was just so sad to watch.

- Jools from http://twomoosonefoo.vox.com/

Vargas said...

The only problem I have with this post is this: it is far easier to be wicked than it is to be good. Easier to let go and just do what we wish and give in to desire than to show restraint and do what is right. The Joker, in my opinion has chosen the much easier job. Batman on the other hand, has to follow a certain set of rules - he has to be principled. Not so the Joker.

I see Batman as being on the Christian side of things because his conscience will stop him from going over the line, even when every man's hand is against him. He has a mighty fight to fight against evil, like Christians, a fight that seems overwhelming at times.

In any case an excellent post. This is a different and thought-provoking take on these characters.

Jaccstev said...

What a deeply analysis. I really like with your thought about this film and Joker. A different view but somewhat bring something fresh to look again on the character.

timdan said...

Interesting insight my good friend, and well done on your blog!

I echo your closing remarks regarding the one true "crazy good" man who ever touched the planet, but I must disagree on some points regarding the Batman vs Joker comparison.

Newton says that everything goes from a state of order to disorder.

The Joker is not changing the course of mankind's sinful nature. He did invent chaos. He simply fuels the fire that already resides in the dark hearts of all of us. It's like he sees a bridge burning down, and he throws more gasoline to make it fall faster. He hardly burnt it down! He is hardly a revolutionary, and his agenda is of no significance: Evil is prevalent, so evil he does.

Batman on the other hand is trying to change a city consumed with themselves, and thinking of nothing else but their own gain. His message, (much like Jesus'), is the complete antithesis of how the world says we should live. The Joker's way is broad and many can go through it. All you need are some guns, bombs, and anything else that creates chaos. Where the way of the Batman requires dedication, training, skill and tools in order to restore order to an otherwise disorderly society. Batman is going against the flow of natural man, (much like Christ), and the Joker is indulging the fleshly desires of man, (much like the devil).

You're thoughts that suggest Batman to be the weaker "radical" because he needs to be a skilled fighter, be funded and have tools, and the Joker being the greater because he just uses what he has I believe is miss guided in this: It costs millions (or billions) to create a architectural structure with so much thought and perfection in order for it to stand under strains and pressures. It takes skilled laborers, and precise equipment to erect such a *structure*. And all the Joker has to do is swing a wrecking ball to it, or detonate a few stick of TNT, and now he has accomplish more, and is more competent? I don't buy it.

I appreciated your perspective, and while I won't say you are wrong in your thinking, you and I have seen this from two completely different angles.

Thanks for starting such an interesting discussion, and I look forward to more of your reviews!

Patrick Roberts said...

Tim! you're just biased because you like Batman so much (-:

Keep in mind i'm just out to make one very specific, strategically limited point... there is a saying that goes something like, "a parable isn't supposed to walk on all fours," which i would apply to this post.

I am talking about good versus evil. I'm talking about how much you buy into your good or evil cause. The question is, how dedicated are your purpose in life (and is it worth being dedicated to)?

The ultimate point i would like to make, of course, is that we will honor God best if we are crazy dedicated to His calling for us... that's what the commandment from way back in Moses' time meant: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Love, obey and worship God like crazy!

Jason said...

A very well written analysis/comparison of the Joker vs. Batman.

I wonder if Bruce Wayne didn't live a dual life, as Bruce during the day and Batman at night, would he slip into madness like the Joker did, who, in contrast, is hardcore day and night? I mean, if Bruce had to be Batman 24/7, would he lose it?

I wouldn't necessarily call the Joker "evil." I don't think he does things just purely out of malice or because he's a killer. I would perhaps rather call the Joker out of the norms of morality. He doesn't believe in anything. Therefore, he does not hold any regard to the rules that people of faith in law, faith in society, faith in anything, do.

Danielk said...

It seems to me that the only thing that separates Batman from supervillains is this: Batman is reactive. He doesn't instigate, but only uses his skills to tamp down those who do. Batman's wish is to maintain the status quo, while a super villain wishes to alter it.

If Batman were to, say, start forcing people to use public transportation more, then he'd be a villain. Batman's job is to stop some other guy from forcing you to do that. So Batman's heroism is rooted in his passivity.

Casey LaMarca said...

Excellent post. Love your analysis of the Joker. Seems destined to become one of the iconic villains of our time.

Dmitry said...

I think the best aspect of the Joker in this movie is his complete lack of fear. He does not fear pain — in-fact he seems to enjoy it — and he also doesn't fear death, which again, he seems to want in several sequences (for example, when Batman charges him on his bike, the Joker prepares to die, only to be dissapointed).

That itself is actually his greatest weapon. He wants Batman to kill him. Batman is a character who lacks fear or feelings — he's a machine, a weapon. When Bruce steps into his suit, he becomes something else.. a razor (for Battlestar fans :)

If Batman were to kill Joker, then he would lose — he would lose what he stands for by breaking his only rule. This makes the Joker the most awesome enemy because there's very little Batman can do to him: he can't scare him, can't hurt him and can't kill him.

The only way out is to defeat the Joker at his own game.

I Fought said...

I disagree... Batman is an inspiration to me because he, like the Joker, gives it all. His superpower is discipline. The Joker begs Batman to hit him with the Bat-bike, but he doesn't. Batman never stops trying to figure out what the best thing to do is, and when he comes to a decision he does it. I disagree with many people on morales, but either way, none of them follow through with what they think is best. Batman never compromises.

Manos Chaos Jester said...

Thank you very much. I will remember your opinion till the day I die, because it gave me a push to see the dynamic of Batman and Joker even more clearly. Your "fight club" post was also very sincere, but I have to tell you that I trully embraced tyler durden's self-destructing teachings (he taught me to never wait for anyone to teach me ever again and now I only live by thinking "what am i going to do next that will make me feel alive"), even though the leading actor is totally different from the role. Who cares?