Patton Oswalt Shares a Fascinating Theory Regarding The Joker's Origin in THE DARK KNIGHT
After Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight was released, I remember having lots of discussions about The Joker. Most of those discussions revolved around how incredible Heath Ledger was in the role, and his portrayal of the character. I think it's easily the best version of the character we've seen on the big screen.
A lot of fans just accepted the version of The Joker for the way he was portrayed, but there were a few fan theories that I remember reading regarding where this version of the character came from. There was a popular theory that he was a war veteran with PTSD. But the best theory that I've read comes from comedian and actor Patton Oswalt in a recent Facebook post, and he puts a little spin on that veteran theory.
He explains that The Joker is an ex-military war veteran, who specialized in interrogation intelligence. He makes a compelling argument and I'd like to believe what he is saying is true. Here's what he shared:
I’ve always liked the theory that Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT is a war veteran suffering PTSD. His referencing a “truckload of soldiers” getting blown up, his ease with military hardware, and his tactical ingenuity and precision planning all feel like an ex-Special Forces soldier returned stateside and dishing out payback. I love films that contain enough thought and shading to sustain post-screening theorizing like this.
But I just re-watched THE DARK KNIGHT, and another wrinkle came to mind about The Joker.
What if he’s not only ex-military, but ex-military intelligence?
Specifically — interrogation?
He seems to be very good at the kind of mind-fuckery that sustained, professional interrogation requires. His boast about how “I know the squealers” when he sees one. The way he adjusts his personality and methods depending on who he’s talking to, and knowing EXACTLY the reaction he’ll get: mocking Gamble’s manhood; invoking terror to Brian, the “false” Batman; teasing the policeman’s sense of loyalty to his fallen, fellow cops; digging into Gordon’s isolation; appealing to Harvey Dent’s hunger for “fairness.” He even conducts a “reverse interrogation” with Batman when he’s in the box at the police station — wanting to see how “far” Batman will go, trying to make him break his “one rule.” He constantly changes his backstory (and thus who he is). To Gamble and his henchmen, he’s an abused child (figuring that they were also the products of abuse and neglect). To Rachel, he’s a man mourning a tragic love — something she’s also wrestling with.
In the end, he ends up trying to mind-fuck an entire city — and the city calls his bluff. Or is that what he wanted all along? He plummets to his seeming death, laughing like a child. And when he’s rescued by Batman, the one individual he couldn’t manipulate or break, he’s blissful and relieved (and, visually, turned on his head). Even the language he uses when saying goodbye to Batman — describing their relationship as an “irresistible force meeting an immovable object” — is the kind of thing an interrogator would say, ruefully, about a fruitless session.
It didn’t matter how he got those scars, turns out.
(*As Cody Glive points out, in a comment below, The Joker also “directs” Batman’s interrogation of him, like an instructor with a newbie. “Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy.” Can’t believe I missed that. Thanks!)
(And I ALSO just realized — The Joker uses The Russian’s dogs against him, and later sics them on Batman. Just like the pictures from Abu Ghraib of the prisoners being terrified by dogs)
I never thought of that aspect of it before, but it makes perfect sense! All the dots connect to The Joker being involved with interrogation intelligence in the military. Whether or not that is true is a different story. Regardless, I love this theory and there's got to be some truth to it. What do you think?