Joker is Bruce's Best Friend: The Dark Knight Final part (3500 words)
Last part, the part where I realised everything was even more complex and deep and got overwhelmed.
18. If I cannot have you, at least no one will.
So Batman has to choose whether he is going to save Harvey or Rachel. This moment is the reason why I wrote the article in the first place. Joker lies to Batman. But if Joker incarnates Bruce’s shameful desires, it doesn’t mean a thing that he should switch the two addresses: Bruce didn’t want to save Rachel anymore.
We are in a case of a former boyfriend who kills his woman because he can’t stand seeing her go with another guy. That’s the whole reason behind Harvey Or Rachel, only one has to die for the couple to be destroyed. No need to kill both of them.
Very strangely I have the feeling that Rachel wanted to die. Yep. Crazy isn't it ? She’s wanted to tell Bruce that he shouldn’t have hidden the Batman from her, that she was ready for anything as long as she was his. Being tied to a barrel in a room full of explosive ready to blow and telling the man she loves “It’s ok if I die because I don’t wanna live without you” is the exact spot she’s been headed towards since Bruce betrayed her (in Begins). And ending up in this position is, in itself, a love confession to Bruce… that which is quite weird.
If you are not convinced that Bruce wants her dead just think for a minute that the guy loves her. He enters the room and sees Harvey on the floor. What does he do ? He saves him without uttering a word. No grabbing the radio and shouting “I’m so sorry Rachel ! The Joker lied to me ! I love you !” or “The cops are coming for you Rachel !” Nothing. I find that very shocking that in his last moment “with” her he should remain silent and incapable of being Bruce Wayne simply because Harvey is around.
19. Rachel’s last word.
And if you’re wondering about the word she starts pronouncing before everything explodes, it’s “someone.” She isn’t aware that it’s Batman who’s just saved Harvey and although she surely is surprised that the cops should have arrived first, she still thinks Bruce is coming for her. “Someone” means “someone is going to come for me” and the explosion is Bruce’s anger answering “not this time bitch.” Hum… sorry, but that’s also one of the thing that made me reflect upon the film: the fact that the explosion should cut her off is very meaningful. She cannot consider the idea that she might die in a second, she did not realise that her courage, her confidence, her beautiful words to Harvey were not hers but emanated from and relied on her trust in Bruce. So, the explosion is truly a slap in the face.
Strangely enough we are treated with Rachel’s last letter to Bruce in which she explains that she is going to marry Harvey. We hear her words in voice over as Bruce is standing in the ruins of the building in which she died. Flames and dust => hell.
Why writing a letter to Bruce in the first place ? Ah yeah, she knows that she's next on the Joker's list.
Of course, necessarily, the thing she says underline again how mistaken she is: “When I told you that if Gotham no longer needed Batman, we could be together I meant it but now I’m sure the day won’t come when you no longer need Batman. I hope it does, and if it does I will be there… as a friend. Yes Bruce, you've just been friendzoned ! You should have made love to me last night that's the only thing I wanted you idiot ! How can I be sure that you're not only toying with me with all this Batman bullshit when I see you accompanied with all these gorgeous women everywhere, I don't have that much confidence in my beauty you know. I'm only Maggie Gyllenhaal."
How can she believe that Bruce needs Batman after he’s hold his own against her about turning himself in ? Of course, he let Harvey get arrested but he also reappears to save him. What did she want ? Harvey is giving Batman a huge opportunity to stop the Joker and she just wishes that Bruce would just go “Hey ! Harvey Dent isn’t the Batman, it’s me !” and then get killed by the Joker who could then carry on his activities without any real obstacle.
Her letter stands on the idea that if Bruce didn’t stop Harvey it was because he is addicted to his vigilante role. It’s stupid. If Harvey wins, it’s because he proves to be capable of doing what Bruce never did for her. He doesn’t infantilize her by saying “No, I cannot tell everybody the truth, you’d be in danger. I’m doing this for you baby.” She thinks Bruce is putting her in the same position as Barbara Gordon, the nice wife who should worry and shut up.
And so, when Harvey lies about being the Batman and it's very well known that Rachel is his girlfriend AND the Joker has already tried to kill her, the lawyer is practically signing her death warrant… and hum… it’s the best love confession for her. It means he takes her seriously.
The problem is that, the only thing that’s left for Bruce to do is prove her wrong and aheum… kill her. In the last seconds of her life she’ll think… “Shit, Bruce was right. I’m going to die and I don’t want to.” But truly, by not saying a word while he saves Harvey, Bruce lets her believe that he is coming to rescue her and she dies without having to face the fact that nobodies is coming.
20. Bruce is entirely swallowed by Batman
Dent:"With whom you wanna spend the rest of your life with..." Rachel:"That's a pretty big commitment" D:"Well, not if the mob has their way" (That's not a creepy thing to say when you're proposing to a woman) R:"Or Bruce" D:"Sorry ?" R:"Yeah, Bruce will certainly attempt at killing you if I marry you." D:"He's a wuss, I'm not scared of him." R:"He's Batman" D:"What !?!" R:"Does your offer still stand ? He's also the Joker" D:"Aaaaaaaaaaaah !" (Dent runs away).
But there’s something ambiguous about her letter as well. It could be just another step in Bruce and Rachel’s arm wrestling competition as the woman was convinced that Harvey was going to die soon (and the lawyer himself believes it too since the beginning of the story). So, marrying him could simply have been a way of forcing Bruce to take a look at his future without her. She marries Harvey, Harvey dies, Bruce comes back and this time he knows that she is more important than anything to him (that which he already knows).
Bruce sits in a chair, depressed and hopeless. It’s the first time that we see him as himself since Rachel’s death. I find this scene to be very disagreeable as they are going to talk about Rachel’s death only from the vigilante vs criminals point of view.
“Did I bring this on her ? I was meant to inspire good, not madness, not death.”
Bruce entirely identifies with the Batman here. Bruce was never meant to inspire good. He is not a symbol, only the Batman is. But since Rachel died, I think there’s no human side left in our poor hero. At least, no conscious human side, he is now entirely Batman.
Alfred reminds him that he “spat in the faces of Gotham’s criminals. Didn’t [he] think there might be casualties?” Wahou Alfred ! So thoughtful of you to tell Bruce that he started it all. The lack of sensitivity of our English butler underlines the fact that Batman was too harsh and radical on the criminals, that Bruce wanted things to be over as quickly as possible => because he was doing everything for Rachel.
Which means Alfred isn’t aware of the fact that Bruce wants to stop being the Batman, and thus that Alfred isn’t truly helping Bruce.
"Did I bring this on her Alfred ?" "Exactly Mr. Wayne !" Note the blue lighting => Cold = world without love.
“Rachel believed in what you stood for… what we stand for.” And he locks up the poor guy in his vigilante role again. Bruce answers “No, Gotham needs his true hero and I let that murdering psychopath blow him half to hell.” “Which is why, for now, they’re gonna have to make do with you.” Aaah Alfred, the funniest guy on earth. Worse, he removes Rachel’s letter from the tray when he hears Bruce say “She was gonna wait for me, Alfred. Dent doesn’t know. He can never know.” We see Alfred burn the letter afterward.
Here, Bruce isn’t aware of the fact that Rachel was going to marry Dent which should mean that I’m wrong, that the Joker didn’t kill her for that reason. But the Joker incarnates Bruce’s unconscious desires. So, this belief that Rachel was going to wait for him is actually the reason why Bruce killed her. He killed her in order to be able to carry on believing this when deep inside he knows that Harvey had won with his “I’m the Batman” move.
And now, suddenly, just like that, after he’s killed five or six people in order to obtain Batman’s identity, the Joker decides that he doesn’t care anymore and puts a price on the head of the guy who was going to reveal it on TV.
Just as Bruce shifts from “wanting to stop his vigilante life” to “having nothing in the world but Batman,” the Joker shifts from “I kill people to know who Batman is” to “I kill people so that Batman's real identity remains unknown.” How suspiscious.
Through Rachel’s death Bruce has been swallowed by his Batman role and he does his next intervention without the mask and in a Lamborghini.
As the Joker threatens to blow a hospital unless Mr. Reese is killed, and everybody knows he is capable of such a crazy act, every person with a relative in a hospital becomes a potential killer. The Joker awakens the killer inside each citizen of Gotham while Maroni on the contrary comes and tells Gordon where he can find the Joker. Criminals start helping upholders of the law when the “normal” citizens become criminals. It’s really funny.
And who is becoming a bad guy ? Harvey Dent, the guy who believes there truly exists good people and bad people and you can divide them into two distinct groups.
21. But why could chaos be what Bruce (unconsciously) desires at this point ?
For my theory to be acceptable, Bruce must have an unconscious reason to blow up a hospital... but not the patients though.
In what way do the Joker's actions still incarnate what Bruce's deeply and unconsciously want ?
People, and Rachel, have fallen in love with Harvey Dent who incarnated the essence of what is good. Gordon nicknamed him “two-face” because he knew such a man is necessarily a hypocrite. The citizens of Gotham were blinded by this irreproachable morality and they forgot that criminals are human beings too. Because criminals have loved ones and families, friends etc… these bounds weighed on the ruthlessness of Harvey Dent’s method.
Like, if you have a list of all the criminals of your city, from the thief to the boss of organized crime and you just say “Let’s arrest and kill them all so that there’s only the good people left” you know that you’re going to fail because love and humanity will be on their side and a lot of so-called “good people” will turn evil to support their “evil” friends and loved ones.
So, Harvey led the citizens of Gotham as well as Rachel in a dead end (oups…) with his black and white, naïve, arrogant and hypocritical vision of the world. Spontaneously, any person who is honest with themselves knows that Harvey has something to learn from life: the fact that he too has weaknesses and thus can be corrupted.
The more a guy like him is rewarded for his hypocrisy, the more those he judges and hurts are likely to attempt at breaking him. Once his illusions of greatness and perfection have become unreachable, he reveals his true self and the gigantic thirst he had for purity becomes a gigantic thirst for revenge (Hidden behind judgement and justice). It has to be noted that this guy has a problem from the start. He too is looking for love desperately and feels unlovable.
So, people fell in love with the brighter face of two-face. They believed in the double-headed coin and they turned their back on Batman because he incarnates the fact that good can stem from corruption, from fear, from the dark. Harvey Dent makes you believe in a spotless world in which you would be spotless, Batman reminds you that… well… you’re not so clean.
So, by destroying all rules, all structures and creating a state of panic, Joker/Bruce/Batman wants to underline the fact that it’s not obeying the rules or violating them that makes you a good person but that euh… simply… euh… what does he want to underline ? He simply wants to stand out. He wants to share the world in which he lives, a world without rules and how his behaviour stands out in this world.
(This is echoed in BvS during the fight with Superman).
And police station. The joker destoys the official symbols of safety: being able to be protected, saved and healed.
Rachel and Harvey took his actions for granted as if he was only doing his job and they didn’t realise that he wasn’t following any rule, that nothing forced him to do what he was doing in the sense that you didn’t have the right to judge him if one time he did not show up to save the day.
By making them taste a world without guaranty, Bruce is trying to make the citizens of Gotham appreciate the true value of what he did for them… or die. Just like Rachel.
Because the Joker becomes absolute nihilism and chaos, Batman becomes absolute surveillance. When there is no love, everybody is a potential enemy/criminal that you have to stop. So while the Joker wants to put blood on everybody’s hands, Batman is busy kicking everybody’s ass. This is both sides of Bruce's tormented psyche pushed to their limits. Bruce is split in two entirely, there's no common grounds anymore between Batman and Joker, the man doesn't exist anymore.
22. Hum… and the last chapter of this article.
So, the Joker has the two ferries with innocent people and criminals there to prove its point and Batman who is supposed to kick some clown/henchmen’s ass find himself beating the crap out of an intervention squad who’s about to kill hostages disguised as henchmen. Everything is mixed up.
Again, if you watch the scene without trying to spot any potential metaphorical meaning, it’s pretty ridiculous. How could tied up hostages look like their aggressors?
People prove to be better than Bruce thinks, that there is hope to have and that’s all. The Joker doesn’t make the ferries blow, and would never have. Only one ferry could blow because if both remained then he was proved wrong and Bruce could start hoping that the world didn’t believe in Harvey that much.
Ah yeah. It something that had bugged me since the first viewing of the film, isn’t it strange that the Joker’s last plan should be a social experiment? He says so himself as a joke, but it really is and… I don’t know… it suggests too much that the guy cares about people. The Joker never truly feels like a crazy immoral guy, on the contrary he feels more like an incredibly moral guy who is intensely bitter about the world but will never act against the building of a fair society.
Ok, he is forcing people to kill each other, but he does so so ostentatiously that it makes him look like a ruthless mentor trying to inculcate (through pain) real values to his students.
About the ending. The prisoners on the ferry were the ones who were arrested by Harvey. And the people on the other ferry decide not to kill them. It shows a lack of trust towards Harvey Dent. Of course, Harvey never said that the people he arrested should die, but his ideology relied on the idea that “good people” are better than “bad people” and that’s exactly the ideology that is voiced in favour of pushing the button.
So, at the end of the film, when Gordon and Wayne are obsessed with protecting Harvey’s image, they are wrong. Harvey’s ideology lost its battle publicly on the ferry and that’s why Batman/Joker/Bruce don’t kill anybody. But privately, it’s another story.
Bruce killed Rachel because it was unbearable to him to see her leave for a hypocrite like Dent. I mean, at the end of the film we’ve all seen how the lawyer works. If he cannot rule the world, then it’s up to chance, the fact that he should be the one holding the coin and choosing the target doesn’t matter. It’s chance (sarcasm).
Dent is Bruce's opposite, and if he defends the Batman all the time, it doesn’t mean that he understands it. Harvey doesn’t see the Batman as self-sacrifice but as a guy who does what he wants and brings his justice upon others. He doesn’t see it as a sacrifice but on the contrary as absolute self-indulgence, the exact same self-indulgence with which he will eradicate everybody at the end of the film.
So, everybody knows that Harvey Dent was a mediocre individual, Bruce the first, but he cannot admit it anymore. He cannot voice the truth, which is that no ferry blew up because thanks to Batman, the passengers could believe that good can be expected from bad, from fear, from the dark. I mean, it is striking that Bruce should suddenly start to defend the guy he’s been criticizing all along.
He needs to see Harvey as a victim in order to hide from himself the fact that he killed Rachel. He needs to believe that Harvey was perfect for Gotham until Rachel died so that he can forget the motive of the murder. But at the same time, he wants to be blamed and punished, which is why he wants Harvey’s murders to be put on him.
Who takes this ending seriously? The idea that Gotham’s citizens need to be lied about Harvey is ridiculous. He heard his beloved future wife’s last words before she was blown away by an explosion and his face was half-burnt. So yeah, he went on a murderous streak which brought him to threaten an eight years old boy. Ok, he turned completely evil. But do people of Gotham need to believe that an incorruptible man can exist ? What good could such an idiotic and naïve symbol bring to the city ?
Batman and Gordon are infantilizing Gotham’s citizens and even if I don’t remember it very well, I think that the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises goes in that direction.
Beyond the fact that the people who want to blow up the ferries voice Harvey Dent’s ideology to justify themselves and beyond the fact that these two ferries should put against each other the criminals he arrested and “innocent” citizens, what made me think that it’s batman ideology which allowed them all to survive is the fact that each time the Joker attacks, there’s someone to face him. The fake batman dies courageously after having insulted the Joker. At Bruce's party nobody reveals where Harvey is and one man tells the Joker “We’re not scared of scum like you” even if they obviously are. So, I believe the movie hints at some sort of rising courage amongst the citizens of Gotham which would end with the impressive story of the ferries. And there's also Maroni helping Gordon. I find the idea of an evolution in Gotham citizens perception of human beings a lot more believable than the simple idea that people (in real life) wouldn’t dare push the button.
23. Lucius’ Big Brother computer. Joker was the good guy.
One thing that always unsettled me a lot was the strange use of a computer that watches on everybody in Gotham (3 millions people). It felt very wrong at the time, and feels very wrong in our post-Edward Snowden NSA/CIA story days.
Lucius goes “it’s wrong, I won’t work for you as long as you have this computer” and Bruce answers “Please ! Just this time.” They use the computer, they spy on everybody and it helps them get the Joker. It really doesn’t work as an argument against that kind of technology. “Let’s not torture him ! It’s unacceptable” “Lucius ! Just this time” “Ok fine. Oh ! It worked and saved the day !”
But at the same time, I don’t believe one minute that Nolan wanted to support that kind of method. So it remained a disagreeable element of the film, not only disagreeable but useless too, as we don’t give a shit how Batman finds where the Joker is. It’s the kind of thing that usually goes unnoticed after 2h of film, we just want Batman to kick his ass.
The thing is, screens and surveillance are linked with individuality, with the sense of self. We don’t talk a lot about that in our stupid cultures but cameras simply destroy individuals. Facebook, Iphone, surveillance cameras, TV, are doing nothing less than destroying humanity. Because cameras make you self-aware and prevent you from expressing who you really are, instead it makes you recreate a version of yourself that takes into account the exterior gaze, and not a light exterior gaze, a very oppressive one, thus creating a society that forces its essentially feeling-watched-on citizens to mirror its values so that they feel less threatened. Such a society strongly uphold dishonesty. It uphold dishonesty as nature.
Anyway, there is a very interesting shot in the final fight that shows Batman with his eyes covered of flickering images.
Bruce is now a level 50 vigilante, he gets the "vigilante vision" skill. Again, blue light, no warmth, no humanity. A world without love. Only robots.
It is a very corny shot but very meaningful. Your eyes are supposed to reflect your interiority. That’s why sunglasses are often used in movies to point at the moment a character is being dishonest or pretends not to see what he is witnessing.
Here, it means Batman has lost all humanity. Bruce has entirely lost any sense of self. He is now only the batman (Super Ego), and The Joker (the unconscious part of himself) has now become close to powerless. He doesn’t represent Bruce's unconscious self anymore; he is trying to prove that human beings have a sense of self. He is trying to prove that people think of themselves first naturally.
But he fails. For some reason, nobody finds the strength or the weakness to push the button. I honestly think the prisoners would have been sacrificed simply because the situation infers that there are no children on their boat whereas there are on the citizens’. And also, we all enjoyed the twist of the prisoner who takes the remote control and throw it by the window, the thing is, he is not being necessarily being courageous and beautifully self-sacrificial, I think it’s more like this guy is a murderer and he hates himself. The idea behind the resolution is that all these persons have learnt that everybody has worth, everybody deserves to live and thus nobody finds the strength to push the button. But that criminal who throws the remote control could be the exception, the guy who simply thinks he is worthless and doesn't deserve to live.
In this case he would actually agree with the citizens who thinks that they are worth better than the criminals. He judges himself. And suddenly, the others are like: “they didn’t kill us yet, it means they won’t.” So, this beautiful stunt actually works because there’s one of the prisoners who agrees with the fact that the other boat should blow them up.
Knowing that both boats are supposed to explode at midnight, it would already have meant a lot that nobody cracked at this point.
Because no boat explodes, the Joker fails at telling Bruce “Look Bruce, in certain circumstances it’s ok to be selfish. Sometimes you just need to save your life.” And because he fails, he becomes truly crazy. He laughs while falling to his death (Life and death doesn't mean anything anymore), and then he hangs upside down. He truly is finished because Bruce is too. There’s only Batman now. At the end of The Dark Knight, Bruce doesn't exist anymore, his human part has gone completely mad, the Joker is ready for Arkham.
Ok let’s say it’s over. I need to drink something.