Joker is Bruce's Best Friend (800 Words)
Today, we’re going to look into something that I’m always surprised isn’t talked about more often when it comes to the caped crusader with pointy ears: the fact that the Joker is a part of Bruce Wayne.
I’ve seen a lot of fans talking about Nolan’s films or Batman v Superman or The Killing Joke and never did I see them talk about the Joker as the incarnation of Bruce’s shameful desires.
The thing is, Batman is not an obscure comic that nobody reads. It’s been around for ages and I’m surprised that an idea so juicy (and correct) shouldn’t have yet become common place knowledge amongst the fans.
I’m not a Batman fan. I saw The 1989 movie in theatre then Returns on TV and rented both Schumachers. I don’t even remember how I saw Begins, The Dark Knight I saw on DVD and Rises in theatre.
I also saw something like twenty episodes of the cartoon when I was a pre-teen.
I realised that Joker and Batman were both different sides of Bruce Wayne when I watched Tim Burton’s movie for the second time about seven years ago. Then I realised it worked too with Nolan’s (which I disliked at the time because of the complete randomness of its plot), and eventually, this year’s The Killing Joke confirmed my theory even further.
Batman is the “Pro-system, pro-society, pro-law and order” side of Bruce Wayne whereas Joker is his “Anti-system, pro-individuality, pro-inner desires, pro-love, pro-happiness” side. Period, it’s that simple (edit: actually it's not that simple but you still see what I mean). And yeah, seeing Joker being associated with love and happiness might seem strange but we have to remember that we’re talking about Bruce Wayne’s version of love and happiness. He is a pretty messed up person.
Just watch one of these movies with this idea in mind (Batman, The Dark Knight, The Killing Joke) and you’ll see that everything that Joker does is actually what Bruce unconsciously wants to see happen. Yes, he wants Rachel to die (The Dark Knight). Yes, he wants Barbara Gordon to be shot in the belly (The Killing Joke). And yes, he wants to gas the people of Gotham City for their greed (Batman).
Bruce is a sick man who cannot overcome the death of his parents. His legacy, apart from a lot of money, is a feeling of absence of worth if he doesn’t carry on what they started. The problem is that, they used to “fight crime” or try to improve Gotham City in some sort of way and little Bruce Wayne cannot follow their path as he is absolutely terrified. His parents were killed by random criminals, how could he become a fearless righter of wrongs? Well, through a split of personality.
Batman is the morbid psychological growth stemming from Bruce’s need to fight crime to feel that his parents can be proud of him. He needs to be Batman to feel loved; and this to such an extreme that he would certainly commit suicide if he had to stop being a vigilante. Bruce Wayne is a man whose thirst for love is still existential. We’re talking about a traumatized orphan who saw his parents getting killed in front of him not about a random rich citizen who went “Ach, there is too much crime in Gotham City and I’ve got too much time on my hands.”
However, on the other side of this, there is an individual who is more critical of his parents’ behaviour. People made fun of Daddy Wayne in BvS because he tried to attack a guy who pointed a gun at him. But it’s actually a meaningful element. The Wayne’s were a bit arrogant in their idea that they were the ones to create a better world, they didn't see themselves on the same level as anybody, and if they had been more humble, they’d still be alive. There is a side of Bruce that knows this fact. There is a side of Bruce who is angry at his parents for not simply bowing their heads and giving their money/jewels because they had a son and thought their son’s life was more important than their pride. (It's a bit different in Nolan's film, that's why it's hard to write something precise and absolute about the character, its core motivations slightly change from one iteration to another).
This side of Bruce is the Joker.
The Joker is the angry whimsical child who is provoking chaos as a mean of expressing his distress, his need for some attention and the lack of love he suffers from.
You know, the kid that nonchalantly and provocatively drops the thing he is holding at the precise moment you tell him to be careful. The kids who wants you to know that there are no rules that he should respect if you don't give him love first.
Bruce’s parents favoured law and order to their little boy’s life, so Bruce is now split into Batman and Joker: split between his desire to be the good kid of mommy and daddy and the desire to have his own life and still be deserving of love.
Well, I should stop here now that I think. I was thinking of analysing The Dark Knight but I suppose this idea about the Joker should remain isolated from other analysis.
I cannot say it works for any Batman story, but it works at least for Batman, The Dark Knight and The Killing Joke… and also maybe for the Arkham video games. In Arkham Knight the Joker appears to Batman although he is dead. I’ve never heard of a Batman story that went that close to saying that Joker is a part of Batman’s mind.
And so, what is important here is that Joker is closer to the true Bruce Wayne than Batman is. Batman is an empty shell, a persona, a role. Joker is the safety valve for when Bruce Wayne's real desires become too different from "what mom and dad would want" or from what is socially acceptable.