Joker is Bruce's Best Friend part 2 (2000 words)
I’ve been wanting to rewatch Batman Begins for a long time now because it ends on the birth of the Joker. So if you want to analyse The Dark Knight, you really need to understand what brings Bruce Wayne where he is at the end of Batman Begins.
My problem was that I couldn’t gather the courage to watch Begins again, and now that I’ve done it, I’m not even sure I had seen it before. I’m not going to write a book about Nolan’s style but my god this guy is overrated. His dialogues are pompous, his jokes are heavily handed, without being particularly stupid, the ideas he develops are presented as if they were revolutionary when he is often talking a lot of hot air. Also, the actors he uses are regularly bad or badly directed. Anyway… he’s really overrated and it’s tiring to hear the awe he inspires. Yes, I’m jealous. I stick my tongue out to you. But I cannot truly be angry at him because he actual brings some fresh air in the dull world of blockbusters so, I cannot blame him for being unsubtle when he directs original stories and it’s already an accomplishment in itself.
Batman Begins is dull and corny, it has ninjas, phobias that you can overcome by not being afraid, super resistant snow, a child who shows up several times for no reason, super fucking moralising people everywhere (The bad guy, the girlfriend, the other bad guy, the cop, random people at a party), Christian Bale trying to look like a shallow playboy, halloween hallucinations, a never-ending car chase with something like fifteen crashes but thank god no victims, and a homeless guy wearing the same coat for years.
The film, I gather, is about fear. The gas, the phobia, scarecrow, the bat costume, the final scene with everybody panicking… fear and revenge.
I experienced some difficulty when it comes to finding a meaning to Bruce’s fear of bats -bats doesn’t inspire me much- but after seeing the scene of their apparition I finally understood something: the attack of the bats and the fall in the well happen when Bruce steals something from Rachel, when he commits “a crime.” Because his Dad is mister perfect (and does everything to be considered as such), Bruce is suddenly confronted to the idea of being undeserving, unlovable. He develops the fear of becoming exactly what his father protect people from: a flying rat, a parasite, a vampire of society, a dirty little thing bringer of disease and decay.
(Edit: he stills the arrowhead from Rachel. So, at the end of it all, everything is about Bruce being afraid of being owned by Rachel just like his father owned him).
Bruce is afraid of bats because he is convinced he would be one in the eyes of his father if the man knew his son's desires.
So, the fall into the well is also his spiritual fall, he stole something. But it father tells him “do you know why we fall Bruce ? To learn to pick ourselves up.” But Bruce doesn’t want to pick himself up, he want his Dad to say “Well, I love you anyway, everybody can do something wrong, even me.” When Thomas descends into the well, he is seen from beneath and is a godlike figure to Bruce.
I was easily convinced that Bruce’s relationship with his Dad is morbid because it comes up horribly often in the film and also because at the end of the story, Bruce has managed to destroy everything that his Dad has accomplished. It is not a coincidence.
If Bruce’s fear of bats is a fear of being incapable of remaining pure, becoming a Batman who fights to save the city represents an attempt at showing his dad that not everything is either black or white. And destroying his public image is escaping the pressure that his father’s souvenir represents. When he tells his birthday guests that they are two faced freeloaders in order to make them leave because Ra’s Al Ghul is there, he is actually pleasing himself. Otherwise he would simply have found another excuse. His father was a condescending façade and these people are still in love with this public image of benefactor and it is something unbearable to Bruce.
The film starts with Bruce fighting in prison, in a distant country, not in Gotham. The young man is still exploring himself and also, still considers himself a criminal for asking his parents to leave the Opera. He is scared by the play because there are bats in it, but bats represents his fear of not being a good person. So, when he asked his parents if they can leave, he is ashamed, and his dad take the responsibility for it, for no reason. This is a serious psychological misstep. Bruce would like his father to let him take the responsibility for the trouble he causes. He wants to say “I’m sorry” and hear his mother say “that’s alright.” He wants to be acknowledging the right to be “a chore.” Actual that’s a very existential desire. The desire to be perfect is (often) the desire not to exist.
But his dad won’t allow that. He takes the blame for Bruce as if he was doing him a favour. This kind of relationship is manipulative “I’m taking the blame for your mistakes which means you owe the love you get from people (in this Bruce’s mother) to me.”
Mother asks: "What's wrong Bruce ?" Dad answers: "No it's me." Thomas Wayne prevents people to deal with their problems. He helps the poor of Gotham certainly just as much as he silences them.
All that’s left for Bruce to exist is being a Bat, being someone else, escaping his father’s gaze, escaping the shiny ostentatious politically correct.
The problem is that it backfires badly in Begins. Batman arrests most criminals in one snap of his fingers, but people become scared of him and he triggers scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghum on a metaphorical as well as on a more practical level. I cannot analyse yet but simply, at the end of the film, Batman is a failure and Bruce should have died of shame except that Alfred saves him and he finds himself free for the first time. His has gotten rid of his legacy and that’s what matters to me, god this article just starts and I’m already at 1000 words. No more manoir, no more Wayne enterprise and no more tram. Bruce has destroyed his father’s memory; he is now free to be whomever he wants to be.
She doesn’t realise that Bruce cannot accept her love because he cannot know whether people love him or his father. He needs to solve this inner conflict before he can feel loved.
The problem is that Rachel takes things too literally. Because the Bruce she saw at the party was a disguise, she starts to think that Batman is the true Bruce Wayne.
When Bruce tells her “Batman’s just a symbol Rachel” he is telling the truth. It was a symbol which allowed him to be himself. A bit like some people are more comfortable making love in the dark, he was more comfortable behind a mask. But he is not the mask and when Rachel makes the mistake of thinking he is, it is tragic because she was facing a Bruce who could be himself without wearing a mask for the first time.
Now that he has proven that he doesn’t need to be his father to be worthy of her love, she tells him that she can only love him if he carries on being batman.
And she adds two horrible things to this mistake. First, she adds that the real Bruce might be “out there somewhere” and ready to come back when Gotham no longer needs Batman. So, she thinks Bruce is still trying to be his father. She thinks Bruce wanted to cure Gotham when he only wanted to make a point about himself. The point made and his father’s legacy destroyed, he could go on with his life.
So Rachel is suddenly pushing far far away the moment they are going to enjoy their love for one another. But worst that this, she states “Your father would be proud of you.”
Alfred's intervention is only verbal. Bruce could perfectly get himself out of this situation physically but was actually letting himself die. It's only because he is more than the Wayne's heir to Alfred that he survives the fire of the house. Until Alfred stupidly quotes Thomas Wayne five minutes later.
That is where Rachel decides to enter the scene.
- I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, Rachel
- No, No, Bruce… I’m sorry. The day that Chill died, I… I said terrible things.
- But true things. I was a coward with a gun… and justice is about more than revenge, so thank you.
- I never stopped thinking about you. About us. (Bruce smiles) And when I heard you were back, I… I started to hope. (She kisses him). But then I found out about your mask.
- Batman’s just a symbol, Rachel.
- No this… is your mask. (She touches his face and he becomes very serious). Your real face is the one that criminals now fear. The man I loved…the man who vanished… he never came back at all (He swallows). But maybe he’s still out there somewhere. Maybe someday, when Gotham no longer needs Batman… I’ll see him again (Bruce pinches his lips and acquiesces)
- You proved me wrong you know ?
- About what
- Your father would be very proud of you. (No reaction of Bruce)
- Just like me (Bruce smiles very lightly)
The last conversation between Rachel and Bruce in Begins is quite important.
The first we have to state about it is that, if Rachel had told Bruce “I love you, let’s be together,” Batman was over with. And the Wayne home was not to be rebuilt, or at list not “brick for brick.”
At this moment Bruce thinks he’s proven Rachel that public image is not interiority which also means he thinks he’s proven her that he can be a good guy without being a carbon copy of his father. That’s Bruce’s problem, he cannot earn merits for his behaviours because everything he does that is good is deemed a simple continuation of his father’s personality. Bruce struggles to exist as an individual in the eyes of people. They all just see his father.
So, he wants to do good (to feel deserving of his father’s love) but in secret and in a dubious way, so that it’s undoubtable that it’s his doing.
But Rachel is strangely blind to this. I think that she is either is a stupid idiot or, she is hurt and feels humiliated by Bruce because she loves him and he doesn’t seem to care. She talks to him in a very judgmental way when he tells her that he wanted to kill the guy who murdered his parents. “Your dad this and your dad that.” We can take what she says seriously OR we can think about the fact that she is in love with Bruce and that if he had killed that guy, he would have gone straight to jail.
She is hurt because she feels less important than Bruce’s troubles. She would want him to try and find comfort in her, instead he remains on his own and doesn’t tell her anything. So she becomes a rival to his psychological troubles.
It’s the same thing when she comes across him at a party and he is drunk and accompanied by two gorgeous naked women. It’s the first allusion to the loss of virginity in the film. I mean, there’s no precise moment at which it is stated that Bruce made love for the first time, but during this party it is at least “public” that he is going to screw these two girls. So Bruce isn’t virgin anymore but publicly, and this in the face of Rachel. So, again, she’s hurt badly.
"Bruce ! I'm flabbergasted ! You felt like having sex and I'm not the one you went for !?!" "Err... Rachel, it's not what you think. I'm a virgin and I wasn't actually going to have sex with them. It was just to show off. You don't believe me, do you ?"
With this terrible statement, she transforms Batman into an extension of Thomas Wayne and Bruce is now stuck in a new impossible situation. He has to be Batman to still have a chance with Rachel, but at the same time, he can’t be himself anymore as Batman.
And that how the Joker appears. Batman was the statement that being a good man in public doesn’t mean you’re a good man and that your dark side can be dubious but in the end do good.
And from that point of view, the fight between Batman and Superman is even more understandable.
Now that both sides have been invaded by Thomas Wayne thanks to Rachel, love has become unreachable, and when love is unreachable, there is nothing left but the self-destructive pursue of selfish primitive drives => The Joker.
Let's now move on to The Dark Knight.