The Joker as seen in The Dark Knight (2008) is one of the most convincing and iconic acting performances seen in recent cinematographic history. Don’t take that hyperbole too seriously. In particular when the movies tagline “Why so serious?” underlines clearly its irony. Heath Ledger, who died shortly after the filmings due to mixed drugs intoxication, brought his role to life and gave him the necessary weight in order to deliver such a disturbing and wicked antagonist.
It is his apatethic insanity and his chaotic inpredictability which let the Joker become the evil foe and archenemy of the Batman. Furthermore his personality reveals itself to be full of nihilist symbolism: He sees his criminal act as a sort of playful expression of anarchy. A necessary evil in order to show society how pityful and hypocritical they really are.
Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!
The fairness of chaotic behaviour is one of the main arguments by the Joker troughout the whole movie. He even convinces Harvey Dent, the district attorney who is called the White Knight in the beginning, to the dark side with his fairness trough chaos idea. After the enlightment, he becomes one of Batmans new antagonist: Two-Face. With a coin-flip, Two-Face decides upon the fate of his victims. Part of Jokers speech to Harvey Dent:
Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things. The mob has plans, the cops have plans, Gordon’s got plans. You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So, when I say… Ah, come here.
When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know that I’m telling the truth. It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!
Jokers goal ain’t money or glory, it is inherent rejection of projection (trough value, meaning or plan) what drives him to his spontanoeus kind of criminal hedonism. He fully lives in the present moment.
Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren’t you? Huh? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
His relationship to Batman is of course as interesting as Joker sees him as a sort of antithesis to himself. Joker is the so-called unstoppable force, much like water, and Batman the immovable object. Immovable due to the Batman value system or more precisely morale codex. Both form the extreme points of the same strangeness-axis:
Joker: I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… complete me.
Batman: You’re garbage who kills for money.
Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.
The Joker is joking about society. Being ahead of the curve, he wants to see the world burn. He is the hyperbole of the necessary Nietzschean renewment: upsetting the established order without becoming the extreme itself.