Why So Serious?

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His face was painted white, hair dyed green. Through the face paint, you could still see the naked wrinkles of his forehead. His eyes were blacked out all around, as if he rubbed charcoal around them, leaving you forced to stare into that bottomless void of terror. His scarred Glasgow smile was masked by a big smudge of red paint across his face, resembling a broken grin, almost like blood pouring out of his scars. This isn’t your regular circus clown; this is a broken and mentally-disturbed man with seemingly no backstory.

This was the clown prince of chaos. This is Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker in the movie The Dark Knight. His version of the Joker is a very iconic villain in cinema history because of the realism of his character, his unknown yet sophisticated backstory, his dark presence, and his chilling motives.Throughout the film, the Joker carries a very evil, dark, and unsettling aura around him. Everyone around him cowers in fear, including his own thugs. During one point in the film, the Joker is incarcerated. The cell He is in a cell with other prisoners rocking back and forth in regret for their crimes. The Joker does not do anything except sit there, hands clasped together in a relaxed posture, staring forward at nothing. His chin was down and his eyes were up; his eyes were screaming “I’m going to kill you” which were accompanied by his signature smile, and yet he just sat there unworried about what could happen. He sat like he was a predator stalking his prey. He sat like a man who they thought they’ve captured, but it was all apart of his very own game he has created. Another unsettling detail about the Joker is that he almost seems like he is addicted to pain. There was a scene where he is being violently and physically interrogated by the Batman. The masked crusader in black towered over the Joker, delivering devastating punches and kicks, like an angry god unleashing his wrath on his subjects. Although, through all these punches, the Joker just laughed, as if he enjoyed it. These two exchanges really set the mood throughout the entirety of the film.

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One thing that really paints the whole picture, though, is that his backstory is left untouched and unknown, mainly due to the fact that he never sticks to one story – it was always one or another. In one scene in the movie, Bruce Wayne was throwing a party for district attorney Harvey Dent. Smiles and laughter resounded throughout the penthouse, which was on the top floor, overlooking the night skyline of Gotham City. All of the sudden, the sound of laughter and clinking wine glasses were suddenly interrupted by the ear-splitting sound of a shotgun. In walks the Joker from the elevator, making his grand entrance. Gasps and fearful murmurs of party-goers superseded the exuberance that once occupied the penthouse. His thugs, who we came out from behind him, like a peacock spreading its feathers. Fear was now instilled all throughout that room. The Joker goes up to a woman and starts his menacing monologue about how he got his scarred smile. He tells the woman that his wife told him that he worries too much and he needs to smile more.

Soon, his wife was attacked with a knife after getting in trouble with some gamblers. He felt guilty, urging him to razor himself a smile from ear to ear. He tells a different, yet similar story in another instance. A group of mob members was spending their leisure time playing billiards at their base of operations. “Hey boss, somebody here for you. They said they just killed the joker. ” says one member. They bring in a black body bag containing the Joker’s “dead” body. They pull down the plastic bag from the top, revealing the scarred clown. He jumps up and attacks the boss, then proceeds to tell his origin story. He tells the mob boss that his abusive father was attacking his mother with a knife. His father then turns to him and asks “Why so serious… why so serious!”. The Joker explains that his father gave him his cursed smile, proceeding to ask the mob boss the same thing “Why so serious?” before proceeding to slit his throat. The mob members were trembling in fear as they see their lifeless leader’s body drop down. The reason that makes this version of the Joker so different and iconic is simple: this version was created to be as realistic as possible. If you compare Heath Ledger’s Joker with other film depictions, such as Jack Nicholson or Cesar Romero, you’re going to tell that Ledger’s version is the least comic-book-accurate of the few. The other Jokers were very true to the comics. They were very cartoonish and did what they did purely for the fun of it. Nicholson and Romero’s Jokers were very loud, silly, and random. They sounded and acted very much like laughing hyenas and wild monkeys. Ledger’s Joker was more mysterious and ominous. People feared him and they were uncomfortable around him. He did what he did with a purpose in mind. He killed not for the fun of it, but to instill fear in others and to create a reputation.

Heath Ledger’s Joker is a representation of sin, anger, fear, and hatred. Watching him in this movie was like drowning in violent waters. You want to reach out up from the water for comfort but he keeps pulling you down, simply because he can. What makes this Joker so scary and terrifying is that he doesn’t fear death, because he knows that he will always win whether he lives or not. Despite the fact that he seemingly walks around without a plan, he really has a grand scheme hidden behind the veil.

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