Alex Krzyston Review of Batman

Alex Krzyston Cardiovascular
The concept of the new Batman movie is a  return of the familiar.
Originally a kids comic book, the Batman has grow up and embraced the advances of cinema. 
The Batman movies are PG-13, darker, and more disturbing than the childhood comic books of yesterday.  Batman is the same Bruce Wayne dressed up as a bat and running around saving Gotham from the Joker, but he has changed.  Warner Brothers is appealing to adult audiences, the company has taken Batman out of the title, renaming him the Dark Knight.  However, audiences can still identify the Dark Knight as the Batman from the comic books.  This alone begins to take the viewer down into the uncanny valley, but as audiences watch The Dark Knight, the persona of the Joker dominates and takes them deeper as the comedic crosses over to the horrific.
Clowns are supposed to be funny and making people laugh.  An iconic clown prank is a whipped cream pie to the face.  However,  the funny becomes frightening when that whipped cream pie to the face becomes a pencil driven through one’s skull.  This clown prank is that of the Joker’s.  He represents a crisis of the proper and natural.  His face is scared into an eternal “smile,” and he paints his face to look like a clown, but the makeup makes him appear more zombie-like than clown.   It is smeared and does not fully conceal his skin.  According to Masahiro Mori’s poll, zombies are at the bottom of the valley of the uncanny.  The idea of the Joker as some sort of zombie-clown hybrid is further enhanced by the fact that he seems almost unable to die because Batman, being the moral hero, will not kill him.
Clowns are supposed to bring joy, but the Joker finds joy in bringing others pain.   Freud attributes the source of the uncanny in the Sandman to “the fear of damaging or losing one’s eyes” and goes further to claim that “anxiety about one’s eyes, the fear of going blind, is often enough a substitute for the dread of being castrated” (Freud 231).  This claim is partly true, for one can liken the fear of losing one’s eyes to the fear of castration; however, the over arcing fear does not end at castration.  It is the fear of being maimed in some way.  The Joker plays upon this fear, threatening to carve people’s faces to match his.  Even more disturbing and frightful is that he takes pleasure from arousing this fear.  In the movie, the Joker repeatedly carves someone’s face, paints it to match his own, and then kills him, laughing all the way.  He is creating dead doubles of himself.   The doubles of the Joker become “the uncanny harbinger of death” for the people of Gotham (Freud 235).  After inspiring such fear is when he asks, “Why so serious?”  Appropriate for a clown to ask a frowning child, not proper to ask someone with a knife in their face.
The Joker falls deeper into the uncanny value for there are clearly traces of humanity in him, but he is also lacking some key human qualities. The Joker takes pleasure in pain  and laughs at the fear he inspires in his victims.  Plato believes characters in proper stories, “mustn’t be lovers of laughter” (Plato 64). By Plato’s standards, the Joker is not proper for a successful republic.  Normal human emotion is supposed to have some sort of empathy or sympathy for one in pain, but the Joker seems to have lost all sense of compassion.  Sontag believes that “after repeated exposure to” gruesome or horrific “images it becomes less real” (20).  This idea seems to possible give explanation to the Joker’s disturbing pleasure in torture.  The repetition of killing has numbed him of finding any remorse in it. The Joker’s unknown past has stripped him of human emotion and reduced him to some lesser creature.
The fears that the Joker in the movie played upon, extends beyond the theater.  The Dark Knight, was so dark and disturbing that it actually gave audiences clown nightmares.  According to Plato, any movie that inspires such fear is not proper or suitable to show.  Stories which depict “unjust people [as] happy” also are not proper (Plato 68).  But, the movie crosses further into reality affecting the actors as well.  In his essay The “Uncanny,” Freud relates a story of the uncanny in which a man in annoyance proclaimed, “I wish he may be struck dead for it,” and a fortnight later, the man had a stroke.  He relates this to coincidence. The relation of coincidence and the uncanny is seen too in The Dark Knight.  Near the end of the movie, the Joker tells Batman, “You and me are gonna be at this for a long time.”  Before the movie was released into theaters, Heath Ledger, the actor who played the Joker died.  Much like the origins of his character, there is still uncertainty surrounding his death.   It is partially attributed to Heath Ledger being stuck in character and finding the line between the movie and reality blurred.  The fact the Joker resembles a clown-zombie hybrid seems even more eerie after watching the movie postmortem.

Works Cited:
Nolan, Christopher. The Dark Knight, 2008. Warner Brothers.
Freud, The ‘Uncanny’ 1919.
Masahiro Mori, Energy, Bukimi no Tani (The Uncanny Valley) 1970.
Sontag, In Plato’s Cave.
Grube G.M.A. Plato Republic, 1992, Hackett Publishing Company.

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