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Chaos Rearranged
Tomoya C. Cruz
Salt Lake Community College

Chaos Rearranged
The Joker is an infamous character whose mind is as twisted as his trademark smile. A
character who has gone from a gag in children’s cartoons, to a serial killer mastermind with a
huge amount of determination to break the Batman. A character who has tormented the
protagonist in all of his different iterations from the classic animated series, to the comics
themselves. Jason Todd’s death, Tim Drake’s insanity (in the animated series), Barbra Gordon’s



paralysis from the waist down. The character hardly strikes fear, but excitement to those who
love him and watch him, expecting his performances to be grand, twisted and tormenting to the
Batman. However, the Joker has been described as a psychopath, once being compared to as a
mad dog chasing cars without a plan in movies, yet a genius full of chaotic plans in some of the
comics or animated series. However, a question is posed in the book I read that interested me: is
the Joker actually insane?
The Joker has been a prominent figure of chaos and anarchy and has been my favorite
character since Heath Ledger took up the role, so being able to study him from his supposed
element got me very excited to read about him. In the book, Batman and Psychology: A Dark
and Stormy Knight, by Travis Langley, brings up a question of how people are placed into
Arkham Asylum, and how it seems that the only qualifications that get people placed into the
facility is “Question 1: Did the defiant wear a costume when committing a crime?... Question 2:
Were the crimes centered around some compulsion or theme… Question 3: Could you easily
imagine this type of criminal living and committing this type of crime in the real world?” These
questions were given for the more “ordinary” cases such as Harvey Dent, Poison Ivy, or Penguin.
However, there were three villains that were delved into more thoroughly: the Mad Hatter,
Harley Quinn, and the Joker. My focus had been on the Joker, however, there was only a small
section in one chapter that talked about the Joker, possibly for good reasons.
What differentiates between regular inmates or serial murderers and those sent to insane
asylums are the qualifications to be considered legally insane by court. There needs a lack of
understanding between the differences of what is morally wrong and what is considered morally
good. (According to the book) Langley provides the example of Jeffrey Dahmer who was a
cannibal who had not classified to be insane during trial because he knew what he had done was
morally wrong, and thus could not plead insanity. Another example provided in the book was



whether or not there was a difference between your friends trying to convince you to kill the
neighbors, or whether a talking elephant was telling you to kill your neighbors. Though a talking
elephant would seem to be the work of insanity, a case that would qualify as insanity in court
would be whether or not the individual had interpreted the crime as morally wrong. The
difference being able to recognize “the real world meaning of wrongness,” and actually thinking
that there is a huge threat impending from the neighbors.
Langley’s book made psychology much more meaningful to understand the darker side of
psychology and being able to understand a few of the absurdities in the judicial system in
Gotham. There was a clearer understanding between these fictional villains and people who are
actually criminally insane. There have been some instances where the cartoonist would try to
portray the Joker as being insane; another example from the book being the Joker attempting to
copy write fish by dumping Joker chemicals into the lake, to portray him to fall into the insane
category, but the absurdity seems forced when it comes to the understanding (or lack of
understanding) that would be required to be labeled as criminally insane. Some have tried to
explain or reason that the Joker only wants to make the world fit in his sense by making
everyone laugh, or that perhaps he tries to make sense of his own self being by trying to prove
that anyone could become just like him.
The Joker attempts doing this many times over his many different interpretations whether
from the comic books, cartoons or the big screen. He succeeds in corrupting Harvey Dent in the
Dark Knight, but fails to corrupt Commissioner Gordon in the comic of the Killing Joke. Both
were acts of crime to try and make sense of the world around him through the though the theme
of having “One bad day.” Though it is not directly implied in the Dark Knight, it was one bad
day for Harvey Dent to go from being Gotham’s White Knight to becoming Two Face from one
push over the edge from Heath Ledger’s Joker. In The Killing Joke however, Commissioner



Gordon keeps his will strong against the Joker as he flashes the pictures of his daughter after he
shot her, and beats the Joker when he tries to prove that anyone could become just like him. That
aspect of the Joker, though he is just a character, fills me with a strange excited feeling, that
perhaps he is insane, that his morals are broken and he could care less about anyone else, yet his
self-awareness of his twisted acts makes it impossible to blame his disconnection with how the
world works. There are so many different “Jokers” that trying to analyze one won’t make the cut.
When in one moment, his crimes are more like practical jokes, and the next, he’s killing officers
and threatening Gotham’s own sanity and testing the civilian’s morals.
The significance of this section of the book and the insight it gave on with trying to
profile the Joker as a psychopathic killer is that many of the traits do not actually fit into those
category. Though he may not be sent to an asylum if he were to exist in real life, he would be
held in a high quarantine jail cell. Some people like Langley could claim that the Joker is not
legally insane by court, he would at least be considered to be a sociopath, having no regard for
human life, including Harley Quinn. However in some iterations, his insanity is more present
with some of the darker and more chaotic versions of the Joker, such as Heath Ledger’s Joker,
where it seems that he runs around, doing whatever he wants, letting his mind go wild with ways
to terrorize the city. When a character like the Joker could potentially drive actors like Heath
Ledger to his death, (Potential evidence in his Joker Diary) it makes me wonder how just a
concept like the Joker could be so sinister and evil that it would drive people to do things that
many people to actions no one could have ever guessed. An inspiration created from a fictional
character that forced the comics to recognize that people are drawn to something as twisted as
the Joker fills me with a strange giddy feeling that I cannot explain.
He has become more of a symbol as the years have gone on in the DC universe, as so
many inconsistencies in his stories arise of the minds of the authors has made the character seem



less of a person and more as a legend. He’s a symbol of chaos, anarchy and insanity, and one that
many weak minds in reality have become inspired and had caused many to strive to imitate. I
would love to be able to study people in that kind of observation manner, however I do not think
I have the potential or will to go into psychology more than just a small side hobby. I would love
to create someone just as sinister and daunting as the Joker, and watch the character’s madness
get planted into the fans heads. In the book, Langley says in his final chapter why we study or
read such works as the Psychology of Batman, that it when we study what fascinates us, obsess
over what fascinates us, it reveals something about ourselves, and the fact that the Joker is often
regarded as the most beloved villain in comic book history must appeal to some of the darker
parts of his fan’s minds.

Works Cited
Langley, Travis. Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
& Sons, 2012. Print.
Moore, Alan, and Brian Bolland. The Killing Joke. London: Titan, 2008. Print.
The Dark Knight. By Christopher Nolan. Perf. Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, and Christian
Bale. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2008. Film.