Movies & TV / News

Patton Oswalt Shares Theory About The Joker In The Dark Knight

May 18, 2018 | Posted by Joseph Lee
The Dark Knight The Joker Heath Ledger

In a post on Facebook, Patton Oswalt spoke about a fan theory regarding The Joker (Heath Ledger) in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. The theory is that due to Joker’s fighting style and experience with weapons, he’s actually a war veteran suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

He wrote: “I’ve always liked the theory that Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT is a war veteran suffering PTSD. His referencing a “truckload of soldiers” getting blown up, his ease with military hardware, and his tactical ingenuity and precision planning all feel like an ex-Special Forces soldier returned stateside and dishing out payback. I love films that contain enough thought and shading to sustain post-screening theorizing like this.

But I just re-watched THE DARK KNIGHT, and another wrinkle came to mind about The Joker.

What if he’s not only ex-military, but ex-military intelligence?

Specifically — interrogation?

He seems to be very good at the kind of mind-fuckery that sustained, professional interrogation requires. His boast about how “I know the squealers” when he sees one. The way he adjusts his personality and methods depending on who he’s talking to, and knowing EXACTLY the reaction he’ll get: mocking Gamble’s manhood; invoking terror to Brian, the “false” Batman; teasing the policeman’s sense of loyalty to his fallen, fellow cops; digging into Gordon’s isolation; appealing to Harvey Dent’s hunger for “fairness.” He even conducts a “reverse interrogation” with Batman when he’s in the box at the police station — wanting to see how “far” Batman will go, trying to make him break his “one rule.” He constantly changes his backstory (and thus who he is). To Gamble and his henchmen, he’s an abused child (figuring that they were also the products of abuse and neglect). To Rachel, he’s a man mourning a tragic love — something she’s also wrestling with.

In the end, he ends up trying to mind-fuck an entire city — and the city calls his bluff. Or is that what he wanted all along? He plummets to his seeming death, laughing like a child. And when he’s rescued by Batman, the one individual he couldn’t manipulate or break, he’s blissful and relieved (and, visually, turned on his head). Even the language he uses when saying goodbye to Batman — describing their relationship as an “irresistible force meeting an immovable object” — is the kind of thing an interrogator would say, ruefully, about a fruitless session.

It didn’t matter how he got those scars, turns out.

(*As Cody Glive points out, in a comment below, The Joker also “directs” Batman’s interrogation of him, like an instructor with a newbie. “Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy.” Can’t believe I missed that. Thanks!)

(And I ALSO just realized — The Joker uses The Russian’s dogs against him, and later sics them on Batman. Just like the pictures from Abu Ghraib of the prisoners being terrified by dogs)