The psychopath and the hero

Posted: May 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So I watched The Dark Knight with my wife the other day and we had an interesting discussion about the Joker. I thought he was an interesting study because he seemed to me to be not insane but the logical conclusion of a naturalist world: in the absence of any absolute, any fixed reference that could define truth and good, his world view made perfect sense. The only fair thing, as he said, is chaos and people must eventually degenerate into pure self interest when you strip away the veneer of civilisation – sort of Lord of the Flies with a bomb trigger instead of a conch, if you will. My wife, who has her honours in psychology, maintained he was much more of the classic psychopath and delved into her textbooks to prove her point.

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight Returns

While I’m still not entirely convinced the Joker fits the profile, one very interesting thing that emerged was that the psychological profile of the psychopath and the hero are not that far apart. Both have little regard for personal safety, embrace high risk activities and have an often…unconventional view of society and their role/obligations within it. The difference in the way that someone with that profile turns out, whether they become the Batman or the Joker, lies in their early childhood experiences. As if you didn’t have enough pressure as a parent, it’s now clear that it’s up to you to keep your young daredevil away from the dark side and ensure that they rescue society later on rather than destroy it! Still, it’s comforting to know also that the hard work you put in when they’re little could realise amazing benefits later on. And, no, I don’t mean they’ll keep on running round as adults with their underwear inside out…

As a final thought, watching the movie made me agree with my wife’s sentiment that associating Heath Ledger’s suicide with his portrayal of the Joker is an overly romantic notion. If there’s one thing that the Joker was not in that movie, it was suicidal.

  1. P.A.N says:

    Just a thought, maybe the psychopath has a nihilistic worldview and the hero an altruistic one

  2. veethree says:

    Nice way of putting it. The trick is, as always, to feed the right view when they’re kids, by our deeds and words.

  3. SGGN says:

    Still think I’m right – but I love the way you explain it all so lucidly. Love your blogs!

  4. Michael says:

    It wasn’t a suicide, it was an accidental overdose.

    • veethree says:

      How can we be so certain? In any event, it’s really the romantic notion I was referring to, so if it was an accidental overdose it only goes to disprove the notion further.

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