Think about Batman’s rogues' gallery. The most famous ones.
Catwoman, a burglar who wears a cat costume that robs things.
The Riddler, a smart man that robs things, dresses like Matthew Lesko, and gets off on toying with the police.
The Penguin...well, I’m still not clear what The Penguin does. He also robs things, but he dresses like a maitre‘d and has a fixation on umbrellas.
Many of Batman's most famous enemies are essentially regular, more or less realistic criminals that just happen to have a snazzy outfit and a gimmick. But The Joker isn’t a regular villain, and he definitely isn’t realistic.
The Joker is special, an implausible, inevitable, impossible force of nature. He’s the guy who poisons the city’s water supply, who creates smiling fish and tries to copyright them, and who is always, always, always trying to make you a freak…like him. It doesn’t make sense that The Joker exists, but The Joker has to exist: he's essential to Batman's larger world – maybe the most essential element – a counterpoint that defines the scope and tone of the Caped Crusader's broader universe.
I've spent the past six weeks thinking way too much about The Joker, what he is, and what he means. As we approach next Friday's premiere of Todd Phillips' Joker, I think we're all thinking a bit too much about The Joker, and how an unknowable and unpredictable force of nature can strike fear and shake up our morality.
And so here's his story, a video essay / mini-documentary / visual ramble that covers the character's origins, Alan Moore's influential The Killing Joke, his most famous portrayals, why he can't be killed, and how his influence infects the minds of people both real and make-believe (There's also an extended cameo from the Ayatollah Khomeini).
Watch it now or get to an Alamo Drafthouse screening of Joker at least seventeen minutes early to watch their preshow presentation. Enjoy and, if you dig it, check out the rest of what we're creating for the Birth.Movies.Death channel – recaps, video essays, and more.