I recently saw Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight in theaters, twice actually.  It has been a LONG time since I thought I film so well done that it was worth seeing in theaters a second time.  When I say “well done”, I don’t necessarily mean it was an easy trip for the spirit.  It was a rather dark film, and at times hard to watch.

Let me first say that I was blown away at the sheer caliber this film brought to the table under the guise of a comic book spin off.  Granted, the first Batman film Nolan put together was very well done, but this film took the initial momentum provided in the first film, and then proceeded to blow it out of the water.  It was that good.

I’m not going to bore the reader with an unnecessarily long summary of the film, I recommend the reader see the film for themselves, for the plot itself would take most of this entry’s length.

The aspect of the film I wish to highlight, the item I found particularly intriguing, was that of morality; to say it straight, The Dark Night approached ever so close to a Shakespearean morality play, closer in caliber than any other film of it’s genre.

For brevity’s sake, I wish to highlight only one key player in this morality play- the Joker.

There was something about the Joker which left a very bad taste in my mouth.  It was not the fact that his sadistic nature was so brilliantly acted by the late Heath Leger, nor even the fact that the Joker’s level of violence and perversion caused many (including myself) to turn away from the screen at certain points in the film.  No, the bad taste was left for the simple reason that the Joker was inexplicably, and completely, human.  To clarify, many villains in super hero films come across as frightening characters, but inevitably unbelievable as reality ultimately gives way to fantasy.

Now, a swift outcry the above statement will undoubtedly incur is one of disagreement.  How was the Joker a picture of humanity?  If anything, he was a picture of inhumanity, right?  First, I agree, the Joker was a picture of inhumanity, and to clarify, I am not saying that his human nature was anything to be aspired to.  But perhaps that’s the point?  As we look at his character, what do we see?  Rebellion?  Aggression?  Sin?  Let us look at the Joker in his own words:

“You have all these rules and you think they’ll save you.”

“The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.”

“It’s not about money… it’s about… sending a message. Everything burns.”

“I’ll show you, that when the chips are down, these uh… ‘civilized people’, they’ll eat each other.”

“See, I’m not a monster…I’m just ahead of the curve.”

“Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little…push.”

(to Batman) “You just couldn’t let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”

(to Harvey Dent/Two-Face) “You know what I am, Harvey? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one. I just do things. I’m a wrench in the gears. I hate plans. Yours, theirs, everyone’s. Maroni has plans. Gordon has plans. Schemers trying to control their worlds. I am not a schemer. I show schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.”

(to Harvey Dent/Two-Face) “Look what I have done to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple bullets. Nobody panics when the expected people get killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plans are horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will get blown up, nobody panics. But when I say one little old mayor will die, everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I am an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey? It’s fair.”

“Why so serious?”

Do we see any recurring theme?  The Joker is a self-proclaimed agent of chaos and hater of order/rule, this much we see.  Yet the irony lies distinctly in the fact that the Joker does not believe himself to be crazy.  In fact, he distinctly states this in the film.  However, based on his brutal actions, how is this statement rationalized?  The key here is that of morality, and if we read between the lines, we will see a philosophical treatise being promoted by the Joker, namely, in a world where morality can only be designed and dictated by the morally depraved, there are only two the logical alternatives, and they are chance or self-rule.  The problem with these two alternatives is that they lead to a system which is, ultimately, unlivable.  Chance (promoted in the film by Harvey Dent/Two-Face) is indeed a fair system in as much as everyone gets the same treatment, but it is also a faulty system, for it is unable to fix the inherent problems within its own system, namely, injustice.  Granted, injustice is also a problem when morals are created by immoral people, but the key difference is that in their system, injustice can be addressed, and even corrected.  In a system of chance, a flip of a coin is still and flip of a coin.  Self-rule, the other alternative, is another viable presented option.  Yet in this system, morality is no longer understood in terms of society, but in terms of the individual, and justice is therefore made null, for my scale of morality may be severely obtuse to your own.

The Joker succeeded in being a active and vibrant proponent of his own philosophy, of this much I am sure, and as we peered into his dark heart, perhaps we saw our own?  The chaos of his heart, the chaos of our own.  The rebellion of his heart, the rebellion of our own.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Thought they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:28-32

Who is Paul describing here?  It’s not the Joker, for believe it or not, he is describing the hearts of all of those apart from Christ!  In the Joker, we see the utter rebellion of our own hearts against the law of God.  In the Joker, we see our sinful heart’s innermost desire, autonomy from all else, where all that is left is a system of chance acting on chaos.  We would be gods ourselves, answering to no one, and in a world with no ultimate authority, the only sensibe way is to live without rules.

But our hearts have born testimonies against us, and we are left to plead our case against a righteous Judge, one that does not give in to partiality.  The punishment shall fit the crime, and the deserved punishment is death.

This is the truth.

Yet there is another truth, one which succeeds where the other fails.  This truth bears with it a most amazing realization, namely, the Joker himself (upon repentance) is not excluded from Mercy.  He is not excluded from Grace!

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:8-11

As for me, I have decided to follow Jesus.  I rejoice in the grace of God which is found in the life and death of His Son.  I rejoice that God raised Him up from the dead, so that we now have an advocate in heaven, pleading on our behalf.  Christ has taken my Joker’s heart, and is renewing it.  The decay, the rot, even the smeared face-paint are being gently washed away with the blood of the Lamb.