the dark knight joker theory

It’s been a decade since The Dark Knight hit theaters and shattered comic book movie conventions with its dark, psychological crime drama and its iconic villain played by a revelatory Heath Ledger. But as Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movie nears its 10th birthday, actor and certified geek Patton Oswalt is bringing the film back into the headlines with a fresh new fan theory about Ledger’s agent of chaos, the Joker. And his The Dark Knight Joker theory has a pretty compelling explanation about where the Joker got his scars.

For the entire movie, the Joker’s origins and motivations remain a mystery. He just “wants to watch the world burn,” as Michael Caine’s Alfred so eloquently monologues. But during a rewatch of The Dark Knight — as one does — Oswalt came up with a rather compelling theory about the Joker’s origins.

“I’ve always liked the theory that Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT is a war veteran suffering PTSD,” Oswalt wrote in a lengthy Facebook post this weekend. “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?”

Oswalt goes on to theorize that the Joker’s psychological manipulations of cops, underlings, and copycat Batmen were learned from a stint in military intelligence. It couldn’t be more clear than in Batman’s interrogation with the Joker, which the Joker effortlessly turns against him.

He seems to be very good at the kind of mind-f***ery 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.”

While the theory that the Joker is a victim of PTSD with potential ties to the military is not new, his argument about military intelligence is pretty compelling. I can’t pretend to know much about the inner workings of military intelligence, but what we see in the Joker seems to fit pretty well with what we know of military interrogation tactics.

What do you think about Patton Oswalt’s The Dark Knight Joker theory?

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