You complete me: The Batman – Joker axis in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”

While there are many adversaries Batman faces both in comics and on screen, the Joker is the one that defines him best by juxtaposition. In every version of the story different authors endow these two with various shades of the traits from the appropriate spectrum (the good guy or a hero vs the bad guy or a villain), yet they still end up as a complementary palette to each other.

juxtaposition

In my search for the next movie character(s) to examine through the prism of astrological archetypes I thought that the somber saga by Christopher Nolan about a hero dethroned and banished would be a suitable choice. It’s always exciting to rediscover the well-familiar characters.

 

The Joker, of course, was an easy pick. Chaotic, radical, shocking, anarchistic and mad as a box of frogs – all these epithets come straight from the list of keywords for Uranus. Without getting too deep into placements, houses and aspects I will simply stick to the general planet-sign association. Uranus rules Aquarius, so this is the tag we’re putting on our never-too-serious guy. Aquarius is independent and unconventional – qualities that can also describe the Joker. He doesn’t want to be part of any organized criminal group and everything from his methods to his looks and manner is as far from normal as I am from getting a Nobel prize in mathematics  (and  I’m not diminishing my math abilities here).

 

But this isn’t the case of solely siding with negative characteristics of a sign or planetary energy. Aquarius under the rule of Uranus is socially oriented (like all Air signs) and looks for ways to contribute to the society. The way is usually found through radical reforms and tearing down the existing structures and boundaries in order to create new ones. The Joker’s eccentric manner leads our neurons down the familiar pathways: crazy equals dangerous equals villain. But if you really break down what is happening in “The Dark Knight”, it turns out that it’s not only for the devilish charm and playful charisma which Heath Ledger gave this version of the Joker that he appeals to us. There is more to this guy, just as there is more meaning to his actions than simply creating chaos for the fun of it (though, “chaos for the fun of it” is the sauce the entire thing is dressed with).

batman2Jokerflip

Let’s take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture of what is going on in Gotham at the beginning of the film:

 

The city is sinking in crime. All the good guys are fighting it – the city officials, the police, Harvey Dent and Batman himself – but with zero effect as the crime rate doesn’t seem to decline whatsoever. The cops are still corrupt, the streets are full of thugs and the Mob is well and thriving. Everything functions just great in this fine tuned mechanism, this system that had been established long before Bruce Wayne lost his parents and decided to try and change the order of things in Gotham. And while it’s quite clear why everyone else can’t put an end to this (cops aren’t superheroes), it is interesting to note that Batman’s efforts to clean up the streets seem to be as productive as raking water uphill. Why? Not for lack of trying, of course, and not even because he is just one person. The reason is that he is also a part of this system. He joined it in “Batman Begins” when the city installed the signal light and accepted him as an unofficial part of the crime-fighting force. The mechanism adjusted to the new part and the status quo remained undisturbed. All the law enforcing action we see is just a veneer. Enter Joker.

 

The guy who wants to see everything burn because the old system can not be adjusted or changed – it needs to be destroyed completely in order to move forward. The guy who self-describes as an “agent of chaos” (very Uranian) and praises chaos for being fair and unbiased (very Aquarian). Well, sure, that’ll get some sympathizers among anarchy-oriented types, but there really aren’t that many out there. Then, how come this particular version of the Joker have gathered a larger crowd of fans than any others? Heath Ledger’s performance is definitely a big part of it, but in addition the Dark Knight’s Joker doesn’t appear to be a senselessly evil one. He’s not a villain just for the sake of being a villain, neither is he driven by personal ambitions or desire for power. He’s a guy with a vision and ideals, a true revolutionary who’s ready to risk his life for the cause (and we see that he often does).

 

Violence is a part of any revolutionary movement but it is only condemned in case the change of power fails, otherwise all the bloodshed is seen as done for the greater good. Besides, if we actually do a body count of people killed by the Joker personally, most of them turn out to be criminals – the ones he robs the bank with or the ones working for the Mob. He blows up a hospital that is completely empty and even lets Harvey Dent point a gun at his head and play a coin toss version of the Russian roulette. So while it appears that he leaves piles of corpses in his wake, he actually doesn’t, and as for Rachael… well, he [quote] “…was locked up in Gordon’s cage the whole time!” Obviously, unlike the corrupt cops who claim to have had no knowledge of what would be done to Harvey and Rachael, the Joker knew. But was he the one to orchestrate all of that? Does he really look like a guy with a plan?

 

From the very beginning you can’t help but wonder at the vast resources he has at his disposal. I mean, sure, he isn’t in it for the money, however, it is unlikely that all of the people who work for him share this principle. And it isn’t just financial resources – the information the Joker has, the level of organisation of all his feats and actions, like the amount of explosives at the hospital, on the two ferries, around Harvey and Rachael – all of this shows that his team is very efficient and has no problem getting access to the necessary items and locations without much trouble and on time. Finally, the Joker himself gives away his true position in the chain during the motorcade chase: “ I like this job!’ – he says – ‘I like it!” This job? As in “I work for someone”? That would explain why he comes in as a powerful player with deep pockets, yet not being the part of the Mob.

 

I should probably steer back to the knight in matte armor before this article turns into “who’s behind the Joker” theory. Gives you guys some food for thought for later (hint – always look for the motive).

UcompleteME222

Anyway, with the Joker being so clearly an Aquarius (at least in my opinion) I took it easy on my brains and followed his clue, since from my personal experience Aquarians do have these higher insights and often stumble upon the truth by force of some divine inspiration. He tells Batman: “You complete me” and this translates into an astrological aspect of an opposition, which is two signs that are polar opposites of each other. Like two sides of the coin, they complete each other and – even though they are different – they are not completely different, being a part of one whole. This means that Batman should be a Leo, so let’s take a closer look to see if we can make the shoe fit.

 

If I had to choose only one word to describe the archetype of Leo, I would probably go for “dramatic”. Leos like attention, which isn’t bad in itself. They are also confident, courageous and natural leaders (all three apply to our subject). They are creative, however, this creativity is to some extent driven by the desire to be in the limelight and win the respect of others. When Bruce gets all negative about the copycats, it raises the first flag. Why so negative? It’s not like the guys are running around in Batman suits and robbing people. They’re inspired and trying to help, but “this isn’t the kind of inspiration” he was hoping for… is it because they are crowding the stage?

 

What about the method he has chosen to clean up the streets of Gotham in loving memory of his parents and his own childhood trauma? There’s a common joke about Batman’s superpower being his money. It is often shown in both Batman Begins and the sequel that not only he has plenty of it but also has many wealthy connections and is sure enough that his sources will never dry up. So sure, that he can buy high-end restaurants on a whim. Seems like there is more than one way to reduce crime and corruption rate, like, oh, I don’t know…giving the money to the city budget to raise cop’s salaries high enough so that the Mob can’t compete? Maybe also sponsoring educational and family programs to lower the number of kids growing up in addiction- and crime-inducing environment? Free rehabs for addicts? I’ve only been brainstorming for two minutes here, I’m sure there are other projects that could have been created and funded… but what is it that they all lack? The flair. The show. The drama.

 

Incidentally, all of the above would be legal ways to achieve the goal. The copycats Batman is so unhappy about are technically increasing the amount of crime in the streets, since they aren’t authorized to assault anyone, including criminals. But neither is Bruce Wayne. As the R-r-r-r-russian prima ballerina Natasha puts it, he is a ‘vigilante who thinks he is above the law’ and since he was successful in taking down Ra’s al Ghul in the previous part, the police are only too happy to shift the load onto him. The light that Gordon installs on the roof doesn’t seem to upset Batman too much, so we understand that secrecy and element of surprise is not his chosen tactic.

 

We could try to justify Batman’s thinking that he’s above the law by the noble motivation as well as the problem of corruption among the police officers, if it only ended there. Leos are confident and authoritative, but can get a little too arrogant at times. While talking to Alfred about the Joker and his reasons, Bruce says: “All criminals are simple” – quite dismissively, as if the moment one breaks the law the uniqueness and complexity of a human being is just zeroed out. With a single exception of him, apparently, since he always conveniently forgets that he isn’t a perfect law abiding citizen either.

 

Perhaps you have noticed by now, that I seem to be sort of pro-Joker and anti-Batman in this little article of mine. No, I’m not. Not really. I happen to have an exact Sun-Uranus trine in my chart and with the Sun placed quite strongly it is not overpowered by Uranus, thus I strongly identify with both energies. Also, having some Leo in my chart, I know how our tribe can be at times (no offence, you guys, y’all know you’re awesome, of course). Any which way, it’s not really the case of one sign being better than the other. Each of the astrological archetypes, if seen as a color, can have a great variety of shades – from dark to light. And each individual chooses their own path, their own actions, which shades to use.

 

The reason the Joker is not as bad as a true villain should be and Batman is not as good as a true hero should be is that this is how they are shown in this film. The title itself – The Dark Knight – in which the key work is “dark” doesn’t refer only to Batman’s outfit. The character is  much darker himself, despite fighting on the good side. He’s much too often unnecessarily violent (to the copycats, to the SWAT and while interrogating the Joker) and concerned with his personal matters (Rachael, of course). He gets emotional, while the Joker stays cool and detached. Yes, the Joker yells and screams and acts crazy, but that’s all for show. If you watch closely, you’ll notice he doesn’t get personal, not one bit. This is another great demonstration of fiery, emotional and dramatic attitude of Leo and cerebral, emotionally withdrawn  Air sign of Aquarius.

 

Finally, if the Joker’s crazy insight on him and Batman being two parts of one whole doesn’t make a respectable argument for some, we can also listen to Alfred, who tells Bruce: “Perhaps, he’s a guy you don’t quite fully understand.”  Being polar opposites does complicate comprehending, but astrologically speaking, this can refer to some other aspects, like quincunx or semi-sextile. Is there something that unites them, just like the two signs of an opposition are united by modality and polarity? It looks  to be the fight for the souls of the people of Gotham, which neither one is able to win hands down yet neither one is willing to give up. Firmly entrenched (as the fixed signs would be) in their own ideas on the subject, they keep going at it all the way till the end of the film, and probably after as well since the Joker doesn’t get killed, only detained. For how long, I wonder (remember the mysterious powerful figure he is likely working for?)……

2 thoughts on “You complete me: The Batman – Joker axis in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s