Friday, August 3, 2012

The Joker, The Psychopath Test, Taxi Driver

A novel is both time travel and perspective travel, allowing us to see through the eyes of others.  The end of literature, as Richard Russo pointed out, is not escape but empathy.  But the joy of reading novels might begin as an entertainment, simply a pastime, a brief escape from our lives, and for many it progresses to no higher level.

There are people who will only read formula genre novels their entire lives.  Even formula novels sometimes contain social criticism and insights into human nature.  People are especially changed by their novel reading when, through transference, fiction affects their own notions of life's narrative.

No one is surprised when the teen addicted to reading or watching soap operas turns her own life into a soap opera.  Drama queen.
Martin discusses Hinckley and Chapman:  Killing as performance.

The narratives we give ourselves are what we live by, and our analytical carving of experience and information is what creates that narrative.
Catcher:  you saw it everywhere.

The recent Colorado shooter in the news was no doubt entranced by Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, so much that it would change his real life narrative forever and end the real lives of many other human beings.

I blogged about the joker playing card on April Fool's Day at this link. It evolved from the fool card in the tarot deck back in the 1860s, during the Civil War, and its use spread quickly.  I posted many illustrations then, but it never occurred to me to compare those jokers to the Joker in the Batman comics.
The Riddler:  Orange hair?

Comic books were for kids.  The Batman television series of the 1960s was a campy comedy, with light social criticism.  Gathered around the television on the campus of the University of Kentucky, on the first floors of female dorm houses (housing was gender-segregated back then, and males were not permitted upstairs), couples watched it and laughed.

Jonathan Lethem, in the August 2nd (2012) issue of Rolling Stone, published a feature on Batman.  Lethem says that Batman is “a veteran of the secret war of the self..Batman is death.  He’s death denied, or mediated through the crude morality of Fate.  Batman is also goth. . .his unbearable whiteness, his revenger‘s isolation, his animal-cultist’s affiliations, his occupation of Gotham City.”

Identity trouble.  Are you talking to me?
As Grant Morrison says in Super Gods, "It was Batman as Dracula, the vampire as hero, preying on the even more unwholesome creatures of the night. . ."  The Joker "dressed like a riverboat gambler, his face composed to suggest some unhallowed marriage of showbiz, drag culture, and the art of the mortician."

As Batman is as serious as death, the Joker is his natural nemesis.  The other derivative villains such as Riddler and the Penguin, are also Freudian stand-up clowns.  Lethem says that in “a deeper sense, Batman’s real enemy is joking itself--mirth, mockery.  He stands in opposition to the comical, even as he arises in the comic book.”

Grant Morrison shows how, as Batman passed from writer to writer over the decades, the characters evolved.  "Where Cesar Romero's Joker had been a gibbering, essentially harmless mental patient and Jack Nicholson's a twisted pop artist, Keith Ledger's Joker was a force of dark nature, a personification of chaos and anarchy."

Whereas Superman was pro-establishment and a creature of the sun, Batman arose as a creature of the night, a vigilante who, on his own, could set things right in the face of organized crime and the corrupt and complicit Establishment and its impotent or at least insufficient law force.  A utopian fantasy that can only exist in the comics.
Who's the guy with the orange hair?

Bruce Wayne is western angst, hollow, emptiness seeking in vain for fulfillment, hedonistic, materialist consumerism consuming itself, and Batman is death denied which he projects, naturally, into a holy war.  The Joker is the sick side of Batman, the compulsive psychopath.  The Riddler is the absurdist paradox of life that gnaws at serious Batman's psyche.  Catwoman is kleptomania and sexual taboo/fetish.  Two-Face is schizophrenia.  Batman fights himself, again and again.

A Big Mac Joker Attack

By dying his hair orange and shooting up a theater at the opening of the new Batman movie, the psychopath has publicized the fictional characters, especially that of Keith Ledger's Joker, the tarot hanged man.  No one has yet provided a list of the books and movies left in his apartment, but it would not surprise me if J. D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye is among them.
Conspiracy Theory:  That's just what they want you to think.

It is not that The Catcher In The Rye is violent, but that Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon so identified with Holden, its protagonist.  Chapman was arrested with his worn copy of the book and a note inside identifying himself as Holden personified.  Another psychopathic killer, Robert John Bardo, had a copy of the book on him when arrested, and John Hinckley, Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, also has been associated with the novel.

Like us, the Colorado shooter may have been aware of all of this.  And like us, he has probably also seen the movies Taxi Driver and  Conspiracy Theory which play on this both thoughtfully and humorously.  Jody Foster, psychopaths, guns, and theaters.  The copycat symbols and coincidences repeat and mesh again.

Mel Gibson seems typecast for his part, another taxi driver and an innocent with paranoid tendencies, brainwashed and programmed to buy Salinger's novel again and again--so that the corporate state can track him.

Art imitates life, and life imitates Art.
Pictures of people reading the book abound--some of them comic, like the one above.

No comments:

Post a Comment