Patton Oswalt Has a Mind-Bending Theory About the ‘Dark Knight’ Joker’s Backstory
You need to hear this.
Comedian and author Patton Oswalt is a movie fanatic. He even wrote a book about it. Naturally, he puts a lot of thought into his favorites, and as a result he’s become a master of the well-thought-out fan theory.
People use those theories to fill in holes in the script, and after recently re-watching The Dark Knight, Oswalt had one hell of a revelation regarding who the Joker was before he became the Joker.
Oswalt detailed his idea in a Facebook post, beginning with the following:
I’ve always liked the theory that Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT is a war veteran suffering PTSD. His referencing a “truckload of soldiers” getting blown up, his ease with military hardware, and his tactical ingenuity and precision planning all feel like an ex-Special Forces soldier returned stateside and dishing out payback. I love films that contain enough thought and shading to sustain post-screening theorizing like this.
That is a great theory, and it’s one many fans subscribe to. But Oswalt wasn’t done. He said he’d re-watched the movie and had an inspiration regarding the character. He wrote, “What if [the Joker] is not only ex-military, but ex-military intelligence?”
The comedian wondered if the super villain’s specialty in the military was specifically interrogation. Then he made his case:
He seems to be very good at the kind of mind-fuckery 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.”
This makes total sense, because the Joker’s ability to take control really was one of the keys to the character.
Oswalt went on to point out that Joker ultimately “ends up trying to mind-fuck an entire city — and the city calls his bluff.”
So—manipulation, deception, control. It all fits. Oswalt even agreed with one commenter’s point that “The Joker also ‘directs’ Batman’s interrogation of him, like an instructor with a newbie. ‘Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy.'”
Mind. Blown. This theory also has the advantage of underscoring why the Joker was so menacing while still seeming like, well, a clown.
The Dark Knight seems like a completely different movie now.
After this, Patton Oswalt’s next book should be nothing but his fan theories.