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What does Joker (The Dark Knight) really want? Is He Really Insane?


Who does not love “The Joker”. He was the embodiment of Chaos, the opposite of the Caped Crusader Batman. All he wanted was chaos and to torture Batman. With all the Chaos he has caused it would be easy to call him insane. Before we determine whether or not the Joker from “The Nolan Trilogy” is insane or not, let us define what insanity means:

What is Insanity?

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Insanity is a condition when a person is unable to know whether they are in reality or in fiction. They are unable to perform their daily activity in a normal way due to psychosis.

Insanity in itself is a legal term and this small legal term prevents the law from putting the ones who are insane in Jail. Instead, this forces the law to admit them into a mental asylum.

By this, it means that if Joker is insane, he can’t be jailed regardless of how many people he kills or how many things he blows up. But is Joker really Insane? If we look into all the versions of Joker, it will take a long time and might just drive our team insane as well so we won’t do that. But even focusing on the Joker from The Nolan Trilogy, is he really Insane? If he is not Insane, what is making him do these things? What mental issue does he have?

The Characteristics

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From the surface, the Joker does really look insane. His disregard for life, his impulsiveness, his so-called lack of motivation for money, and his obsession with Batman. But so far, he only has one trait to be defined as insane, which is impulsiveness. But is he even impulsive?

Let’s see what he is first. He is obsessive for sure which is clear with his obsession with Batman. Along with that he has a disregard for human lives and does not have fear. This means that he has basically no emotions like empathy nor fear. Among other things he is deceitful. Who else can wear white makeup and carry a scar and yet somehow go on undetected as he can?

Impulsive or Not?

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Throughout the movie, we see him staying calm and waiting for the right time, sometimes even at the cost of risking his life. This also tells us that he does not care if he lives or dies. Now what supports our statement of him not being impulsive is the first scene where he appears. He has prepared a plan to rob the bank, a plan where every member dies and along with that, he has managed to manipulate those people to rob a bank without knowing the full plan, which impulsive people can’t do at all.

But at the same time, we also see him doing quite reckless things that any person with half a brain cell would not do. This is impulsiveness. So Is he Impulsive or not? Or did he possess switch personalities?

So according to this analysis, he possess these personality traits:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Deceptiveness
  • A good Planner
  • Disregard for human life
  • Obsessive in nature
  • Outcasting
  • Manipulative
  • Personality Imbalance

Finding the Motive of The Joker

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By this phase, we are cleared that he is not insane. He knows the reality from fiction and it is not affecting his daily activity in any way nor is he more impulsive than someone with an IED. Then what is the major reason that made him do what he is doing?

To put it simply, he is doing just for Batman’s. That is all there is to it. There is no other reason in the movie nor in any sources as to why he wants to do it. His sole purpose is to break Batman down to the extreme. Even if you dive deep into the comics, you will not find a solid reason as to why he is the way he is.

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Due to the DC comics being retconned a few times, all of his origin stories so far have become canon unlike a lot of other characters. So this means even if you dive into the comics, you will never be able to confirm why he is doing the things he is doing aside from this. Every origin story he has is his true origin story.

“I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you?” Says the Joker. This means that the sole motive of the existence of the Joker is to torture Batman just for the sake of it. Not for revenge or anything. Along with this, it also signals that without Batman there would be no Joker. This is his obsession with Batman. This is his motive in the movie.

The Diagnosis

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Hence, we can conclude that if the Joker is not Insane, then what is inside his head that’s making him do all these things. If we include all of the traits so far, we can see some traits of real-life people in the Joker.

If you have ever heard of Sasaeng you would know what we are talking about. For those who don’t know what Sasaeng are, they are the fans who are obsessed with the K-pop Stars. They stalk the K-pop Stars and a lot of them have even gone to harm themselves and others just to get their attention.

In this case, the Joker is the same. Everything he does, everyone he kills is to get the attention of Batman. He loves Batman to the point of wanting to break him. In that same scene, he says again just a few seconds after “no no no… you complete me… to them you are just a freak… like me. They need you now but when they don’t… They will cast you out”. Feeling like he understands someone and exists for that someone.

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This is a thing we see all too often in real life. But the issue here is the object of his affection. The object of his obsession is Batman, the one who only comes out when there is chaos. To get his attention, the Joker does what he does, even if it means creating a Chaos.

So is he insane or not? The answer is No! he is not as insane as he wants others to think. He has a goal and a motive. What makes him seem insane is the way he achieves his goal and given his obsession, he doesn’t have another way either. Is he a victim of circumstance? Definitely no. Still, he does insane stunts and shows impulsive behavior just to fulfill his obsession. This obsessiveness cannot be called insanity, however. That is our diagnosis of the Joker.

If you are curious about what we mean by IED, why don’t you check out the Study of IED on “How to control Anger (IED)” where we discuss this disorder in more detail.

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