179. The clinging (II)
The Batman-Joker dynamic: Wayne is a respectable billionaire playboy who puts on a mask to enter the underworld and dispense rough justice; the Joker is his foil because, due to a chemical accident, his face is permanently disfigured, the Joker can only live in the underworld—the world of masks—and so is no hypocrite. Wayne becomes Batman because he cannot get justice in the civilised world: Gotham is sick with corruption, decadent to the core; the only way to achieve justice is to return to the Old Testament: an eye for an eye. We see a similar phenomenon over child sex crimes, particularly among the lumpen elements; if a “pedo” is found, a mob appears to dispense immediate justice—the crime is such an outrage against decency that nothing less will suffice.
Wayne descends to the underworld to save Gotham; if the clever lawyers are all bought by the mob, then the only answer is for a man to break the legal statutes and enforce the spirit of the law; in this respect, Wayne is a mystic warrior—a force against the Pharisees, as was Jesus. With his wealth, skills, and technology Wayne-Batman clears up Gotham’s conventional criminals: the mob, the pimps, and the drug dealers. Harmony is restored…it is at this moment the Joker appears.
The Joker is a non-rational criminal; he has no objectives, he will burn a pile of cash—or perhaps he will give it away, whatever. He emerges because Wayne is a hypocrite who wants to have his cake and eat it: to descend to the underworld as Batman and also enjoy the legal protections and niceties of civilisation—a civilisation he holds to be corrupt—as a playboy billionaire. The Joker says: “Once you put on the mask, become a law unto yourself, you give up the civilised rules—you claim sovereignty; now I do the same. We are both freaks in masks; it is just that I do not retreat back to the corrupt overworld to enjoy my riches, hypocrite.” After all, Wayne is as quixotic as the Joker, he is motivated by the murder of his parents; his psychic imbalance sees him impose his will over the city.
The Joker is the underworld of the underworld; just as Batman is the underworld of the overworld. The rational criminals are equivalent to Wayne Corp, but beneath them lies a legitimate spirit: the Joker—beneath Wayne Corp lies the illegitimate figure of Batman. The normal world requires an interchange between the underworld and legitimate businessmen; it is only when Wayne-Batman liquidates the necessary “grey zone” through his crusade that he awakens the Joker. The Joker is the rebuke: “So, we want to be pure and spotless, even in the unconscious? Very well, then meet the pure and spotless face of power—I don’t even know the mafia’s honour code; I just impose my idiosyncrasies on others, just as you impose “the bat” on Gotham—you self-righteous prick.” Hence Wayne upsets the real balance of city life, because his crusade is half-hearted; if he were not a hypocrite, he would use Batman to seize power and rule Gotham in the legitimate spirit of the law.
The counterpoint to Batman is the fully integrated figure of Judge Dredd: a man whose word is law, and who issues summary judgement on citizens. “Citizen! Sex crime violation, Section 12 of the Penal Code. Judgement: immediate termination, with extreme prejudice.” The difference between Dredd and Batman is that Dredd has been deputised by the legitimate sovereign to be the summary judge, jury, and executioner; he lives in a world where the primal law of justice is synonymous with statute law: his word is law—he is no amateur, no vigilante. There is no room for a “Joker” figure in this universe, since Dredd’s world of legitimate divine madness is without the hypocrisy of civilised Gotham: Dredd lives in a rough and ready culture, a barbaric space—a space with real justice, justice without hypocrisy.