Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Clown Prince of Crime, Pt. 1

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the Joker!

Again, I have had the privilege of writing up a cool villain for my favorite RPG, Villains and Vigilantes (see here). And again, I had to dig into the character to find out what made him tick and again, ran straight into myself.

The Lord of Creation, is very, very sneaky, do you know that?

You see the Joker is an artiste, a wounded man turned wholly to evil on his "life-changing" day. In The Killing Joke, writer and atheist Alan Moore suggests that the Joker was NOT a thief but rather a two-bit nightclub comedian, forced into a crime immediately after hearing the tragic news that his wife and child died. Unable to refuse the mobsters who'd entrapped him, he was forced into being "the Red Hood" - but upon facing Batman he fell into a vat of chemicals which altered his life forever.

Moore's rendition gives us some sympathy for the madman. It is intended to show that men can be driven to insanity by a cruel world, bad luck and random events.

What destroyed my sympathy for him was the brutality in which the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon, crippling her for life. It is a dark tale for adults. (Later on she becomes the Oracle, but still, Moore took Batgirl from us, and innocence, and I don't like it. Bruce Timm brought her back in the DC animated series, thank God.)

Still, it was an impressive analysis of WHY the Joker existed. I had to admit that Moore understood there had to be some terrible inciting incident to make such a brilliant homicidal maniac, the perfect opposite of Batman.

I wrote this over on the V&V forum:
The Joker is "the world's first fully functioning homicidal artist". He is ruthless, brutal and murderous, brilliant and mad, littering landscapes with corpses imbued with his "Joker's Grin." He feels it is his solemn duty to show the world what a joke life is - a grim, unrelenting tale, with our small pitiful lives being the grand cosmic joke. Thus he wants everything to be big, loud, festive and theatrical.
I believe at the end of the day, a Naturalist and Sceptic must admit that our lives ARE without meaning, if death has the last word. Because even if you reply "humanity" or "human kindness" is still being carried on - say someone does things in your memory - the fact is, humanity itself must die when the universe dies.

In Ecclesiates, chapter 1:1-4 we read:
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

"Meaningless! Meaningless!"
says the Teacher.
"Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless."

What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

And Chapter 3, verse 19 Solomon writes this:
Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.
Sadly, this is wisdom - if you have no hope in a Savior. Your focus is on your brief life and its little dramas, but if you look just a bit beyond THAT, you see very quickly you have no reason to imagine yourself any better than any other biological life. You live and die a very smart animal.

The Joker is a man of wisdom. Atheistic wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless. He is true to his worldview.

And its hideously scary.

I remember once thinking this way and living it out. Because my mother had died and my family had been abusive in the aftermath, I'd "learned" that death and pain was more powerful than life or love.

Later an acquaintance told me with a rueful grin, "I once asked myself, why not be evil? Then I watched your life and how you treated others and decided I couldn't do it."

I hope you read that right. He was not complimenting me on my kindness. He was convicting me of my sin; I was SO self-absorbed, so wicked, he swore he'd never be like me.

It shocked me then, but he was right: I cared not one bit for anyone but myself. I was entertaining, to be sure, but callous and heartless over minor infractions. I got rid of a girlfriend, a friend and two other friends by my constant narcissism.

There wasn't any God - there was only me and my pain and my entertainment.

Don't worry - I reaped what I sowed. Oh, boy did I.

(to be continued)

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