When I think of two people who are made for each other in the fictional world, there are a lot of names that come to mind. But there’s one couple that triumphs all with an overwhelming majority, and by the majority, I mean the rabid fan base of their synergy. That couple is Batman and Joker.
There’s no other hero-villain duo that is so equally matched, which makes their struggle even more exciting. They complement each other perfectly.
The Eternal Struggle
Mostly the villain tries to kill the hero and the hero, to protect himself and those around him, has to kill the villain. It’s like witnessing a car crash. It tickles our morbid curiosity, but there’s so much going on that we rarely notice the details. The fight between Batman and Joker, on the other hand, is like a game of chess – every move has to be clearly planned and executed.
Batman wouldn’t kill Joker because he’s sworn not to kill, and Joker wouldn’t kill Batman because he’s just too much fun. This adds a deeper layer to their relationship and the question of who will kill who becomes secondary. Our primary concern becomes if Batman will break his oath first or will Joker inadvertently ends up killing Batman while trying to push him beyond his limits.
The Element of Vulnerability
Neither Batman nor Joker has any superpower. At their core, they’re both humans, trying to be something bigger. It’s an idea that we instantly relate to because, at some level, we’re all trying to be more than mortals. It’s why good people do philanthropist work, and bad people do evil deeds.
Underneath the cowl and the scary costume that instills fear into his enemies, Batman is a mess. His struggle to serve justice to the criminals isn’t derived from any random philosophy by Plato. It has been shaped by his personal trauma. At some level, he recognizes that it could be all for vengeance. That is the side of him that he hides very well from everyone – everyone but Joker.
Joker is the only person who understands Batman and Batman understands Joker’s drive. Joker is the manifestation of the demon in Batman’s head.
A battle of minds
Batman is the best detective, but Joker is the best criminal mastermind. Their battle is not fought in the physical world but in their minds. They have their own drives and resolutions, and the tantalizing question is who will break first.
Whilst being sworn enemies, the level to which they understand each other is astounding. In Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman says to the Joker, “I don’t know what happened in your life that bent you out of shape, but I’ve been there too.”
They’re essentially the same people, who’ve become polar opposites of each other because of their experiences. This is what makes them the best on-screen hero-villain duo.
- Author is a Delhi based journalist. He contributes on gender, society and cinema.