Inside the Mind of the Joker

Psychotic. Criminal. Insane. Homicidal. Some of the words that have been used to describe the infamous Clown Prince of Crime. In Christopher Nolan’s famous movie, “The Dark Knight,” the Joker portrayed a villain that differed from the other versions of himself. In the past the Joker has often had the role of being a Batman’s nemesis who entertains himself by creating terror and chaos in ways such as stealing, kidnapping, or creating ways to foil the Batman’s plans. But the newest version created by Nolan and Heath Ledger comes from a dark place. Nolan and Ledger’s Joker is by far the most extreme by creating a character who displays the qualities of a person suffering from extreme antisocial personality disorder and who’s actions bring together the role of a domestic terrorist.


Antisocial personality disorder, “is defined by a pattern of socially irresponsible, exploitative, and guiltless behavior”(Black 309). Antisocial personality disorder is a very extreme illness. To be diagnosed with ASPD, one must be at least eight-teen years old and have a noticeable long enduring pattern of specific behaviors (Psych Central). Nolan and Ledger’s creation of the Joker was meant to display extreme characteristics of antisocial personality disorder, including:  failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors indicated by repeatedly performing acts on grounds of arrest, deceitfulness or use of aliases to conn others for personal profit or pleasure, impulsivity or failure to plan ahead, irritability and aggressiveness, reckless disregardful for safety of self or others, consistent irresponsibility, indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations, lack of remorse indicated by being indifferent or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another (Lykken). The movie, “The Dark Knight,” came out in 2008, seven years after the tragedy of 9/11. So when Nolan decided to make the movie, he decided to make a terrorist as well.


Nolan’s theme in the movie was to create the theme of 9/11 and turn it into a way that audience members would be able to connect it to their own lives, and the incident of 9/11. Nolan made no effort to be subtle; in fact he made it as obvious as he could so that many people of the audience could catch on to the idea.


One big characteristic that Ledger and Nolan gave the Joker, was his manipulation and determination to achieve his goal. This is a well recognized trait of ASPD, conning others for one’s personal entertainment or to use them to achieve their goal (Lykken). One supporting scene from the movie, was the hospital scene, where the Joker threatened to bomb a hospital unless a certain citizen was killed. His reasoning? Because, “I’ve had a change in heart and I don’t want Mr.Reese spoiling everything” ( “The Dark Knight”). This scene reveals how the Joker has zero empathy and does not care about killing thousand of innocent lives as long as he can continue to have his source of entertainment.


When this movie was released so soon after 9/11, the audience’s perceiving the Joker as a terrorist made much more of an impact. The destruction that the Joker causes and the glee that he shows after watching his detrimental plan come to life, allows the viewer to make a connection that a real terrorist in their modern world would also be satisfied with killing hundreds of people for personal gain. The extremities of the Joker’s actions give the audience a very alarming idea that people with ASPD are capable of acting exactly like the Joker. But Heath Ledger went through months of preparation to make the Joker seem so maniacal. National Public Radio released a special the day before “The Dark Knight” came out, specifically talking about how Ledger told how he had prepared for his role and how different his character was from the past versions of the Joker.

People who believe that every person with ASPD behaves the same way as the Joker need to be educated. Nolan and Ledger went through intense sessions on creating the evil and radical personality of the Joker. ASPD does not correlate with the idea of abandon all hope; there are several treatment options. For example, Psych Central, declares that, “Psychotherapy is nearly always the treatment of choice for this disorder”(Psych Central).  Antisocial Personality Disorder is a serious mental illness that people today need to be properly educated on.



Works Cited

“Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms.” Psych Central. Psych Central. Web. 11 December 2015.

Clyde, John. Is This Heath Ledger’s Inspiration for The Joker? 2012. KSL.Com. Web. 11 December 2015.

Black, W. Donald. “The Natural History of Antisocial Personality Disorder.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 1 July 2015: 60(7):309–314. Web. 9 December 2015.

Lykken, T David. The Antisocial Personalities. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers 1995. Print.




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