The Joker and Chaos Theory

Matthew Rossi has an ingenious story concept for the Joker, moving him away from homicidal monomania towards someone who better perpetuates the randomness and chaos he supposedly personifies:

Why did the Joker steal the costume from a local college team’s mascot and wear it while robbing the Gotham Stock Exchange, and for that matter, why did the Joker break into the Gotham Stock Exchange just to steal three stockbroker’s wallets at gunpoint? Why is he paying street gangs to slash the tires of every Audi 5000 in the city?

buddyaces.jpgThe Joker as a practitioner of Chaos Theory would completely confound the Detective who relies on following clues to solve crimes and looks for meaning in details. Villains like the Riddler who deliberately leave clues play to Batman’s strengths, but Batman’s attempt to impose order on an intentionally random series of crimes would necessarily fail if not drive him insane.

I love the thought of Batman insisting on drawing meaning out of clues that turn out to be dead ends. He would inevitably become a pathetic conspiracy theorist, like a Tom Hanks who can find something in anything but discovers at the end of the story that there is no Da Vinci Code after all. Sure, it might be a pessimistic conclusion implying that there is no continuity in the world, but it would at least be an authentically Noir ending for that darkest of private dicks.

The built-in metaphor of randomly shuffled playing cards would also make better use of the Joker’s name than merely his being a clown whose special pathology is telling jokes that aren’t funny.

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14 thoughts on “The Joker and Chaos Theory

  1. Beady eyes Al says:

    GRATUITOUS QUOTEJACKING IMMINENT…

    Is chaos theory the right paradigm for what the Joker’s all about? I guess it is in the sense that you’re talking about a situation where cause and effect are up-ended. But isn’t it more like Dadaism, in that these incongruous and absurd acts are calculated to unnerve the forces of law and order in Gotham? There’s another parallel between the Dadaists stunts and the acts mentioned in the bit you quote above, in that both target the bourgeois (stockbrokers and Audi-owners). In the case of the latter though I suspect that the targets of the Joker’s mischief only reflect the bugbears of whoever it was who wrote that story, and not necessarily any intrinsic Jokerish quality.

  2. Nobody says:

    For Dada-based villains cf. the Brotherhood of Dada introduced by Grant Morrison (who else?) in Doom Patrol #26 ff. and collected in vol. 2, “The Painting that Ate Paris.”

    Now who’s been quotejacked! You can borrow the book sometime if it didn’t get destroyed by the flood.

    Admittedly the bit I quoted is not entirely representative of Matthew’s concept in which the Joker would eventually find out who or what the one domino is that he needs to knock over in order to disrupt the entire city, in true butterfly effect fashion. But frankly that strikes me as having a strong cause and effect basis, which Batman could ultimately trace back to the Joker with a fast enough computer or something.

  3. Beady eyes Al says:

    Oo I’ve been dealt a vicious counter-quotejacking. Actually that does sound more chaos theory-ish, what with the domino effect and all. Re: the bat computer, I don’t know whihch would be worse in the current Nolan-franchise: bringing back Robin or the Bat-computer – or, even more horrifically, bringing back a bat-computer that Batman can’t understand so he has to get Robin in to work it for him and to make web-based gags and allusions, e.g. “Holy Meh Batman” etc. Terrifying.

  4. Nobody says:

    Wow, that was so horrific I feel like deleting your comment just to spare readers the image of Robin as a tech-savvy hacker who decides to give the Batcave a “web presence” so Jim Gordon can just email Batman (or “poke” him on Facebook) instead of using the ungainly Bat Signal.

    Even though Batman is famous for his gadgets I never liked the Batman who has his own satellites and has Oracle feed him information on everything immediately while he’s on patrol. I like the retro-computer of the Animated Series that requires him to retreat to the Batcave periodically and sit on his throne before the computer for a few moments of dry repartee with Alfred. But I doubt Nolan is going to resort to the Batcomputer because Christian Bale using a laptop just isn’t very majestic.

  5. Beady eyes Al says:

    Ha ha. Poking Alfred on Facebook. I love it. I imagine Alfred’s profile picture featuring him on holiday in Spain, with his normally brylcreemed hair somewhat ruffled in the temperate Iberian breeze, a half-smile of contentment on his slightly browned chops, and a pina colada avec, or ‘con’ I should say, mini-parasol and orange slice. In fact the ease with which I can imagine that is inversely proportional to the difficulty with which I struggle to imagine Christian Bale using a laptop. It’s easier to imagine Hulk Hogan using one. Why is this?

  6. Nobody says:

    Because you don’t escape a POW camp by typing! (Can’t wait to see Herzog’s Rescue Dawn.) Like John McClane, C.B. solves problems with his fists not his fingertips. Probably can’t say the same for geeks like Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne.

    As if Bale weren’t already my personal role model, the fact that he’s never used a computer on screen, not even in the future like Equilibrium, makes him a kind of Olympian figure in my eyes.

  7. [...] The Joker and Chaos Theory The Joker as a practitioner of Chaos Theory would completely confound the Detective who relies on following clues to solve crimes and looks for meaning in details. Villains like the Riddler who deliberately leave clues play to Batman’s strengths, but Batman’s attempt to impose order on an intentionally random series of crimes would necessarily fail if not drive him insane. [...]

  8. Nobody says:

    Going back to my original post, I just realized there’s already been a Batman who regularly employed the Dan Brown stream-of-consciousness method of deciphering clues: Adam West!

    One of the best examples of this method is from the 1966 movie:

    Robin: That crazy missile! It wrote two more riddles before it blew up!

    Batman: “What goes up white and comes down yellow and white?”

    Robin: An egg!

    Batman: “How do you divide seventeen apples among sixteen people?”

    Robin: Make apple sauce!

    Batman: Apples into applesauce: a unification into one smooth mixture. An egg: nature’s perfect container. The container of all our hopes for the future.

    Robin: A unification and a container of hope? United World Organization!

    Batman: Precisely, Robin! And there’s a special meeting of the Security Council today.

    Of course, the beauty of the 60s show was that the dynamic duo’s uncanny powers of word association always provided insight. But I think it would be a brilliant nod to the 60s interpretation of the character to turn a frustrated, leads-starved Batman into a word-associating conspiracist, except unlike the TV show his desperate conclusions prove to be wrong as they should be.

  9. Beady eyes Al says:

    … or a scatting Jazz detective: “Whoa whoa, nerve gas-be babbedoo, strange oscillations on my bat radar squeep-bibbedeep”. Actually that would be horrible too. I should be employed by Hollywood, I have a singular capability for dreaming up the worst possible ways you could re-imagnie Batman. That’s got to be worth something?

  10. Ryan says:

    That is a great take on the Joker. That sort of clever confundity seems best saved for more distant installment, though, doesn’t it? With this sort of tagline: “He has battled the greatest criminal minds the world has ever seen. Now, the world’s greatest detective must battle a man to whom logic has no meaning.” You can only get there once he’s fought Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, the time-stoppy guy, etc. The Joker is Batman’s ultimate adversary, his true opposite.

  11. Nobody says:

    Now, the world’s greatest detective must battle a man to whom logic has no meaning.

    Ha ha, the Joker as PoMoJo!

  12. Matthew Rossi says:

    Good point, I hadn’t considered that it might make him too predictable. I’ll consider that for the future.

  13. Buhler says:

    “He has battled the greatest criminal minds the world has ever seen. Now, the world’s greatest detective must battle a man to whom logic has no meaning.”

    Batman: Oh no, Robin, another riddle to solve before this system of nuclear warheads goes off! The entirety of human civilization rests on us!

    Robin: Holy living cockroaches, Batman, what’s the riddle!?

    Batman: For some proposition P, what is P and not-P at the same time in the same respect?

    Robin: I don’t get it.

    Batman: But you must! We must get behind the criminal mind, Robin! The fate of the world rests on our shoulders!

    Robin: OK, I’ve got it: Rain. Rain comes down while rainwater fills up.

    Batman: But it comes down as drops, and “fills up” as puddles of water. Not to mention the fact that this filling up comes later. The riddle specifically says, “In the same respect and at the same time!” Try again Robin!

    Robin: Holy law of non-contradiction, Batman, my head hurts!

    [urgent beeping sound]

    Batman: Hurry, time is running out!!

    Robin: The Trinity?

    [beeping sound speeds up]

    Batman: Oh no!

    Joker: MWUA ha ha! I’ve got you (and not-got you in the same respect) this time, Batboy!

    [Explosion. CUT TO: View from space, the world's major cities exploding. Roll Credits]

  14. asdfasdf says:

    do the unexpected for the sake of creating chaos was what the Joker told to the Two Face.

    nobody will surprise when truck load of soilders die but if little mayor dies, people will lose their mind!

    one of the attributes of psychopath is inability to bear boredom. The Joker need chaos in order to gratify himself.

    he said, it’s not about the money (burn stack of money).

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