Psychoanalysis of the Joker Character

Joker Character Analysis

The Dark Knight is a 2008 film based on the Dc Comics character Batman and his struggle and journey in combating the most demented villain ever, The Joker. The Joker is a psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy. Due to The Joker’s insane nature, it is appropriate to use Dr. Sigmund Freud’s method of Psychoanalysis to better understand why The Joker is the way he is. What is psychoanalysis? Psychoanalysis is a form of treatment invented by Sigmund Freud that usually focuses on the early years of the patient’s life and his/her relationship with immediate family members.

A wise man once said, “There are four questions that every good student of psychology will ask about a personality theory. The first question regards the structure of the theory (Psychoanalysis of The Joker). Freud said that the mind is divided into conscious and unconscious elements. The unconscious contains all the repressed aspects of our personality.

Although repressed, they continue to influence our behavior. According to Freud personality is divided into three components the id, the super ego, and the ego.

Freud’s psychosexual stages and the Oedipus complex also affect our personality. “The Joker is a pathological liar, with reactive attachment issues, scars he credits to either childhood abuse or self-mutilation (he contradicts himself in the movie) and presents with suicidal ideation” (Psychoanalysis of The Joker). To apply Freud’s theory of structure to The Joker, we must look at The Joker’s id, ego, and superego.

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The Joker relies only on his id, which is our instinctual needs, and/or drives.

In one scene in the movie while Batman’s motorcycle is speeding directly to him The Joker actually walks toward him mumbling things like, “Do it! ” and “hit me! ” Clearly The Joker is missing a superego, which is ones conscience. In the move The Joker teases society and says they’re hypocritical and phony. “Sure, they’re all civilized when things go “according to plan”, says the Joker, but as soon as things go wrong, everyone panics and shows who they really are” (The Dark Knight).

In this quote from the movie The Joker is basically mocking everyone else for having a superego. Twice in the movie the Joker explains how he got his scars. He first says that his father was an abusive drunk that asked his son “why so serious? ” and proceeded to cut The Joker’s face. He said that he hated his father. When Freud says that the superego is based on the authority of the father, the Joker’s reactive attachment to his father would explain why he did not develop societal norms (Psychoanalysis of The Joker).

It seems as though from an early age The Joker let his id control his personality and with a broken ego he experiences a detachment from reality. The second question is the motivation. What would motivate someone to kill innocent people without thinking twice? The id is a primitive native to seek pleasure (Id,ego,and superego). “Some men just like to watch the world burn” (The Dark Knight) says Alfred to Bruce Wayne after he is thinking of The Joker’s motivation. The Joker has a hatred for society.

Freud will definitely notice all of The Joker’s defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are the process by which the contents of our unconscious are kept in the unconscious (Tyson). The Joker experiences almost all of them in The Dark Knight. He experiences denial when someone calls him crazy, and he right away repeats to him self “No! No I’m not! ” (The Dark Knight). The Joker also uses selective memory when describing how he got his scars. Freud may say the Jokers hatred of society is a projection because he really hates himself.

He may also explore possible displacement of The Joker’s hatred of his own father onto all forms of authority. The third question is can the personality change over time. According to Freud personality development is to be seen as psychosexual stages (Hergenhahn). In The Dark Knight The Joker’s constant twitching and licking of his lips are both evidence of an oral fixation. Freud would probably diagnose The Joker as an oral –sadistic character (Hergenhahn), and would want to speak with his mother to see what happened to him during the oral stage, which are the first years of life.

In the second narration of the origins of his scars, The Joker tells Rachel that he once had a wife that was cut up by mobsters and that in an effort to make her feel better, he carves his own face and was devastated when she leaves him. If we believe this version of the story, then his anger from his father is compounded when he is rejected by his wife (Psychoanalysis of The Joker). This is again an example of selective memory, a defense mechanism. The fourth question asks why there are differences between The Joker and the rest of us. Freud would argue that different people develop in differing environments and had different childhood experiences” (Psychoanalysis of The Joker). The reason The Joker is different from all of us is his complicated past. Due to unknown childhood experiences, he never developed a superego. Due to The Joker’s traumatic conflicts that he was unable to resolve in a health manner, my diagnostics on the Joker’s psyche using Freud’s psychoanalysis, is that he is an oral-sadistic neurotic who did not develop a superego. Because he did not develop a superego he became the hilarious killing clown that we can’t get enough of.

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Psychoanalysis of the Joker Character. (2018, Dec 18). Retrieved from

Psychoanalysis of the Joker Character
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