The Joker's Plan in The Dark Knight Was Dependent on Expected Brutality From a 'Good' Cop

Illustration for article titled The Joker's Plan in The Dark Knight Was Dependent on Expected Brutality From a 'Good' Cop
Screenshot: The Dark Knight

The success of The Joker’s numerous schemes in The Dark Knight is dependent on a medley of greed, corruption, stupidity, and mostly collective late-stage astigmatism. Blowing up Gotham General, for instance, requires the thousands of nurses and doctors and orderlies and janitors and cafeteria workers and patients and patients’ families in the hospital to either get spontaneous migraines or be distracted by a really pithy tweet or something so no one would notice the dozens of explosives planted on the campus. And all of his plans involve a police force so corrupt that five different criminal masterminds with arbitrarily—and unnecessarily—complex strategies were able to infiltrate it in a five-year span.


Preventing Gotham’s destruction, of course, is SoulCycle Eric Trump doing jujitsu in really scary snorkeling gear. He is not alone, though. Batman is assisted by “good” cops throughout Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Most notably Jim Gordon in each film and Robin Blake in The Dark Knight Rises. There are also rank and file members of the Gotham police force that serve as allies, too. But unbeknownst to them—and also to Christopher Nolan—even the “good” cops exist as reminders that all cops are fundamentally bad.

For instance, The Joker’s escape from jail depends on several unfathomably absurd things happening exactly as he planned it. But none of it is possible without the most realistic part: the reliability of police brutality.

The scene that probably comes to mind is how the cops allow Batman to kick The Joker’s ass in the interrogation room while they eat peanuts.

Standing by and watching while American Ninja Zuckerberg mollywops an unarmed suspect definitely qualifies as police brutality. But this isn’t even the worst part! That comes after Batman and Gordon leave, and The Joker is left in the room with this guy.

Illustration for article titled The Joker's Plan in The Dark Knight Was Dependent on Expected Brutality From a 'Good' Cop
Screenshot: The Dark Knight

As the movie painstakingly shows, he is one of the few Gotham cops with integrity. Decency. Honor. He is a good apple. And if he just does the job Gotham taxpayers pay him to do—or if he decides to go to Burger King or, I don’t know, literally just stands there and raps the first verse of “California Love”—The Joker stays locked up and the movie ends! (Also, why is he even in the room?)


But The Joker relies on brutality being an essential function of “good” policing, and baits him into a fight.

Expected brutality is so baked into what we’ve been taught to consider good police work that this guy literally admits to it as a function of his goodness.

I know the difference between punks who need a little lesson in manners, and the freaks like you who would just enjoy it” is another way of saying “I’m so used to beating unarmed suspects that I can sense who’d enjoy getting beat more than I enjoy doing the beating, so I won’t beat you”—and this guy is supposed to be a good guy. This is copanganda at its best.


Anyway, defund the police, burn Gotham to the ground, and Ben Affleck was the best Batman. Bye!

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Lord Whistledown

Not only do I agree that he’s the best Batman (also scotch-swilling Jeremy Irons is the best Alfred) but I watched the BvS: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition which is like 30 minutes longer and it’s a much better movie than the one I hated in the theater.

After watching that, Aquaman, Shazam!, Wonder Woman and now Harley Quinn, I think I’m coming that DC movies are better than the MCU because they’re more interesting. Is this a new symptom of COVID?