Have you ever thought about the psychological state of Batman’s villains? I do. So, let’s dive in and learn more about the worst that Gotham has to offer!
How It Started For Joker
In Spring 1940, the Joker made its first appearance in Batman #1. A few of us don’t know that he was meant to be a one-issue villain. We know that he is Batman’s archnemesis, but he is also a criminal mastermind. So, let’s see about the Joker’s psychological file!
However, due to his popularity, the prankster continued his journey in the comic book. Despite his popularity, reinvented as a harmless villain, the Joker fell into the abyss until the 70s.
The Origin of the New Joker
The Joker is responsible for many tragedies in Batman’s life. The Joker paralysed Barbara Gordon, tortured and killed Jason Todd, extreme physical and mental abuse Harley Quinn, the threat he causes to Alfred and more. He also became a nightmare for those around him.
The Joker evolved with the years. He went from a prankster to the most dangerous fictional supervillain of all time. He is now a criminal whose IQ is so high that he is self-aware, meaning he knows he is in a comic book.
The Joker is often extreme in his approach to getting Batman’s attention. When Dollmaker cut the Joker’s face off so he could disappear and create the eventful storyline of Death of the Family is only one example in recent years.
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There is no way around it. The Joker is one of the most recognisable supervillains in history. He might not possess superpowers, yet he can destroy Superman if he wants to and did it: In Injustice: Gods Among Us issue #1, the Joker killed Lois Lane, who was pregnant at the time. So, with that in mind, what else can we find about the iconic Joker?
The Life Origin of the Joker
The Joker’s past is not set in stone, and nobody knows his actual name. I hope we never come to know because that would destroy the character. Of course, some authors took artistic liberties to create their vision of the character.
Like The Killing Joke, a classic of all classics in the comic book universe. In that storyline, we have a glimpse into the Joker’s life. We learn that it only took one bad day to create the Joker’s legend.
In the Harley Quinn cartoon series, the Joker goes through a series of event that brings him to a new chapter in his life. We see him as a regular ‘Joe’ bartender with a family and stepchildren. Maybe a ‘what if there was no bad day’ that happened.
We all agree that not knowing who the Joker is remain the best choice to keep the character at its best. Writers might rewrite him repeatedly, but Batman, whose lips are sealed, might only know the mystery of his past.
It Is More Than A Funny Brain
The Joker is an iconic supervillain with admirers in the real world and fictional ones. But while he acts as a ringleader, the Joker pays more attention to his entertainment than others. His brain is a magnificent engine.
In French, there’s an expression, “le génie frôle la folie,” which translates to “a genius’ brain is on the edge of madness.” Some might debate how clever the Joker truly is, and I’m on the side of those who know him to be mad due to his genius.
It is a rumour believed by many that the Joker is well-aware of Batman’s identity but refuses to use it or reveal it. He also knows that there is no more Joker if he kills Batman.
His endgame is not to kill the Dark Knight but destroy everything around him and try to break him. After all, Batman is his favourite ‘toy.’ It would kill the fun.
What We Know Of The Joker
With the storyline of Zero Year, what we know of the Joker is that he was a failed stand-up comedian. He had a wife and a life, but it was sad. He kept trying his best shot at his dream, but nobody liked his humour. That is when he turned to a criminal life.
The Joker was Red Hood One, meaning he was a leader and part of a criminal gang acting for higher criminal masterminds. After all, it isn’t a secret that Batman helped create the Joker when he fell into a large container of various chemicals.
The plan of the Red Hood Gang was simply to detach themselves from the ‘big bosses’ and dare anyone to catch them. The goal was to steal flesh-eating chemicals, and the young Batman found out about it. The gang knew the jig was up but proceeded, and the rest is history.
This storyline has its base in Batman Zero Year to create a foundation for the Joker’s character.
The Joker of Gotham
The Joker receives a pretty exciting twist to his story in the Gotham television series. We are, I believe, in an alternate reality where his character’s creation received two chances.
The character couldn’t officially have the name of Joker due to copyright situations. However, the series found a way around it so that the iconic supervillain could see the light of day.
The Joker had two lives. In the universe of Gotham, there are twin brothers named Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska. They were twins from a pretty loose woman from Haly’s Circus. For years, Jeremiah suffered abuse at the hand of his brother, Jerome.
While Jerome grew up to become mad and create a character for himself, turning him into a cult leader, his brother had a different path. Jeremiah lived in an underground sort of panic house maze. One of his security people is a woman. It is the most common assumption despite no mention defining her as Harley Quinn.
The Death Of The Joker’s Twin
Jerome dies following such events but not before he creates the laugh toxin the Joker is known for. Jeremiah, at first, seemed quite kind as a person, but as time goes by, he grows into his brother’s persona.
Jeremiah was a genius young man who became the most skillful engineer who touched many branches of science. His life differed from his brother’s as he moved away from the circus, but his fate remained the same.
Jeremiah clearly suffered from a mental illness shared with his brother. He indeed had an obsessive mind as he grew immensely attached to Bruce Wayne before turning into the Joker. He even changed his name to Xander Wilde to protect himself from his brother, but it didn’t matter.
When Jerome died, his exposed self to the laughing toxin had Jeremiah become a cult leader and the Joker.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder, otherwise called STPD, is an illness that isolates those who suffer from it. It shows in the choice of words, clothing, belief, and next to no relationships. Often, those under the condition display behaviour others see as strange, peculiar and even eccentric.
We must consider that the word ‘normal’ is entirely different from those under STPD. Because it affects the process of thinking and general behaviour, STPD qualifies as a personality disorder. It is part of the schizophrenia spectrum.
The diagnosis of personality disorders separates into three broad clusters: A, B, and C. STPD is part of Cluster A. The range in population goes from 0.6% to 4.6%. They often suffer from excessive social anxiety.
STPD is not Schizophrenia, though often mistaken for it. STPD people do not have psychotic experiences. While they aren’t emotionally detached from people, they present unusual behaviours.
A Little More About SPD vs. STPD
However, people with SPD show disinterest and indifference to others. They have a complete detachment from emotions. They can blend in without unusual behaviour.
STPD people have distorted thoughts and perceptions, peculiar forms of self-expression. Patients can have anxiety and paranoia in social situations. People can even believe in superstitions or telepathy. The patients cannot form close relationships.
Psychopathy vs. Sociopathy
Because the label “psychopath” is often wrongly used in association with “crazy” or “mad,” another title replaces it. After all, words like “crazy,” “mad,” and “lunatic,” among others, are wrong when used to describe someone under any circumstances.
The correct word for someone who is a psychopath—or textbook psychopath, in general, suffers from an antisocial personality disorder. I can assure you it is because I do have APD. It is a stigma that psychopathy equals serial killer or murderer. Psychopathy is way more complex than a simple word.
Psychiatrists, psychotherapists, therapists, psychologists, and criminologists find psychopathy controversial. Its usage is often wrong and labels a person with a false idea.
A broad and limited view of antisocial personality disorder resembles sociopathy. The disorder itself comprises having the patient show no empathy when it comes to people. They do understand the notion of right and wrong. In fact, they are so aware of it that they know it to be an illusion created by society. They choose to follow it or not.
A quick way to separate a psychopath from a sociopath is that a psychopath doesn’t comprehend right and wrong. A sociopath understands and is aware of the concept of right and wrong and chooses to follow it or not.
The Triarchic Model
This triarchic model tries to de-stereotype psychopaths by separating them into three categories to create degrees. The Psychopathy Checklist is a measurement that helped make this model and the Psychopathic Personality Inventory.
Now, where does The Joker fit in all this? The choices are boldness, disinhibition, and meanness. When reading about them, it seems he has all three. What does that mean?
The Joker may have differences in the amygdala, impairments in front lobe systems, and high impulsive antisociality. Again, what does that mean? It means he may be a bit of a psychopath and sociopath at the same time.
Pushing Further Into The Triarchic Model
When it comes to The Joker’s mental state in terms of APD, he checks all three boxes of the triarchic model. But he fits the boxes in the form of a dangerous individual with high levels of harm to others and himself.
The Joker has intense fear and high-stress tolerance. He doesn’t care about unfamiliar territory or danger due to his self-confidence and assertiveness. He doesn’t mind hurting others or himself, for that matter.
However, The Joker has mediocre impulse control and foresight. He demands gratifications, and that comes with poor behavioural restraints.
Now, his lack of empathy is beyond repair. He has no close attachments and exploits others to his benefit with no remorse. He defies authority consistently, and it could be for orgasmic results or destructive excitement.
The Joker does use cruelty to gain empowerment regardless of the outcome. So, he does have boldness, disinhibition, and meanness.
Just Keep On Laughing!
The Joker is a villain that laughs at any occasion he gets. It is, after all, one of his many trademarks. Even almost inconceivable to believe someone could laugh when beaten virtually to death. Less believable when they are looking at lifetime incarceration.
However, the Joker always finds a way to make his day brighter and laughs at anything threatening, not so fast. The Joker’s incontrollable laugh is, in fact, a genuine illness and wraps up all his behaviours and diseases with a nice little bow.
The Pseudobulbar Affect
The Pseudobulbar Affect is also a synonym for emotional incontinence. This illness has the patient in uncontrollable episodes of extreme reactions such as laughter and hysterical crying. It is an emotional disturbance.
PBA is often a result of a secondary neurologic disorder or, in some cases, brain injury. When it occurs, the patient cannot control their emotion. Either it is crying or laughing. They are incapable of gaining control over their emotional reaction. Often, a patient can laugh when in distress or angry. It means they can have fits of laughter.
It can be an effect linked to personality disorder but not such as liability disorder. Due to outbursts of extreme and opposite reactions without stimulus, patients with PBA can become antisocial and refuse relationships of any kind or attachment.
The pathophysiology is, to this day, investigated. It is still controversial. Some believe it is the corticobulbar pathways managing emotion and expression. The theory is that bilateral lesions descend to the corticobulbar tract, causing failure to control emotions.
But the most fascinating one remains traumatic brain injury. PBA is most likely a result of the disruption of neural networks. PBA is directly linked to neurological disease.
What Does This Mean For The Joker?
The Joker had head trauma when facing Batman before falling into the chemical compound. Who knows what he ingested and how it affected his brain? For that reason, I believe he does suffer from pseudobulbar affect.
When analysing his behaviour, it is unpredictable when he will burst into laughs which often leads to tears. His laughter is intense and has a rhythm that can be involuntary.
When fighting Batman or other people, the Joker laughs, which indicates his reaction doesn’t fit the action. If we add the pseudobulbar affect to the different mental illnesses, it fits quite well. Multiple head injuries can lead someone to have a brain defect.
In other words, PBA is a condition that confirms the Joker’s inability to control his inappropriate laughter. The disorder is directly linked to people with neurological conditions or injuries. It affects how his brain controls emotions.
My Unprofessional Diagnosis
Because I am no doctor of any kind, here is my less than professional opinion about The Joker.
The Joker is a rare case due to multiple physical traumas to his body, especially the cranial area. His crimes are hellish and evil, but is The Joker aware of his wrongdoing? I believe he does not differentiate right from wrong or even care to understand the concept.
For that reason, I would believe that a collaboration between Arkham Asylum and Black Gate Penitentiary should be in place. The Joker is not someone who can be rehabilitated. The neurological damage is too profound, and the chemistry in his brain might just not be there. How? Some who fit the boxes of the triarchic model are born without the capacity to understand right from wrong.
However, it doesn’t mean we can’t try to offer him help or study him. People suffering from the triarchic model and antisocial personality disorder are narcissistic by nature. They are master manipulators and can lie without remorse, so choose your staff accordingly and wisely.
That was my Joker’s psychological file. But what do you think of my diagnosis?