I remember watching the trailer of The Dark Knight, hearing Heath Ledger’s geniusly crazy and maniac laugh, I still hear it today. What did you feel watching that trailer? Were you afraid? Were you disgusted? No, no, no… I bet you turned to your friends and told them, we got to see this. Excitement, power, rage and the curiosity to see the psychopath revealed, the darkest part of one’s self finally in the stagelight.
When I first read the Freudian thesis about personality, how the self assembles itself from the id, the ego and the superego, I was amazed about this magnificent structure. I finally understood the way we feel about our insecurities, fears, desires, deepest cravings and their interpretation in our overall behaviour. I’ll tell you a thing just like with everything, if something goes wrong you’ll have to start digging, until you hit rock bottom. That’s where your id lies that’s where the Joker comes into the play. This part of the individual represents the animalistic, intuitive actions of a person. The id is constantly fighting against the superego which consists of norms formed by your family, society and culture, all kinds of expectations that make your behaviour “cultured” and “acceptable”.
“Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little push.”
So why do we like these psychopaths like Joker, Walter White, Gordon Gekko or even Sherlock Holmes himself (technically he’s a sociopath)?
Let’s go into psychology a little bit, so that we can further analyze these guys mentioned above. The diagnosis for them is: Someone with antisocial personality disorder. The difference is that psychopaths are believed to be born without the ability to feel empathy, while sociopaths turn into these monsters because of the environment that surrounds them.
The Joker himself is very impulsive and erratic, while also having difficulties in forming attachments to others, some sociopaths may be able to form an attachment to a like-minded group or person (Harley Quinn for example). When a sociopath engages in criminal behavior, they may do so in an impulsive and largely unplanned manner, with little regard for the risks or consequences of their actions. They may become agitated and angered easily, sometimes resulting in violent outbursts (sounds familiar?).
This is crazy, and disturbing and we still like it, a lot. Why?
Well the sad part is, because they are just like us. They are parts of our unconscious. They represent everything that we do not even dare to think. At some unconscious level we crave for the freedom of our id. We fantasize about the ability, to overstep our societies’ strains and free ourselves from these shackles. At the deepest parts of our own personality we wish to sink into our unconscious from time to time, to bring fulfillment and justice without fear, guilt or shame. Heroes are no exception, they act as they think it is right, they kill if they think it’s right, and we cheer for them, while they do it.
It’s no coincidence, that Walter White on “Breaking Bad” made us feel the way he did, when people were struggling during the Great Recession. He showed us the way through the painful economic hardship that so many people experienced, but he did it at a cost which most non-psychopaths would consider too high.
The question here: is it wrong that these psychopaths are many times displayed in movies as “heroes”?
It depends, though it somehow shows us a bad example, on some level it satisfies the inner monster, making us feel relieved from our darkness. On the other hand, it shows you a good example. It’s not a coincidence that at the end, the good triumphs over the bad, it shows you that even, when you would wish to release the beast, we all need an inner Batman to help us, so we can be good people. Morality in itself — at least I believe so — was developed to prevent us from releasing these darker parts of ourselves, because on the long run it would cause endless troubles for the mind and the soul, if we would.
Many times we see these movies telling a story in plural, but it’s more about the individual’s hardships and sufferings, if you don’t think so then you probably never visited rock bottom, but trust me eventually we all get there sooner or later.