Noting the movies supposed incoherence and “tide of contradictions” (emphasis mine), Lethem loses the movie’s underlying comments on society’s perennial method of creating clear-cut binaries such as good/bad, right/wrong, win/lose, and so on, for the purpose of making meaning of something that is confusing or contradictory. Derrida explained this faulty method of thinking decades ago. In the end, Lethem states that Batman does not represent us as a society, but that the Joker does. This supposedly clever bifurcation does not work for me; Lethem’s assessment loses the important contingencies that attach the Joker and Batman to each other. Lethem states that the Joker does not expose his “real” face, yet he may be forgetting that the joker wears face paint which does indeed reveal his “face,” but only changes its color and causes him to look like a freak, both to the general populist and to criminals. In a number of scenes the Joker’s face paint becomes smudged and in the Hospital explosion scene he doesn’t wear any at all. In all these cases the Joker is easily recognizable, but it’s his behavior that he uses obfuscate.
More importantly, the Joker does not reveal his history. Lethem’s explanation of the Joker as as a man behind the mask does not allow for an interplay between these two supposedly allegorical characters. And interplay, especially contingency, is something that the Joker realizes to be the reality of his and Batman’s dialogical relationship. When someone like the Joker can operate effectively in a world in which he can orchestrate indiscriminate death and destruction, while also causing the most upright and code-driven citizen–Batman–to have to choose between saving two lives, those of Rachel and Harvey–thus subverting Batman’s perceived upright role in society–then we see prime examples of the subversionary ritual that Bakhtin terms carnival. The Joker obviously represents the low, grotesque, revolutionary aspect of carnival’s riotous uprising. He says while Batman interrogates him, “The only sensible way to live in this world is to live without rules.” Here, without rules, the Joker is the outward moving, centrifugal, entropic force that wishes to overturn everything that Batman holds dear to show that the threads holding it all together are much weaker than what Batman thinks.