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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

And Here We Go


Photo credit, DC Studios, Warner Bros., fair use


**The Dark Knight spoiler contained herein


My favorite DC Comics-inspired superhero movie is The Dark Knight. I think Heath Ledger’s rendition of the Joker was his best performance—entertaining enough to help me overlook personal annoyance with Christian Bale’s vocal portrayal of Batman.


For the diehard fans in the audience, I’m aware that one can refer to the clown character in Batman lore as “Joker” instead of “the Joker.” Nevertheless, I’m not here to split hairs over this distinction.


One of the many pivotal scenes in The Dark Knight which caused me to contemplate its philosophical meanings long after I first saw it relates to the Joker’s irrational belief that most other people share his distorted worldview. Describing the scene, one source thoughtfully states:


The Joker — a mysterious man with an unclear backstory, who’s latched himself onto a mob syndicate to fund a series of twisted, grandiose social experiments — wants to prove that the rotten core of Gotham is a product of its citizens. As he says earlier in the film, “their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be.”


That thinking generates the Joker’s largest experiment, loosely based on the “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” a fundamental scenario in the study of game theory. He rigs two ferry boats leaving the city with explosives, and gives the passengers on each boat the trigger for the other. One boat contains average civilians, but the other contains prisoners, and therein lies the moral quandary; he informs them that one of the boats must blow up the other before midnight, or he’ll detonate both, killing them all. The Joker assumes it’s inevitable that one of the boats will blow up the other, because he believes that most people are like him: only out for themselves.


Instead, the boat sequence steers the nihilistic story of The Dark Knight toward a somewhat happy ending.


Through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I view the Joker’s assumption about others as little more than a misperceived form of global evaluation. His perspective essentially supposes that because he believes a certain way, others also share his sentiment.


Joker believes that most people are nihilistic—rejecting all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless—because this is his own personal frame of reference. Undoubtedly, this is an irrational perspective.


So why am I addressing this matter at present? What prompted the current blog entry will first require limited knowledge about dialogue within The Dark Knight. Detailing a portion of the ferry scene, one source provides:


The Joker: We really should stop this fighting; otherwise, we’ll miss the fireworks!


Batman: [while being pinned down on the platform next to the ledge of a building that’s still under construction] There won’t be any fireworks!


The Joker: And here... we... go!


[Silence. Nothing happens. Confused, the Joker turns to look at the clock, which shows that it’s past midnight and neither ferry has blown up the other]


Batman: [triumphantly] What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone’s as ugly as you? You’re alone!


The Joker: [sighs] Can’t rely on anyone these days. You have to do everything yourself, don’t we!?


The Joker realized that not everyone shared his perspective, as his irrational belief was met with evidence that challenged his worldview. Not one to let reality dissuade him from a sinister plot, the Joker was determined to kill at will whomever he chose.


The current blog entry was prompted by knowledge of an ongoing dilemma, though not that directly related to the prisoner’s dilemma. For context, in a blog entry entitled War is Coming, I stated:


I don’t allow my beliefs about my fellow U.S. [United States] citizens or the state of our nation in decline to cause me needless suffering. I can tolerate and accept what simply is, and without demanding that it ought to be any other way.


I approximated that the U.S. was headed to World War III (WWIII), given the unhelpful behavior of our government. At that time, our nation was essentially engaged in a proxy war on the side of Ukrainians who were fighting the Russians.


A month after that post, Hamas attacked Israel and the U.S. again began backing one side over the other, siding with Israel. Now, our government has saw fit to engage in kinetic conflict with the people of Yemen, as it appears as though we’re involved in a proxy war against Iran.


In The Dark Knight, a clown character commits the irrational error of believing that citizens of Gotham City view the world as he does. Using his flawed perspective, the Joker then foolishly attempts to goad people into killing one another.


Now, President Joe Biden is provoking global conflict by involving the U.S. in three concurrent combat operations. Presumably, he may not understand that not all the citizens of this nation share his worldview.


I don’t want the U.S. to be involved in financial support of, direct or indirect conflict with, or to be in any way responsible and accountable for foreign conflict that isn’t in direct defense of our nation. While this is my desire, I don’t use demandingness regarding this matter.


Through practice of REBT in my personal life, I understand that the actions of this nation’s joker of a president aren’t worth self-disturbing over. Addressing this point in a blogpost entitled Sociopolitical Pills, I stated:


Within my blog, I address unpleasant sociopolitical content. I do this as a means of reminding myself of a need for unconditional acceptance, all while attempting to educate and entertain the reader.


In that post, I further identified my approach to sociopolitical matters as one relating to that of a “clown pill” nature—a metaphor for seeing the world as the joke it so often is. This perspective is associated with absurdism—the idea that humans live in a chaotic universe.


Ultimately, I don’t enjoy being subjected to a dilemma in which my nation of birth and current residence is pulled in many chaotic directions. As well, I think it’s unproductive that President Biden is behaving as the Joker did in The Dark Knight.


Nevertheless, I don’t control or influence the mind or actions of a clown. After all, I’m the only person over whom I assume personal ownership. Perhaps the U.S. will be remembered as the instigator of WWIII. Time will tell. If such will be the case, blood isn’t directly upon my hands.


For now, I’ll continue trying to better myself and help other people not to feel better, though to actually get better through use of REBT. Besides, whether or not we like the direction in which the world is headed, here… we… go!


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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