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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Should the character of the Joker be retired from film?

A group of fans in Buenos Aires have started an online petition to convince Warner Bros. to retire the character of the Joker from film, in honor of the late Heath Ledger. At the petition site, Heath, The Ultimate Joker, the organizers explain themselves:

Can you imagine the super human efforts film companies would have to go through to find a fourth Joker after Heath Ledger? Is a better Joker even possible to imagine? Entertainment producers “sorry, but it’s simply impossible”

It’s impossible to imagine, impossible to draw or dub much less repeat the performance.

That’s why efforts to find one should simply cease. The Joker must die now and forever. Now is the time for him to rest in peace as Ledger has ennobled the honourable villain.

Of course a better Joker is possible to imagine. Perhaps not it’s hard to imagine what the details of that performance might look like, but impossible to imagine that someone could take the character further and wider and weirder than Ledger did? That’s not to slight Ledger’s performance, which is a wonder, and absolutely one of the best things at the movies in 2008, but come on, fanboys.

(I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that English is not their first language, and hence refrain from ripping into the concepts of “noble” and “honorable” being applied to the sociopathic Joker.)

And for how long do these fans imagine we should retire the Joker? For the next five years? Ten? Twenty? Forever? Can’t we assume that any debt of respect owed to Ledger and his unforgettable performance will work itself out naturally by Hollywood? If it’s too soon to try to revive the character, won’t the derision of fans be enough to quash it, either actually or by our ignoring it? Or do these fanboys seriously mean to suggest that no one, ever, should play the Joker again — not even in 200 years time?

CNN quotes Fer Barbella, the head honcho of the fan movement, who appears to think precisely that:

When Michael Jordan retired, they withdrew the number 23 jersey as an honor. It’s the same thing with Heath.

But it isn’t the same thing at all. The number on a athlete’s jersey has no impact on his performance. The better comparison would be: Because we love Runner X, and he ran a record-time marathon, we should ban anyone else from ever running a marathon, lest his record be broken.

How does that honor anyone?

What do you think? Should the character of the Joker be retired from film?

(Next up: I propose that we ban anyone from ever playing Hamlet again, because no one could ever be better than David Tennant, so why even bother trying?)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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