In his transformative role as the Joker, Heath Ledger was by far the standout of The Dark Knight, even more so than the titular character. With his captivating presence and brutal schemes, Joker raised the bar for DC villains to a level no one else has been able to reach since. But what if he isn’t the villain of the film at all? What if all his machinations and pencil-related humor inadvertently make him the real hero, once again beating out the Caped Crusader?
A theory from Reddit user Generalzee speculates that the Joker is way more efficient at dismantling the rampant crime in Gotham than Batman, thus making the Joker the hero that Gotham actually needs. Instead of using his resources to fund the city’s police force, Bruce Wayne dons a costume and rounds up low level thugs, never really putting a dent in the criminal presence that rule the city. Going beyond that, Gotham’s “hero” even abuses civilians’ privacy with an invasive surveillance system. His intentions may be just, but from a certain point of view, he’s an ineffective nut job.
On the other hand, in his pursuit of chaos, Joker’s moves destroy the mob’s finances and bosses. He propels Harvey Dent into being a more effective crime fighter as well, albeit in a more gruesome way. Because of the Joker’s little pushes, Gotham is nearly rid of crime. Even though they both worked outside the law to fight crime, it’s because of the Joker, not Batman, that crime is nearly wiped out.
There are a few holes in looking at the Joker as a true hero, especially with all his murder-y antics, but it’s interesting to think about. Not saying that the ends justify the means, but it can be said that by the end of The Dark Knight, Gotham is a little better off because of the Joker.