Thursday, February 12, 2009


CNN has recently made us aware of a movement which is occurring elsewhere on the internet.

Existing, as we do, on the very same internet, it is surprising that we failed to notice this forming. But, then again, considering the size and scope of the World Wide Web (or the Information Superhighway), there are many corners and crevices for such things to spread. From our windows in The Middle Room, we see many things in the digital sea that stretches before us. But all seeing, we are not.

Those of you who have clicked on the link embedded in the first paragraph already know what is happening and may wish to skip the remainder of this paragraph. For the benefit of those of you with less trigger-happy mouse fingers, we will explain: a group is circulating a petition asking that The Joker be omitted from future Batman films. The argument, in its simplest form, is twofold: that Ledger's Joker cannot possibly be bested and that retiring the character would serve as a sign of respect.

We respectfully disagree, not merely with the content of these arguments, but the very perspective that has unleashed them. Whether Ledger's performance can be topped is irrelevant: comic movies exist in a tradition, and there are better metrics than these. The assumption that there is a single Joker which Ledger captures is a mistake. The Joker, as a character, is fluid, evolving. And Ledger is one of many - actors, writers, artists, editors... the list goes on - to have aided in this process.

It seems unlikely, for example, that an actor will ever surpass Christopher Reeve's performance as Superman, but the character lives on. Brandon Routh certainly didn't surpass Reeve in Superman Returns (an underrated film, by the way), but he did honor the legacy. In fact, the movie served as a celebration, rather than a competition. Other versions of Superman have deviated, of course, but the influence Reeve has had endures. his performance gave us more than a few good movies and a few bad ones: he is now part of Superman.

Ledger's performance was good enough, we feel, to leave a similar mark on the character of the Joker. Years from now, we hope to be able to see elements of his work in future interpretations. That, we believe, will better honor Ledger's legacy than petty competition.

Let the Joker live on, we say, and Ledger's memory will live on with it.

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