Evil Jokers: The Dark Knight and Other Psychopaths

Psychopaths often fool others with their mask of sanity. As we know, they appear glib and charming in casual contact, hide their wrongdoings from others and lie smoothly with no compunction. But usually they’re far better at fooling their buddies and professional acquaintances–those they have only superficial contact with–than they are their long-term significant others. For a number of reasons I’ve explored so far–including fear, dependency, a sense of helplessness, PTSD, loyalty and deep emotional attachment–women sometimes stay with known psychopaths. Perhaps a less obvious reason for this that I’d like to discuss today is a self-defeating fascination with evil. Many of us are intrigued by evil, partly because of it’s caused by human beings who are fundamentally different from the rest of us. Just as it’s impossible for psychopaths to relate to what’s good about human nature—they see conscience, empathy and love it as weaknesses–it’s almost as difficult for most people to understand what motivates psychopaths to harm others.

The film The Dark Knight (2008) was a box office hit largely due to the popularity of the evil character. The Joker kills not in order to become richer, as do the other outlaws in the movie, but solely for the sport of it. His characterization as a psychopath is plausible: except perhaps for the unfortunate fact that most psychopaths are much harder to identify. They usually don’t look as repulsive and don’t act as obviously crazy as the Joker does. Yet, fundamentally, all psychopaths are evil jokers. Their idea of entertainment, and of a life well-spent, is duping and destroying others.

Similarly, Dracula novels remain international best sellers for a similar reason. In spite of ourselves, we’re drawn to human vampires who feed upon our lives, to weaken and destroy us. Even crime shows that feature psychopaths are very popular. Evil individuals also tend to monopolize the personal interest and crime stories featured on the news.

Because most of us are capable of empathy and love, and thus can’t identify with those who completely lack these capacities, we imagine evil people to be far more complex and intriguing than they actually are. We may be initially mystified by the contradiction between a psychopath’s apparent charm and his underlying ruthlessness. But once we realize that the charm of evil people is purely instrumental, to get them whatever they want at the moment, this contradiction is resolved and ceases to intrigue us. In reality, normal people are far more interesting and less predictable than psychopaths. The depth and range of our emotions complicates, nuances and curbs our selfish impulses and desires. For psychopaths, however, nothing stands in the way of their absolute selfishness. Each and every one of their actions, including seemingly other-regarding acts, can be plausibly explained in terms of their quest for dominance.

Evil men may appear to be masculine, self-confident and in charge. They seem to know what they want from life and how to get it. Keep in mind, however, that it’s so much easier to know what you want when you’re considering only your own desires and are willing to sacrifice everyone and everything to satisfy them. Even animals manifest deeper emotions. They care about their young and bond with others. Psychopaths don’t. If decent men sometimes hesitate, it’s because they’re more thoughtful and other-regarding. They put other people’s needs into the equation before reaching a decision. Thus, paradoxically, it’s only because of their deficiencies and simplicity with respect to normal, more multidimensional, human beings that we consider evil individuals our “Others” and are intrigued by them.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

13 Comments

  1. I think the fascination for evil comes more from an understanding from empathic individuals to understand why psychopaths do what they do. I spent years trying to understand why certain people did what they did along with my psychopathic ex. However once we learn that they are really evil the fascination for them suddenly dissappeared. It took me a long time to realise that rather than “Understanding” my disordered partner and trying to empathise with him which of course got me further into trouble. The best thing we can do is to learn how they tick and operate understand they are “different” and then not be fascinated by them any more.

  2. Sarah, you make a really good point. It’s only when we don’t understand that the Jekyll side of the psychopath is phony that we are fascinated by the Hyde side. Because we don’t see how someone could have two opposite selves: a good side and an evil side. But once we realize the good side is a mask made up of lies and hiding the real self, then the psychopath’s personality becomes simple, boring and flat as a pancake. Claudia

  3. Claudia you inspired me to write a poste about my own ideas about why we are so fascinated with these “evil Jokers” and whether the fool is us or them😉 Mwuaahhhhh

    See Here:

    http://www.darksouls-thebook.com/who-is-the-fool.html

  4. LOL at “flat as a pancake”

  5. Sarah, I’m so glad I inspired your post. I love your blog! By the way,
    this is the first “Mwuaahhh” I ever got in my life! I’ll return a French one: Bisous, Claudia

  6. Ditto, Thanks I have never had a french one either I guess theres a first for everything😉

  7. After a year with a spath I had the chance to meet and observe a man with aspergers syndrome. I feel that these two disorders are related but the aspergers don’t obviously share the anger and hostility of spaths. The lack of emotional connection and the rational approach to issues..the sense of rational competency they share and which I found so attractive in the spath was revealed to me as a disability rather than a strength. If you strip away the charm and mystery of never knowing how they feel, a spath is just a limited or truncated emotional void who is somehow left with social perception. The experience was cathartic in that I saw the futility of dreaming about emotional connection with a spath. I think we confuse their extreme talent for reading and manipulating social cues with emotional depth. That is, if they do it so well then they must have an equally complex range of feelings.

  8. Andrea, very well said. Once you strip the layer of superficial charm and the lies,
    a psychopath–be it male or female–is nothing but an emotional void with whom no deeper or positive connections
    are possible. Claudia

  9. My son as aspergers (he is almost 18) and for many years I thought my husband also had this but now know CLEARLY that my husband is a psychopath. My son would never try and choke anyone in their sleep… abuse animals and kill animals and my son also is capable of great empathy and compassion which me ex is not capable of.

  10. EM, that is the clearest sign of psychopathy: a lack of empathy that often has sadistic manifestations, as you describe. Claudia

  11. […] Moscovici talks about the psycopath as Evil Jokers (The Dark Knight and other psychopathic characters). Remember the psychopathic person is all about […]

  12. i agree with all your comments as I have been on the receiving end of their behaviours for years. But dealing with the pain and hurt is diffiicult as psychopaths leave you with scars you cannot erase. Because of the psychopaths mentality one cannot gain closure or resolution of the issues and you are left with anger. So I started a blog in order to try to lesson some of that anger. The problem withpsychopaths is that they will strike when one is at ones lowest point, e.g. the death of your brother and the path says you can hold the wake but unbeknownst to you, they have organised elsewhere andyou are left alone and broken – further violated!!


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