Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

IMDBates: The Dark Knight

Illustration for article titled IMDBates: iThe Dark Knight/i

Our nation, wrecked as it is, was founded on two crucial ideals: 1) Everyone is allowed to voice their opinion, no matter how half-baked, misinformed, offensive, full of grammatical error, or completely fucking pointless; and 2) Everyone deserves their day in court. Sadly, while there are plenty of televised forums where everyday people can take their various divorce and dry-cleaning-related grievances before sassy and/or imbued-with-folksy-Southern-wisdom judges, there's no such system in place for resolving the kind of petty squabbles that regularly rack the Internet–specifically those that rage on in its darkest corner: IMDB.com.

Any regular visitor to the Internet Movie Database knows that the comment boards are perpetual hotbeds of controversy, where boring, staid debates over a film's artistic merits are put aside in favor of discussing the things that really matter: Is this the best or, more likely, worst movie ever made? Is it racist, sexist, or possibly funded by terrorists? Just how fuckable are its lead actors anyway? Unfortunately, as it stands now, such arguments exist in a never-ending cycle of futile abuse: Nitpicks turn into full-blown feuds, the threat of the "Ignore" function gets bandied about as a form of mutually assured destruction, and small fires that were doused weeks ago flare up into four-alarm blazes with the simple word "Bump." It's a savage, untamed wilderness out there–and it's high time to roll in and impose some order, America-style. IMDBates aims to present both sides of the argument objectively and, perhaps for the first time, coherently. It's up to you, as the jury of their peers, to pass judgment. Act wisely.

On this very special inaugural edition of IMDBates: A Dark Knight double-header!

1. The Case Of The "Sexy" Joker

The facts: Much cyber-ink has been spilled about the Oscar chances of the unfortunately late Heath Ledger in his role as the Joker, with many calling his characterization one of the great villains in all of filmdom. But such discussion is generally the province of elitist critics who have to, like, make everything about art and stuff. A far more important question looms over the Dark Knight boards like the elephant-with-a-lady-boner in the room: Is the Joker "sexy"–too sexy, in fact, to be an effective villain?

The case for the prosecution: There's no denying the inherent sexiness of Heath Ledger. The dude was a smoldering piece of Australian man-meat with a soft, pink center–the rare breed of actor whose good looks were backed up by an aura of integrity, and a genuine thespian's willingness to lose himself in a role. Although the Joker's outsides are a splattered canvas of ghoulish make-up and disfiguring scars, no amount of uglification could possibly hide the golden-haired god underneath, whose natural charisma bled through and inspired some very confusing feelings: Were you supposed to be scared of him because he was a remote and emotionless psychopath? Or, if only you could take him home and show him that he was capable of being loved, could you somehow change him into a good and caring boyfriend, the kind of guy who would be eternally grateful for you being able to see past his flaws, and would thus be totally devoted to you and rub your back while you watch your favorite shows and not just hang out with his creepy friends all the time? You ladies know what I'm talking about.

Testimony: Currently no IMDB board has higher traffic than The Dark Knight, so pinpointing the origin of any given topic is all but impossible; posts made a mere 20 hours ago are already buried on the 50th page of discussion. But judging by its overwhelming number of replies (400 and climbing), this argument may have quite possibly originated with HarlequinLovesCHC's July 19 post entitled, "Did anybody else find the Joker to be strangley [sic] Attractive?":

"THis is obviously towards the ladies ofcourse, if they're here i can't tell.

But i don't know he had this sex-appeal to him that i couldn't help but WANT him, no wonder Harley fell in love with the man."

Not surprisingly, HarlequinLovesCHC quickly found numerous supporters–ostensibly, fellow ladies–who agreed with her: Mish234 replied, "I'd tap that," allisonleigh222 chimed in with, "THE JOKER WAS HOT. ;]," and even urban_achiever1991 took time out from urban achieving to say, "I am a straight guy and I felt kind of conflicted when seeing him in a dress." Others shared their various Joker fantasy scenarios, mostly revolving around being the Joker's partner in crime–like, brightcitylights40391, who said, "i would definitely be his little side kick thing. maybe i'd even cut my face to match his. dayuuuuuuuuuum he was fine." Of course, many more have responded that these girls only find the Joker attractive because it's Heath Ledger underneath, like wordartist1, who addresses his post to "All the girls with the Joker fantasies" and says:

"It's harmless, but don't you think REALLY you're having a Heath Ledger fantasy with maybe a little bit of role playing going on? The Joker gets off on murder, mayhem, and utter destruction. From all accounts, however, Heath Ledger was a pretty nice guy, so it makes the fantasy safe. I don't think any of you girls would really want to meet someone like the Joker. Imagine the ugliest actor you can think of. Now imagine him playing the Joker. Are you still turned on?

Do any of you fantasize about Danny DeVito as the Penguin, for example? Because that would be interesting to hear about."


Indeed it would. However, Bushido2020 refutes that claim, saying,:

"I was never a Heath Ledger fan nor did I ever find him attractive before this film, but his interpretation of the Joker was just SO fantastic and SO demented that all anyone could do was just completely fall for the Joker. But then I realized that Heath is deceased, so that just added to the confusion :( But as a previous poster said it's like when people find other deceased celebrities attractive. The Joker not only has an extremely dangerous aspect to him, but he has a FANTASTIC sense of humor which any person could appreciate."


And dbzchicky501 agrees:

"I think part of it could be that he's just a very…self assured guy. He feels like he could do anything, he KNOWS he could do anything. He's very confident. And that's pretty sexy in a guy."


Finally, DoctorBaltar arrives to put things in perspective with a little bit of psychoanalysis (and psycho analysis):

"Ted Bundy had women swooning over him even though they knew what monstrous things he's done. It's that "bad boy" charm that women fall for no matter what."


Of course, what began as a reasoned, diplomatic debate soon spilled out into a board-devouring, free-for-all of content-less "ditto" posts utilizing the heading of "The Joker Has Sex Appeal"–now labeled with numerical designations, apparently to add weight to their argument (it's currently up to #11)–and the formation of a group of "Joker Fangirls" who create an enabling space in which to trade photos and share links to fan-fiction known colloquially as "Jokerotica." Not surprisingly, most of these fantasies involve being dominated by the Joker—or perhaps something even more demeaning, as embee123 said in a response to "Would the Joker ever REALLY date a fangirl?":

"I don't want him to date me. I want him to keep me as a sexy little human pet."


Closing argument: The popularity of the Joker among women seems to be rooted in a deep attraction to power–even though that power manifests itself in displays of sociopathic behavior. In fact, one could even argue that it's because of that sociopathic behavior that he's sexy: His charisma lies in his total indifference to love and, indeed, to all other humans. Thus, the sort of woman who's typically attracted to emotionally distant men who don't need or even want her inevitably finds herself drawn to him. It is, as some have pointed out, the "bad boy" effect–and how can a villain strike terror in the hearts of his enemies when they actually find that kind of sexy?

The case for the defense: Women who find the Joker "sexy" are ignoring the fact that he's not only disfigured–and probably kind of stinky, judging by his hair–but also criminally insane, the type of guy who would just as soon kill you as look at you. All sexual fantasies involving the Joker must be the result of some deep, disturbing insecurity (or worse, as some have suggested, an "emo/goth" tendency) that makes these women crave emotional and probably physical abuse from dominant men. Furthermore, it's dumb to even pretend, because you'd be all, like, "Let's have sex," and then the Joker would be all, "Let me show you a pencil trick," and then bam, you'd totally be dead.

Testimony: Within that same initial posting, numerous commenters–primarily men–responded with a call for rationale, like sethozlott:

He seems like the type who would lead you into his bed only to tie you up and rape you with a knife while laughing at your screams. you don't realize just how twisted the joker is.


Of course, that only seemed to encourage some (HarlequinLovesCHC responds, "From him? I wouldn't mind that actually")–which naturally left a lot of men aghast and turning over that eternal question, "What do women see in him?", like jesseboy777:

"My curret status on understanding the female mind: officially perplexed. The Joker was a truely psychotic, sociopath; a mindless, heartless killing machine, bent on breaking as many peoples' wills as necessary to 'prove' in their time of absolute despair they're just as SICK as he…without even a hint, A HINT of remorse!!!! DAMNIT what causes any sane female to be attracted to that??!!! He's one of the most twisted villans I've seen in a movie. His psychological mind games are totally freaky and bent. His schemes are very well thought out and very dimented. The Joker's the kind of freak that uses ANY means of seduction he can get his hands on as bate to lure the innocent victem in for a kill as a tactic for intimidation. Only, just killing is boring for him. Killing becomes his avenue for a creative outlet with his knife collection and grenades…he's totally bent and if someone's attracted at all to someone like the Joker, there's a damn good chance there may be something wrong. I am officially concerned for some of the women on this board."


But lest you think this is all a matter of men not getting it, even some women recognize there's something inherently wrong with fantasizing about bedding the Joker. In a post very bluntly titled "The Joker would NOT have sex with you. He would torture/kill you," vashsunglasses says:

No matter how charismatic or attractive he is, he just WOULD NOT have sex with you. EVER. I admit that I'm vaguely attracted to him, but I don't understand the delusion some women seem to suffer that he would somehow return their affections. He would KILL you. He would KILL your parents, and your children, and your pets, and make you watch. Then he would cut up your face and leave you among the disfigured corpses. Or stick a bomb inside your abdomen. Or gas you with Joker Venom that made you laugh so hard you vomited up your own intestines before you died. Do you get it now?!?!


Naturally, some people are all too happy to play armchair psychologist, like gutterflower_lea:

"I have seen some disturbing stuff on these boards, from girls who would be 'happy to be raped by the Joker' or would 'let him slap them around'. I really hope that these girls are exaggerating, and I think they probably are…As long as their fantasies stay in the realm of fantasy, and as long as they know enough to distinguish between fantasy and what is acceptable or healthy in real life, then the whole thig is totally harmless….Maybe some people are even trying to handle the emotions that the character provokes by trying to turn them into something more familiar and controllable…ie desire?"


A plausible analysis, but that's not good enough for user Dark-Spidey, who sees the "Joker is sexy" movement as detrimental to his enjoyment of the film, so could you just shut up already? In his post "Saying the Joker has sex appeal demeans the whole character, fecktards!" he attempts to sum up the entire "Nuh-uh!" argument with:

"The Joker has sex appeal? Is that supposed to be funny? It completely demeans the character. It doesn't have to be explained why. We all know why. The Joker has no sex appeal and that was obviously NOT the intention of the character. Grow up, you pathetic fangirls. For once in your life take something seriously and stop tainting something we all enjoy."


Closing argument: Calling the Joker "sexy" is an insult to both Heath Ledger's performance and Christopher Nolan's intentions as director. They set out to create a twisted, enigmatic psycho who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with cinema's greatest villains–not some fantasy plaything–and reducing him to such a base interpretation of "Omigod he's hawt!!!" robs him of his effectiveness, and reveals a shallow understanding of the film. Plus, all you ladies are sicko pervs.

The judge's final statement before deliberations: While the "Ted Bundy effect" is well-documented, the court finds it a little baffling–not to mention a little ghoulish, considering Ledger's untimely death–that so many hours would be wasted debating the relative "hotness" of a character that was intended to strike fear in the hearts of mankind, not stir its loins. But then, a lot of ladies are, indeed, sicko pervs.

2. The Case Of The "Not Sexy Enough" Rachel Dawes

The facts: When it was announced that Katie Holmes would not be reprising her Batman Begins role, most were relieved: Her performance was generally regarded as the weakest point of the first film, further sullied by distracting thoughts of Tom Cruise, Scientology, silent births, and her new, oddly vacant demeanor. Many names were bandied about for her replacement–including Rachel McAdams and Emily Blunt–but when it was announced that Maggie Gyllenhaal would be taking over, fans were split into two camps: One group who appreciated Gyllenhaal's smart, nuanced performances in films like Secretary, Sherrybaby, and Happy Endings, and another group who frequently refer to her with names like "Fugly Ghoul-lenhaal," make comments about her "turtle face," and call her a traitor based on remarks she made years ago regarding 9/11. Most criticisms of late, however, have focused on whether Gyllenhaal is attractive enough to conceivably be the sort of woman that both Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent would fall for, a topic that's even been broached in more mainstream media.

The case for the prosecution: Maggie Gyllenhaal is frequently referred to as a "thinking man's" sex symbol, but there's no denying that thinking man's sex symbols require a modicum of actual thinking to appreciate. That's a problem for those who see a comic-book movie like The Dark Knight through the prism of idealized, hyper-reality and thus want their characters to be larger-than-life. In their estimation, Rachel should be an indisputable bombshell whom all the men sitting in the audience covet at first glimpse–not just intellectual sorts who "like the total package." If her face doesn't make us want to start jacking it right there in the theater, then how are we supposed to believe that Batman/Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent–two charismatic, powerful guys who could have any woman they want–would both be so smitten with her? As esteemed film critic Stephen A. Smith from ESPN's 1st And 10 put it, she just wasn't "fine" enough. "You want to get, like, a Halle Berry or a Beyonce in there."

Testimony: Debating the "ugliness" of various actors and actresses is a favored pastime on the IMDB boards, but few have drawn the kind of vitriol accorded to Gyllenhaal, who has been accused of everything from sleeping her way into films to riding the coattails of brother Jake to achieve her modest fame. With The Dark Knight, however, she was suddenly accused of a much greater crime: "Ruining" the movie with her less-than-total hotness. Numerous hyperbolic posts testify to this, beginning with mortynyc's post, "Maggie Gyllenhaal almost ruined Dark Knight for me, yuck":

"What made my penis soft and almost ruined the entire film was having to look at Maggie Gyllenhaal as she was called "gorgeous." Howard Stern mentioned this on his show the other day and I concur with his learned opinion. This woman is far from gorgeous, but it seems that after the flic "Secretary" she gained some indie cred and the average female says she's "cute." Well cute doesn't cut it missy, not in blockbusters. You need amazingly hot women in these films, not coyote chicks you run away from after a one night stand. It's the equivalent of casting Ray Romano in Christian Bale's character. Ray Romano as Batman makes as much sense as Maggie G as Rachel. There are very few men who find her hot, and she's plain at best if not downright ugly. This casting director is on crack with this clown looking broad as the leading lady. Yuck, cringed when they kept calling her "gorgeous" in the film! Who is Bruce Wayne's optometrist, Pauly Shore?"


Zing! Of course, the most vicious attacks, as always, are reserved for Gyllenhaal's personal board, where topics like "Maggie Barf Bags," "Ugliest woman on film who plays attractive people?", and "Her face is slowly falling off her head" outnumber all others. Some people, like purplebear17, aver that they refuse to see the most popular, talked-about film in the nation simply because of Gyllenhaal: "I would see The Dark Knight if someone different played the love interest." Others felt as though her presence was so distracting as to detract from some of the Joker's scenes as well–like IceMaN411, whose post "Well hellooo beautiful" states:

"um nope not really, and then he said it again…and you sure are beautiful… she's just not that attractive, too bad they didn't cast a foxy lady for her part, then the scene would be believable…"


However, all of these pale in comparison to user danny666, who somehow finds a new reason to mourn Heath Ledger:

"Believing Bruce Wayne and Havey Dent could give two s***s about this fugly, old hag is too much suspension of disbelief. And audience shouldn't have been subjected to her unattractiveness and ask themselves why is this actress so gross, thus making them lose focus on the movie. It wasn't that demanding a part they should have cast better. I was posting here before Heath Ledger died and was demanding a scene where The Joker character hits her in the face with a shovel at the beginning of the movie to explain Rachel's sudden ugliness. I think that could have improved the picture and then let the audience focus on the movie. That is why I thought Heath Ledger's death was a tragedy, I knew there would be no hope to add scenes to the film…Obviously Heath's death is tragic for many reasons. But I also add that 'the shovel scene' is a missed opportunity and just a long list of reasons why I wished Heath lived. It took away hope for many Batman fans."


Closing arguments: While Maggie Gyllenhaal may be considered an unconventional beauty, far too many people find her unattractive for her to have been cast in such a high-profile role. For some viewers, her failure to meet universally agreed-upon standards of beauty was even more distracting than Katie Holmes' various tabloid woes, and thus their enjoyment of the movie was disrupted every time they had to stop and consider why all the guys on screen seemed to think she was hot when, duh, she's so not! They shoulda got Beyonce!!!

The case for the defense: As stated before, Maggie Gyllenhaal is a thinking man's sex symbol–and thus, perfectly suited to the role of a smart, sassy lawyer who catches the eye of two of the most refined men in town. Perhaps she's no Jessica Alba, but come on, who wants to see Alba pretending to be anything but vacuous bikini-filler? At least Gyllenhaal can act. And besides, some guys find her hot, so, like, shut up.

Testimony: While Gyllenhaal's admirers are definitely outnumbered by her attackers, they're no less adamant about defending her against what they generally characterize as "pathetic fanboy virgins who have no idea what a real woman looks like." Most couch their defense in the "you probably think (fill in bland, Maxim-approved starlet) is hot" argument, like dramallama18, who says:

"i bet all of you losers who say maggie gyllenhaal is ugly think miley cyrus is really hot. sorry, that was mean (because no one could think miley cyrus was hot), but also, who decided that actresses had to be the most beautiful people in the world? maybe the director specifically CHOSE a woman who wasn't dumb arm candy so that all of you creeps would actually pay attention to the movie, instead of fantasizing about raping the lead actress the whole time."


Still others utilize ye olde "rubber and glue" defense, like montereymatt's post, "All the nerds who bash Maggie":

"I don't see you being cast in a lot of movies. Funny, isn't it? Since good looks get you acting roles. You know, like Maggie has. Lots of people on this board pissed off about their own looks trying to make themselves feel better by bashing someone else's. Pathetic."


But brtd seems to sum up the general consensus of the pro-Maggie camp with his post, "Why do so many say she's not hot?"

"Seriously. What sane straight guy would turn down a night with her? I'm guessing the whiners are mostly 15 year old boys who can't find anyone who doesn't look like they were created at a Barbie factory hot."


Closing argument: The casting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes–as opposed to some generic, buxom beauty–was a calculated move on the part of Nolan and the producers to add some depth to a crucial role that required more than just looking good. Gyllenhaal's intelligence, spark, and overall carriage combine to create, yes, a total package that transcends what most people think of as "hot"–and anyone who doesn't agree is clearly some pathetic little teenager who should keep masturbating to his sticky Scarlett Johansson photos, leaving women like Maggie Gyllenhaal to the more worldly men who can appreciate all of her many charms.

The judge's final statement before deliberations: I have to recuse myself from this case because I happen to think Maggie Gyllenhaal is the most adorable creature on the planet, one I would probably wreck my marriage to get a crack at. (Just kidding, honey!) But I will say this: When it comes to debating whether someone is "Hot Or Not?", everybody's a loser.

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