The villain within


I finally got out of the house to see The Dark Knight. I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it and aren't inclined to think it is of the devil. You've probably heard, however, how mesmerizing Heath Ledger is in his role as the Joker. Many recall that this was Ledger's last role, as he died not long after from a drug overdose.

I wondered, as I watched him steal every scene he haunted, whether Ledger's role had something to do with his death. The immediate facts mitigate against such a conclusion. The proximate cause of death, after all, was his choice to ingest too many sleeping pills, something plenty of non-actors do every day. And further, while many actors play the roles of villains, most of them don't become, as a consequence, heedless of death.

No doubt it's any number of factors that lead one lost person to let go of life while another clings to it despite hopelessness. So of course it's not the Joker who killed Heath Ledger, it's Heath Ledger's poor decision that killed Heath Ledger.

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Yet I wondered what flitted through Ledger's mind as he brought to life with such aplomb and abandon the character of a nihilistic chaos-seeker, a satanic figure of whom Batman's confidante Alfred says, "Some men just want to watch the world burn." How does an actor unmoored from Christ step into such a character and not despair? It's only a movie based on a comic book, but doesn't Alfred capture a truth that carries us all the way back to Cain's fury? Some men just want to watch the world burn.

I wonder how you scrape the skin of that person off of you when you are done with him. Perhaps he's too real to slip off so easily. Perhaps he lurks in all of us. It's just that some can find distraction enough to forget, if they ever gaze deep enough to discern it in the first place. Meanwhile, others of us know that in the real world to come, the villain inside will mercifully be put to death once and for all.

But what of those poor creatures who catch a glimpse of what lies beating in the darkest part of every soul, yet for whom there is no remedy? Perhaps they are to be pitied most of all.


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