117. Preponderance of the small (IV)
Watchmen features a character called the Comedian; he is all very well, but he is not a Joker. The Joker of the book is Rorschach. He is a man who, unlike the Comedian, utterly obliterates his own face with a mask that depicts a Rorschach inkblot test; he has literally become nothing—you see in him whatever is within yourself. At the end of the story, Rorschach, the lowest and dirtiest, refuses to be complicit in a benevolent plot to end the risk of global nuclear war. He insists that the truth must be told, no matter what the consequences; hence he is both the highest and lowest character in the story at the same time.
The Joker, unlike a comedian, is much more than just a funny person; just like the playing card, he is a zero, nothing, a nobody—being nobody he can become anybody. He is “0” and zero has the potential to be anything; it is the dragon chasing its own tail, the ouroboros—primal chaos. Women are Jokers by nature: an empty hole that we put something in; and when we put something in, we, quite often, get a little something out—and we see in women whatever is in ourselves.
When we are bullied we can respond in three ways: grow physically stronger and fight back; retreat into study; or, finally, we can clown about. The comedian turns the bully’s humour on himself. This is a kind of power: to make a person laugh is to force them to make an involuntary bodily action, the only other equivalent is orgasm—laughter is part of seduction; it is a matter of a stroke then a slap. The archetype of Mr. Punch says: “Your Honour, I know I beat my wife, but I only beat her because I love her. If I didn’t beat her, she’d leave me!” Real love is a slap; the slap that is a stroke.
The comedian, having put on a mask, remains afraid; he knows he is the weak little kid who never grew strong: so professional comedians are often miserable; even though the crowds adore them and they are rewarded with success, they know it is all an act—a coping mechanism to force reality away.
The Joker is not a comedian: he is the man who says whatever he wants and damn the consequences; he is not a diplomat or politician. Private Joker in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket sums this up: he is a reporter; he observes. He wears the peace symbol on his jacket but has written “Born to Kill” on his helmet: “I’m a peace-loving man who is here to rape and kill gooks, sir!” This is Jung’s hidden God, Abraxas: the God that is both dark and light at the same time. Shakespeare’s Fool in Lear says it so: “Marry, here’s grace and a codpiece; that’s a wise man and a fool.” In other words, “I’m looking for a woman who is a complete slut and also a devoted virgin who wants to raise children.” Anyone who wants this is a fool, but a wise fool—the only wisdom is foolishness.
Just like Lear’s Fool, the leader listens to Private Joker: a general pauses to have a frank exchange with him. The general half hates Private Joker and half loves him, because Joker is giving it to him straight: the general is immersed in lies, and, just like Lear, the only man he can trust is the idiot who says exactly what he thinks—only a complete idiot would say what he thinks! Reality: they are in a war because of clever diplomats and politicians telling lies. When nobody is telling the truth, nobody can trust each other; eventually, as America is about to discover, the question is resolved by violence. Thus the Joker is the honest holy fool—a man like Rasputin or Donald Trump—who has such integrity that people cannot decide if he is absolute evil or absolute good.