Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight offered a more realistic interpretation of the Joker, and one of his particularities were the scars on his face, forming a permanent “smile” – but how did he get those scars? The Dark Knight is considered by both critics and viewers as one of the best superhero films of all time and the film that introduced one of the best versions of the Joker thanks to Heath Ledger.
The Dark Knight was the second entry in Nolan’s Batman trilogy and followed Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) as they joined forces to dismantle organized crime in Gotham City – but everything crashed and burned with the emergence of a unique type of villain known as the Joker, who really just wanted to watch the world burn. This version of the Clown Prince of Crime kept some characteristics from the “classic” look of the Joker, especially the suit, but his signature “pale white” face was actually washed up face paint (as well as his red lips and green hair), and he had very deep scars that formed a “smile”.
Those scars were hard not to look at, even for the characters in the film, prompting the Joker to share the story behind them – which ended up being quite confusing.
The Story Behind The Joker’s Scars
The Joker shared two very different stories about his scars throughout the film. The first one said his father was a drunk who used to beat his mother up during his drunken rages. One night, when his father went “crazier than usual”, the Joker’s mother decided to defend herself with a knife, something that his father didn’t like, so he took the knife from her and turned to a young Joker, who was watching the whole scene. His father taunted him with the knife, repeating “why so serious?” as he stuck the blade into his mouth, ready to “put a smile on that face."
The second story was very different from that. Instead of his father, it was the Joker who did that to himself, all to help his wife. According to the Joker, his wife – who used to tell him he needed to “smile more” – got into trouble with gambling sharks who “carved her face”. As they didn’t have money for surgery and he wanted to “see her smile again” and let her know he didn’t care about the scars, he disfigured his own mouth in solidarity. Problem was: she couldn’t stand the sight of him, and she left. He ended the story by saying he now saw the funny side, as he was always smiling now.
A real reason behind his scars was never given, and the different stories were all part of his chaotic nature. The Joker didn’t care about telling people how he got the scars: he just wanted to plant fear, any way he could, and this also built his reputation and legend in Gotham City. And given this chaotic nature of his, it’s also fairly possible that he gave himself the scars simply because he could, and not because he had a wife with a disfigured face.