The Year Of The Mask: The Passing Of Heath Ledger And The First Joker Crimes

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“The magician dissociates, creates alternate identities for himself with their own names and abilities and personalities.”
—Peter Levenda

In my estimation, “The Year Of The Mask” technically starts not in the Summer of 2012, as I described in the first part of this series…but in 2008 with the death of Joker actor Heath Ledger from a drug overdose.

A few months earlier, he had just finished filming The Dark Knight. He also had some scenes for The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus in the can.

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(Now: It has always been my belief that not only did Ledger’s death “kick off” a cascade of events and coincidences, but that a cascade of events and coincidences also preceded his death. For those morbid souls who wish to read such esoteric material, I’ve exhaustively chronicled these syncs in the post “The Joker: A Journey Into Synchronicity” on my other site Butterfly Language.)

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I do not lay the “cause” for Ledger’s early demise solely at the purple-clad feet of Batman’s arch-enemy. But playing The Joker probably “weakened” Ledger. Supposedly, the rigors of psyching himself up to play the character gave him insomnia.

Of note is the following train of circumstances following the passing of Ledger, which I believe led all the way to “The Year Of The Mask” and beyond to our current rather sordid and sad National Predicament.

A comparison of uncannily similar scenes from “The Crow” and “The Dark Knight”

First, Ledger’s death probably pushed The Dark Knight over the edge as a cult movie & blockbuster success, the same way Brandon Lee’s death did propel The Crow into the spotlight. Both of these films would have been successful regardless—but the untimely passings of their stars gave them that extra “push” in the media.

Because of the success of The Dark Knight, DC Comics & Warner Bros. decided that “dark” superhero movies and comics were the way to move forward. Actually, DC decided this way back in the early 2000’s (in a specific meeting that, by coincidence, I actually attended) but The Dark Knight is what solidified the approach (which is where we got the “Snyderverse”).

Spencer Taylor, who in 2008 was arrested for stealing Batman memorabilia while dressed as the Joker.

Significantly, a number of “Joker Copycat Crimes” began to take place a year into the death of Ledger & the release of The Dark Knight. I’ve researched & written about this quite a bit (sometimes in my earlier, “anonymous” blogs), but the pioneer in the reporting of this topic is Loren Coleman’s Twilight Language blog—here is his list of Joker Copycats through 2012, though there have been others since then (such as the Florida Joker).

The anarchic vibe of Ledger’s particular Joker was, from a sociological/ideological/political viewpoint extremely prescient and extremely influential.

The Joker is a potent archetype

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I’m closing out this installment of “The Year Of The Mask” with a couple of short posts I wrote in 2009 covering two rather serious Joker-inspired crimes that took place before that fateful 2012 night in Aurora, CO.

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“The Killer Who Was Obsessed With The Joker”

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Kim De Gelder (left) and how he looked like at the time of the attack.

(Originally written 1/26/09)

Kim de Gelder—now known as “The Joker Killer”—was arrested last Friday for storming into a Belgian daycare center (or “creche”) and stabbing several children and a caretaker. The caretaker and two babies died from the attack.

De Gelder wore black-and-white clown makeup, and apparently his only words to police was a quote from The Dark Knight:

It has emerged that when he was arrested, Mr De Gelder’s only words were: ‘I have a question’….The words echo a scene in Batman: the Dark Knight when the Joker violently gatecrashes a party looking for a the fictional attorney general of Gotham City, Harvey Dent….‘I only have one question: where is Harvey Dent? I’ll settle for his loved ones,’ says the character played by Ledger, before threatening a woman with a knife.

and…

Some reports said De Gelder laughed at police interrogators in an echo of scenes from the movie.

The attack took place a year-and-a-day after Heath Ledger’s death, and it is suggested that “Gelder” is an anagram for “Ledger.”

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de Gelder

The crime is now referred to in the European media as “The Joker Killings.” The Wikipedia entry for the comic book character The Joker now refers to the killings as well (editor’s note: this has since been scrubbed from the page).

“Fourth Confirmed Joker-Inspired Attack This Year”

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Christopher Lanum

(Originally written 3/13/09)

A soldier in Virginia who was obsessed with the Joker stabbed a fellow soldier and was later killed in a shootout. The soldier, Army Spc. Christopher Lanum, was dressed in the Joker costume he wore on Halloween, which included a green vest and face-paint. He also had masks and pictures of the Joker in his apartment.

His girlfriend confirmed Lanum’s obsession with the character of the Joker from the movie The Dark Knight, and also noted that Lanum,

…said everything the Joker did he did for a reason, like killing people, and that he agreed with the philosophy of doing things for a reason.

2009 has been a busy year for Joker-inspired attacks, with incidents in Belgium, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

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Postscript

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As I continued to document the Joker Crimes on my early blogs, I started receiving a very intense “blowback” from some fans who believed that by the simple act of shining the Bat-Signal on these news stories, I might be “threatening” their dark n’ gritty Batman (and, one would assume, their Joker).

What was I insinuating…that there was possibly any connection between the mass-produced Image and the Public Acts? That was preposterous! That was the type of dangerous rhetoric that started the whole Seduction of the Innocent craze in the 1950s!

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No—the Image existed in a vacuum, obviously.

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Obviously.