You know, I hadn't thought about it this way before, but the essay makes a compelling case: The Joker is really the hero of this story. Batman is weirdly overfunded and incompetent -- which is, of course, the traditional problem with Batman. ("You're going to invest how
much in cleaning up the city? My god! Imagine all the schools and housing we could create, how many new jo... you're going to spend this on a bunch of armor and a car so you can beat up muggers? Oh. I see.") But the Joker is going out there and actually making a difference in rubbing out crime in the city -- and he seems to be going about it with a purpose.
I always liked these alternate perspectives. I remember walking out of X-Men: First Class
several years ago and being profoundly confused by it; we have two guys with super-powers. One of them is an Auschwitz survivor who uses his powers to hunt down Nazi war criminals. The other of them seems to mostly use his powers to get laid, and is perpetually riding just this close
to date rape. When they get pulled into political machinations, and it becomes clear that the mutants are going to be registered, indexed, "encouraged" to become ordinary people, all the things that would make anyone who survived Germany in the 1930's panic, the first one makes a stand against it and wants mutants to live freely and proudly, and tries to organize them so that they have the muscle to stand up to such demands, knowing that they'll never be accepted; the other one urges cooperation, that it'll all be OK if they just work within the system.
Wait, the second
one is supposed to be the hero, and the first
one is the villain? Xavier (#2 for those who haven't seen this) comes across as somewhere between naïve and deluded; Lensherr has the serious realism of someone who's seen just what the world offers in these cases. I'm pretty sure, given the choice, that I know which side this movie convinced me to take, and it sure as hell isn't Xavier's.
This is something important in stories in general: Sometimes the story seems to have the hero/villain dichotomy printed on the label, but you can never really understand why, and it makes as much sense, if not more, from the opposite perspective.
One of the great masters of doing this on purpose is Hayao Miyazake. His Princess Mononoke
is an excellent example: everyone in this war is acting for completely comprehensible, reasonable objectives, and everyone's goals make perfect sense from their perspective. But added together, they're a recipe for a bloodbath, and the real hero proves himself by preventing that.
Television has recently done an excellent job of adopting this approach, as well. Two shows which particularly come to mind are Fringe
and The Americans:
in both, we have two sides fighting an increasingly bloodthirsty war, and it would be very easy to pick one side as "the good guys" and the other as "the bad guys." But we see the stories through everyone's eyes, and it's extremely clear that each person is, in complete honesty, fighting for what they believe to be right, and with good reason. Fringe's "Walternate" has every reason to believe that the other world is trying to invade and destroy his, and given that they started off by kidnapping his only son, his militaristic attitude is quite understandable; and he's the closest thing the story ever had to a villain. In The Americans, listen to Elizabeth express her disgust with all the things broken in capitalism, or Stan his disgust with the KGB; everyone has real reason behind their patriotism.
Broadly, I think this is something which always makes for the best stories: a sharp conflict, wherein all the perspectives actually make excellent sense.
Movies, especially big-budget ones, appear to have lagged behind television in this regard, but this sometimes creates the wonderful moments of dissonance where you realize that the script itself did
achieve this goal, and it's only the marketing materials or the directing choices which tried to paint one of the agonists as the hero. In a strange way, that can be even more rewarding than when it's overt: you get what you thought was a simple story, but then you peel back the layers a bit, and discover a moment of Fridge Brilliance. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FridgeBrilliance
h/t to +Koushik Dutta
for sharing this article.