One of the most iconic scenes in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) is when Jack Nicholson’s Joker reveals to his henchmen and the audience what he did to his girlfriend. The Joker, formerly known as gangster Jack Napier, had undergone a transformation after falling into a vat of chemicals and becoming disfigured with a permanent grin. He now wore flamboyant clothes, white face paint, and green hair, and delighted in chaos and violence.
The scene in question takes place at the Axis Chemical Plant, where the Joker has set up his new headquarters. He enters a room where several armed thugs are waiting for him, along with his girlfriend Alicia Hunt (played by Jerry Hall). The Joker greets them with his trademark laugh and swagger, but soon reveals that he is not pleased with Alicia’s behavior.
“I’m glad you’re all here,” he says. “I have some bad news for you.
We have a traitor in our midst.” He then turns to Alicia and asks her if she knows who it is. She denies any knowledge or involvement, but the Joker doesn’t believe her.
“You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars,” the Joker muses aloud.
“I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know..I just.do things. “
He then approaches Alicia and takes out a long feather pen from his pocket.
“You see.I’m a guy of simple taste,” he says as he strokes her face with the pen. “I enjoy dynamite.and gunpowder.and gasoline!”
Alicia starts to back away from him, but he grabs her by the arm.
“Do you know what all of these things have in common?” he asks her.
“No,” she whispers.
“They’re cheap!” he exclaims.
“They’re all cheap. And I’m not. “
He then proceeds to use the pen to draw a permanent smile on Alicia’s face, similar to his own.
The scene is disturbing not only for its physical violence, but also for its psychological cruelty. The Joker doesn’t kill Alicia, but he ruins her life by disfiguring her and making her a grotesque mockery of herself. He also reveals his true nature as a sadistic narcissist who enjoys inflicting pain and humiliation on others.
The scene also reinforces the theme of duality that runs throughout the movie. The Joker and Batman are both products of Gotham City’s corruption and decay, but they respond to it in opposite ways. Batman tries to restore order and justice through vigilantism and self-sacrifice, while the Joker embraces chaos and anarchy through terrorism and hedonism.
Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman is still regarded as one of the most memorable and influential portrayals of a comic book villain in cinema history. His mixture of humor, menace, charisma, and madness set a high bar for future actors who would play the character, such as Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008) and Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019).
- In conclusion, the scene where Joker disfigures his girlfriend with a permanent smile is one of the most chilling moments in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). It showcases Jack Nicholson’s talent for playing a charismatic yet terrifying villain who revels in chaos and cruelty.
It also highlights the movie’s exploration of duality and corruption in Gotham City, and its impact on both heroes and villains. Despite its age, the scene still resonates with audiences who appreciate complex and visually engaging storytelling.