The Industry Killed Heath Ledger

Why so serious?

…by Jonas E. Alexis


Matt Amato, one of Heath Ledger’s closest friends, declared that Ledger got tired of fame before he committed suicide in January of 2008. “He wanted fame,” Amato said last April, “and then when he got it, he didn’t want it.”

As the Dark Knight shows, Ledger was living in a world without rules, and whenever that occurs, chaos reigns. Long before Chris Nolan started filming the Dark Knight, Ledger wanted to inhabit pure evil. “I definitely have something up my sleeve,” he said, “I want to be very sinister.”[1] And sinister he was. One biographer notes that Heath “inhabit[ed] the deep psychology of his character. He wasn’t trying to play the role, he became the role.”[2]

Ledger spent night after night absorbing Alan Moore’s graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke. The Joker declares in the book: “So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit.”[3]

Keep in mind that Moore is a literal Satanist and a devoted follower of Aleister Crowley. In addition, Moore inserted small doses of pornographic images and satanic languages and illusions throughout the book, choosing to deliberately include these objectionable elements, he says, for specific reasons. Even Nick Owchar of the LA Times warns in a book review for The Killing Joke: “Alan Moore and Brian Bolland imagined a chilling villain whose skeletal grin and appetite for sadism are definitely not for children (nor some adults).”[4]

In The Dark Knight, the Joker tells district attorney Harvey Dent, who is a heroic figure in Gotham, “Introduce a little chaos. Upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.” Unfortunately, after an accident, Dent follows his advice, introducing “a little chaos” by killing anyone he thinks did not help him during the explosion that injured him.

Although the filmmakers say that The Killing Joke was only one of the resources they used, the striking similarities between the movie and the graphic novel are too many to dismiss…or detail here. I’ll just mention two of the most obvious. This is no coincidence, as Nolan proves in the following quote:

“[C]olumnist Josh Horowitz gets Nolan to say two clear-cut things about his second Batman flick, to wit: a) ‘The title of the film’—The Dark Knight—‘has been chosen very specifically…it’s quite important to the film,’ and that (b) Heath Ledger’s Joker will be less Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson than the Joker portrayed in a comic like ‘The Killing Joke.’ Or, as Nolan puts it, ‘I would certainly point to ‘The Killing Joke’ but I also would point very much to the first two appearances of the Joker in the comic. If you look at where the Joker comes from there’s a very clear direction that fits what we’re doing very well.”[5]

In a nutshell, no Killing Joke, no Dark Knight—or at least not in the way that the producers and directors fleshed out the story. As writer Jason Pinter puts it, “The Killing Joke is one of the most daring and original Batman stories ever written, and if you’re curious to learn some of the inspiration behind the big screen vision, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”[6]

First, the interrogation scene between the Joker and Batman is taken straight from the graphic novel, although director Christopher Nolan and his crew dressed it up a little. Second, the final conversation between Batman and the Joker is again a dressed-up version taken directly out of the book.

Moore admitted that his Killing Joke came out of the irrational world. Here’s how Moore described his writings:

“I found that I couldn’t progress any further with writing by strict rationality. If I wanted to go further with my writing, make it more intense, more powerful, make it say what I wanted to say, I had to take a step beyond technique and rational ideas about writing, into something that was trans-rational if you will. This being magic.”[7]

The logic is pretty clear here: magic and “strict rationality” are incompatible. In order to promote his essentially satanic message, Moore had to drop “rational ideas” and move into “something that was trans-rational.”

Moore also states: “I’ve done some bits of artwork purely for my own consumption of some of the things that I’ve seen during magical rituals.”[8] Moore declares elsewhere:

“Very early on I had a brief flirtation with Dennis Wheatley, which I think that, at least in this country, you have to kind of read Dennis Wheatley when you’re eleven; much older than that, and it will be laughable rubbish. But if you’re eleven, it can be quite a heady mixture of Satanism and the supernatural.”[9]

Certainly this involvement in black magic throughout his life gave Moore the ability to know what will hook young, impressionable and naïve fans. Here’s what he has to say about his comic book Watchmen:

“Watchmen was a stream of weird [expletive] and coincidence from beginning to end. Bizarre things kept hitting us [Moore and his co-author Dave Gibbons] in the face and they were perfect for us. Like looking through NASA photos of Mars and finding a smiley face up there.”[10] It seems, therefore, that the graphic novel was already compiled in some way even before its authors put it down on paper.

Listen to Moore describe his satanic baptism:

“On the day I was forty, I decided I was going to become a magician…All of a sudden the lightening bolt hit. It all got a bit strange. For a couple of months after that, I was—looking back—probably in some borderline of schizophrenic state. I was spaced out—godstruck, you babble for a while…Babble like an idiot…I must have been unbearable for two or three months. I’ve integrated that now into the rest of my life.”[11]

After his decision to become a magician, Moore began to communicate with disembodied spirits: “I found myself seemingly in conversation with an entity…[a] presence that surrounded my head, moving and speaking lucidly to me.” Moore went on to say that this entity is highly skilled in, among other things, “the visual arts.”[12]

It is natural, therefore, for Moore to fall in line behind Aleister Crowley. We see flashes of Crowley’s maxim—do what thou wilt—throughout Moore’s V for Vendetta, including the idea of signing pacts.

Fans do not understand that Moore himself has deliberately placed pornography in nearly all his works.[13] Moore, according to one scholar, is challenging “the dominant discourse of morality and etiquette.”[14]

Obviously morality is the fundamental issue here. If morality is just a relic of the past, if people are free to do what they want, who are we to say that this or that behavior is wrong? What logical plumb line that allows us to condemn one act from another? What is the point of reference? If Moore is challenging the “dominant discourse of morality,” can he really say that capitalism is morally wrong?

Can Moore condemn the capitalist mafia and their protégés like Frank Miller on moral grounds?[15] Can he really say that Miller’s works such as Sin City and 300 are “unreconstructed misogyny,” which “appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided”?[16] Does the term “unpleasant sensibility” make any sense without a moral framework? Doesn’t it imply that there is such a thing called “pleasant sensibility”? If so, who is going to determine that this or that work of art is “pleasant” or “unpleasant”?

If “truth” is in the eyes of the beholder, wouldn’t it be arrogant and hubristic of Moore to call Miller’s work unpleasant? You see, Moore has locked himself into a cage, and it is hard for him to get out of that cage without submitting his thought to the moral universe.

What we have been observing over the past decades is that people like Moore consciously abandoned reason and embraced irrationality, which can lead to moral corruption and degradation. Moore himself declared that pornography should “take its place once more as a revered and almost sacred totem in society.”[17]

Since society finds pornography disgusting, aberrant and soul-destroying, Moore came up with a propaganda philosophy to con the masses and readers. That philosophy teaches that there is such a thing as “good pornography.”[18]

Lost Girls, according to Moore himself, is a political work which is pornographically “liberating and socially useful.”[19] As Moore explains, “Control sex and death, and controlling populations becomes simple.”[20]

Moore is not the only person to discover this sex equation. Marquis de Sade, Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, David Cronenberg, Eli Roth, and even Benjamin Netanyahu have talked about this issue in aggressively political terms. Moore has been confronted with the fact that he is actually producing child pornography. His response? Well, it’s free speech!

Here we are confronted with an inexorable contradiction in this deracinated culture: You cannot condemn Moore’s pornographic books because we have to uphold “free speech,” but we can condemn every single person who acts on the principles that Moore has articulated in those works! Sure, many Catholic priests for example have to be condemned for their sexual acts, but are we willing to condemn the culture that has for more than fifty years advocated those sexual acts? No one has been able to explain this internal contradiction.

Moore’s pornographic worldview also seems deeply personal. He writes, “I’d recommend to anybody working on their relationship that they should try embarking on a sixteen-year elaborate pornography together.”[21]

You see, apart from practical reason, which provides the basis for the moral law, there is no such thing as child rape, sexual abuse, and basically there is no such thing as what Immanuel Kant calls “duty.” And duty inexorably ties to Logos. Once Logos is out of the equation, duty really makes no sense, and when duty makes no sense, then morality, as philosopher Michael Ruse puts it, is just “flimflam.”[22]

Friedrich Nietzsche discovered that formula as well.[23] Finally, when morality is “flimflam,” then people can do what they want, no matter how immoral and perverse. This is why we constantly hear in Moore’s V for Vendetta: “Do what thou wilt,” which is a direct quote from black magician Aleister Crowley.

In short, freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not and cannot exist outside the moral law. Yet Moore, like his atheist counterpart and spiritual mentor Aleister Crowley, deludes himself into thinking that he can exclude morality from his weltanschauung and still remain a rational human being. Obviously magic has clouded Moore’s moral reasoning and intellectual sense. That is why he is living in moral and spiritual darkness.

Magic took Moore to Aleister Crowley,[24] the notorious black magician in the twentieth century,[25] and eventually to madness and occult manifestations. In his book The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, Moore describes how to get in contact with “a colourful multitude of spirits, deities, dead people and infernal entities from the pit, all of whom are sure to become your new best friends.”

Whether he knew it or not, Heath Ledger was indirectly articulating the worldview of Alan Moore, who happens to be a Satanist. Moore worships a snake god called Glycon. In short, Ledger was living in a diabolical world.

By the time the filming of the Dark Knight was complete, Ledger wanted a way out the world which he had already forged after reading Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. Because he was a human being and by definition a rational creature, Ledger himself could no longer live in a world where the moral order does not apply. He wanted a way out, and this led him to the world of drugs, and this eventually led him to commit suicide in 2008.

Ledger had it all: money, power, and fame. But he lost it all in the end:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

[1] Brian Robb, Heath Ledger: Hollywood’s Dark Star (London: Plexus, 2008), 166.

[2] Ibid., 171.

[3] Alan Moore, Batman: The Killing Joke (New York: DC Comics, 1988).

[4] Nick Owchar, “‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland,” LA Times, April 20, 2008.

[5] Josh Horowitz, “Horowitz/Nolan on Dark Knight,” Mean magazine, October 23, 2006.

[6] Jason Pinter, “Review of ‘The Killing Joke,’”, 2008.

[7] Matt Brady, “Alan Moore: Practicing Magician,” AnotherUniverse.

[8] Barry Kavanagh, “The Alan Moore Interview,” October 17, 2000.

[9] Bill Baker, Alan Moore on his Work and Career (New York: Rosen, 2008), 20.

[10] “Alan Moore Interview,”, 1988.

[11] Matthew de Abuitua, “Alan Moore Interview,” The Idler, February/March 1998.

[12] Thomas Lautwein, “Alan Moore’s Promethea,”

[13] For scholar studies on this, see Todd A. Comer and Joseph Michael Sommers, Sexual Ideology in the Works of Alan Moore: Critical Essays on the Graphic Novels (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012).

[14] Ibid.

[15] Alison Flood, “Alan Moore attacks Frank Miller in comic book war of words,” Guardian, December 6, 2011.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Lance Parkin, Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore (London: Aurum Press, 2013), 345.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 347.

[21] Ibid., 337.

[22] Michael Ruse, “God is dead. Long live morality,” Guardian, March 15, 2010.

[23] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 515-516.

[24] For a recent works briefly detailing the link between Crowley and Moore, see Matthew J. A. Green, Alan Moore and the Gothic tradition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013); Annalisa Di Liddo, Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009); Eric L. Berlatsky, Alan Moore: Conversations (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012).

[25]  See Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr, eds., Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Nevill Drury, Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006).


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