Proposition: As the Joker is presented in the Dark Knight Trilogy, he inadvertently becomes the hero Gotham really needed
A ridiculous idea, I realize, as the Joker is a homicidal maniac, who threatens to destroy all order and justice in Gotham, and very nearly does, through a meticulous plan, despite claiming to not have one. Obviously, his plan goes off the rails, as he fails to kill all the people on the boat and Batman completely beats him to a pulp.
Consider Gotham, before and after the Joker. Even with Batman jumping off roofs and pounding on criminals, organized crime was still a huge part of Gotham. And then the Joker showed up. His first target in The Dark Knight is a mob controlled bank, which he steals everything from, and in the process, draws out the mob and Lau.
This allows Batman to "extradite" Lau, and, as a result, Dent is able to get organized crime off the streets for a while. Of course, this is part of the Joker's plan, but that's hardly the point. That's just what kicks off the rest of the movie, and allows the Joker to completely run amok, with out the mobs getting in the way. This allows the Joker to take out city officials and put Gotham in peril. This also contributes to his plan by making Harvey Dent seem like more of a hero in the eyes of the people then he already was by standing up against the Joker and not giving up or bowing down. That way, when Harvey's inevitable downfall comes, it will be all the more devastating to the people of Gotham. And, by taking out those city officials, namely the commissioner, this allowed Jim Gordon to be promoted to the position of commissioner, which, I think we can all agree, was a good thing for Gotham. This is just the first of many things the Joker would to to make Gotham a better place.
Eventually, the Joker goes on to trap the citizens of Gotham onto a boat, with the inmates from a prison on the other. Both are given the ability to blow up the other, and if one doesn't blow the other up by midnight, both ships will be blown up. Neither of the people on the boats blow each other up, and Batman prevents Joker from blowing them both up. This is important because for the first time, the people of Gotham put each other fully into one another's hands, even the worst criminals in the city (save the Joker.) For the first time, the criminals are seen as more then inhuman punching bags for the Bat. The people are shown they can trust each other, and this strengthens the bond between them.
And then, we get to the final fight between Batman and Harvey Dent. The Joker has succeeded in driving Harvey Dent insane. Harvey is scarred horribly, the love of his life (and Batman's) is dead, and he feels as if everything he fought for was for nothing. Dent has now gone on a killing spree, taking out corrupt cops and city officials left and right, all on 50/50 chance. Dent has fallen from grace, and is now holding Jim Gordon's family hostage. He and Batman tussle, and they both fall of the building.
This leads to one of the most important choices in Bruce Wayne's career as Batman, and the key part of the theory. Batman realized the power of a symbol, and how people cling to it. He's known all along that the Batman is not a symbol to rally behind. The people shouldn't rally behind a man who has to work in the shadows, jumping off roofs and beating criminals with more tech and weaponry then the entire U.S army. The people need a man who stood in the light, and lawfully took down criminals, and that's why Harvey was so important. Batman couldn't let that fade away, so he let's himself be the bad guy. To the audience, this seems like a tragedy. To see Batman's legacy, his name, tarnished and dragged through the mud like that. We see this as a bad thing, but, in context, is it really? Is it so bad that Batman faded away? Did the Joker ultimately win? Did he defeat Batman? I'd argue no, to all things. Batman needed to fade away. Batman was truly the man Gotham created, and in order for Gotham to move into a new day, that man needed to step back. Just think of what Batman brought into the city. Criminals and psychopaths flock to Batman, like moths to a flame. Not to mention the civilians who took up arms in the name of the Batman. Risking themselves and using guns, sort of like homegrown terrorists. In the beginning, when the criminals ran the city and the police were barely trying to protect the people from them, a man like Batman was necessary. But once that age died, the Batman needed to die with it. Unfortunately, it was Harvey who died, and Batman who had to make the choice to sacrifice his life in the cape in order to preserve the man Gotham needed to lead it out of darkness. As we learn in The Dark Knight Rises, The Dent Act has been in effect for the past eight years, all in the name of Harvey Dent. The Dent Act pretty much wiped out all organized crime by denying parole to all of the mobsters that Harvey locked up.
Conclusion: By trying to plunge Gotham into chaos, he pretty much saved it.
In his conquest for chaos, the Joker accidentally brought order and justice to Gotham. With those mobsters off the street for eight years, Jim Gordon at the head of the police, Harvey Dent's reputation and legacy in place, and the people of Gotham trusting each other for the first time. I would even argue that the fall of Batman was a good thing, with citizens not worshiping a dangerous masked man with definite severe PTSD after the death of his parents. The Joker failed, in a bigger way then originally thought. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a lonely Moviepilot contributor, typing away on his basement after re-watching the series. What do you guys think? Was I wrong? Was Gotham better off without the Batman?