(Warning -- the following might completely alter the way you see The Dark Knight's iconic Joker...or make you want to throw things at the screen in dismay. As Taylor Swift so sagely (and Joker-channelingly) advised: "Don't say I didn't say I didn't warn ya...")
Now, there are a whole lot of fan theories surrounding Heath Ledger's iconic Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight, and a surprisingly large number of them make a lot of sense. Whether that's a potential background as a soldier, one of Scarecrow's victims, or even just a dude from an abusive home, there's a whole lot of serious, plausible theorizing out there.
There are also, however, a whole lot of theories that are way, way out there. The big question, then?
Could The Joker's Real Origin Actually Be Way Stranger Than We Think?
Well, let's take a look, shall we? Here are five of the more 'out there' theories about The Joker -- but could one of them actually be for real?
5. He's Really Just a Virus
Now, this one arguably has its origins in the beloved Batman Beyond animated movie, Return of the Joker, in which the Clown Prince of Crime manages to have his consciousness distilled into a computer chip, and then overlaid onto the body of an unsuspected Tim Drake -- but when translated to The Dark Knight, it takes on a very different tone.
The Joker, so the theory runs, is basically just a viral infection -- one that functions a little like a cross between the flu and Marvel Comics' Venom. 'The Joker' infects an unsuspecting individual, transforms them into a psychopathic agent of chaos, and then burns them out.
Which, presumably, is why The Joker never settles on a single explanation for why he's doing what he's doing -- it's simply what a virus in his body is telling him to do, and he's simply justifying it to himself (and those around him).
4. He's Secretly Willy Wonka
Yup. That's right. That Willy Wonka.
This one can be traced back to intrepid Redditor mimien2, who argues that The Joker is living with antisocial personality disorder -- characterized by a failure to conform to social norms, deceitfulness, impulsiveness, irresponsibility and a lack of remorse.
All of which also pretty perfectly describe Willy goddamn Wonka.
The coup de grace, though? There's even a surprisingly plausible origin story...
Which...kind of makes more sense than I would like it to...
3. He's Actually a Character from Fight Club
Specifically, he was a member of Tyler Durden's Fight Club -- for one very specific reason.
Remember all of that burning of skin with incredibly caustic chemicals that Durden tends to do?
Well, as it turns out, Ledger's facial scarring is a pretty perfect match with the scars that Durden's chemical adventures tend to cause...
...suggesting that The Dark Knight's Joker is, in fact, a one-time member of Durden's gang -- one twisted by his experiences into the chaos monster we know and love.
2. He's an H.P. Lovecraft Monster
Yup, that's right. The Joker might not actually be just some dude with a major fondness for chaos. Instead, he might actually be a mythological monster (created by beloved horror writer/complete loon H.P. Lovecraft) named Nyarlathotep.
According to Redditor Hebrewsuperman, who came up with the theory:
"The other Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are often described as mindless or unfathomable rather than truly malevolent, but [Nyarlathotep] delights in cruelty, is deceptive and manipulative, and even cultivates followers and uses propaganda to achieve his goals. Joker fits all of these traits as well. Unlike the other Outer Gods, causing madness is more important and enjoyable than death and destruction to [Nyarlathotep]. While the Joker does enjoy killing I would argue most of the horrible things Joker does is all to drive Batman to his breaking point and prove he's as insane as he is."
Now, admittedly, the theory was originally formulated based on the comic book Joker -- but that sure does sound like Ledger's version too, no?
Our final option, though?
1. He's Just Some Guy...Who Realized That He Was in a Movie
That's right -- The Joker might simply be a random dude who came to the horrifying yet accurate realization that he was really just a character in a movie.
After all, Ledger's Joker sure does seem to have a surprisingly strong sense of his role having been predetermined by some sort of divine being/destiny/screenwriter...
...even going so far as to point out to Batman that they'll wind up endlessly repeating the events of the movie:
Which, when you think about it, sounds an awful lot like someone who's just realized that DVD sales of the movie they're starring in are going to be HUGE.
Plus, who wouldn't go a little crazy if they found out they were not only a movie character, but lived in a world where Christian Bale's Batman was real?
The only question left now?