Why won’t Batman kill the Joker?

Fun fact: you’re reading a fandom blog! 

Everything I write, I write as a fan of the fiction that comes before it. I am, fundamentally, a fan. I’ve even written fanfiction.
So, when my Dad asked on Facebook why Batman won’t kill the Joker, the following was my response.

What interests me is the number of times that he actually saves the Joker’s life! 

In the Nolan movies, he famously and quotably allows Ra’s Al Ghul to die, then stops the Joker from falling to his death minutes before inadvertently killing Two-Face. The Joker is almost the only super-villain (besides Scarecrow) that survives the trilogy, despite his obvious death wish.

And during No Man’s Land in the comics, Gordon would have killed the Joker if Batman had only hesitated for a second. But instead of hesitating, Batman actively talks Gordon down.

Things like this happen in every incarnation of the characters, no matter what horrors the Joker creates. In Death of the Family, Batman worries that if he killed the Joker Gotham would just spit out something worse, but that seems… implausible. The Joker’s body count is nigh uncountable.

What’s more interesting is that no iteration of Batman thinks the Joker can be redeemed. Almost all of them argue for constant incarceration, but all refuse to pull the trigger. So what is it that repeatedly stays Batman’s hand? Pity? Curiousity? Boredom? Destiny?

But I think we’re assuming the wrong archenemy here. Batman’s enemy isn’t the Joker, just as it isn’t the gunman that shot down his parents. He hates guns, but he’s not leading a war on guns, either. What he’s fighting is Death.

Killing the Joker wouldn’t just be letting the Joker win: it’d be letting Death win. In Bruce’s broken mind, death itself is unacceptable and must be stopped at all costs. He wants to make his father proud, but he doesn’t know medicine; instead he continues the doctor’s war on death through detective work and, oddly, violence.

A lot of violence.

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