Born to Play the Role: Heath Ledger/Joker

In my last article, Neptune and the Rise of the Superhero, the actor Christopher Reeves was referenced as an example of an individual born with a chart uniquely aligned to the archetypes of a specific fictional character, namely, Superman[1].  This interesting bit of synchronicity inspired me to think about other iconic roles where the actor “disappears” into their character.  There are some performances so astounding that its resonance appears to be less of a reflection of the actor’s talent and training and more of a reflection of an archetype.  In these rare occurrences, we have to assume that the actor possesses an intimate and innate understanding of the archetype in order to manifest it compellingly.  In other words, in order to own the archetype personally they would have to be “born to play the role”.

This next series of articles will focus on actors whose roles brought them to stardom or revived their career and left an indelible mark on our collective psyche.

Heath Ledger – Joker

This may trigger some debate with the “Jack Nicholson is the best Joker” crowd, but as lifelong comic book nerd, it is my opinion that Ledger’s performance more accurately captured the archetypal essence of the Joker.[2]  After analyzing his chart, I’m confident you may agree.

Angular T-square

In an earlier article analyzing the chart of Caitlyn Jenner, we noted the correspondence between Jenner’s rising Sun and the significance of his appearance on his ego.  Ledger has this same dynamic, but here the Sun is involved in a T-square configuration with the Pluto with the Moon at the apex.

In a Cardinal T-square, the apex Moon suggests hair-trigger emotionality whose overt expression can quickly change the immediate atmosphere of the individual’s relationships.  This person can easily take offense due to hypersensitivity and can readily change his own mood.  He feels driven to direct his vibrant emotions out towards his environment in a dynamic, unrestrained manner.  This apex Moon tends to be the most spontaneous and impulsive in expression.  Although highly responsive and sensitively tuned in to the here-and-now, this person will need to exert greater self-discipline or control in the manner in which he vents his feelings.[3]

Specifically, Pluto’s archetypal function of transformation[4] clashing with the chart’s two most significant points (Sun, Moon) reflect how the ego (Sun) is impacted by the disfigurement (Pluto) of the individual’s general appearance (1st house) and this unbalanced nature culminates in an emotional (Moon) instability that colors the thoughts and communication (3rd house).  This configuration is easily the most visible dynamic of the Joker’s personality, responsible for much of his unpredictable nature.

Also, hard aspects from Pluto[5] to either the Sun or Moon can often manifest as an individual whose ego (Sun) needs power (Pluto) over others in order to feel secure and is not above emotional (Moon) manipulation to achieve this end.  Generally speaking, this opposition across the 1st-7th house polarity reinforces the earlier reference towards highly visible manifestation as this polarity represents how the self (1st) relates to others (7th).  The Sun’s placement within the sign of Aries provides an aggressive demeanor, painting an overall picture of a pretty scary individual.

As an interesting side note, the Sun’s rulership of the 5th house infers that an emphasis on play or playfulness is important to the ego.  It may seem hard to imagine how a playful individual may possess power/manipulation issues, but these dynamics will be fleshed out more precisely in our examination of the 5th house.

12th House

The 12th house represents areas that are hidden from public view or behind the scenes.  For this chart, those places are significant because this house contains Mars, the ruler of the Ascendant.  As the chart ruler, one of the primary areas for self-projection happens to be in areas of secrecy and this would be reflected with the Clown Prince of Crime working behind the scenes on various villainous plots.  The 12th house also represents places of confinement such as hospitals, prisons and insane asylums and these placements are reflected in Joker’s various incarcerations within Arkham Asylum after being captured by the Batman.

But most significantly, Mars is conjunct Mercury.  With aggression and wit fused together, have an individual who uses their intelligence and communication in an attacking manner.

Also, from a symbolic perspective, Mercury is historically and traditionally known to represent the archetype of the mischievous trickster or, quite literally, a joker.  Again, Mars’ involvement connects this trickster archetype to the immediate appearance/expression and this reinforces the playful ego dynamic noted earlier with the Sun’s rulership of the 5th house.

Unfortunately, Mercury is in bad shape.  It is debilitated in the sign of Pisces, retrograde and in square aspect to Neptune, modern ruler of the 12th house.  All of these characteristics underscore mental instability, a tendency towards lying, distorted reality and/or fantasies.

Finally, Mercury-Mars are also in trine aspect to Uranus.  Uranus represents the archetypal function of breakthroughs, change and revolutions.  The trine to Mercury is a traditional astrological signature of high intelligence or genius, but with Uranus’ placement in the 8th house of death, we gain a grim realization that plotting (12th Mercury) murder (8th) is effortless (trine) and represents the dark side of the Uranus archetype, chaos.  With Mars’ rulership of the chart (ascendant), the individual is, quite literally, an “agent of chaos”.

The 5th House

While researching Rex E Bils’ encyclopedic Rulership Book I noticed that clowns are represented by the astrological indicators of Saturn and Venus.  At first glance this may appear a bit odd, but an analysis of the associated archetypes provides a plausible rationale.

Venus represents the archetype of beauty[6] and love and Saturn represents control, structure, discipline and seriousness.  Any combination with Saturn presents a struggle with mastering love and beauty, but this is exacerbated here because the two planetary bodies are connected by hard aspect (opposition) with retrograde Saturn positioned in the 5th house of play and creativity.  This individual overcompensates with exaggerated displays of structure in areas of play to obtain affection and earn friends (11th house = friends, acquaintances).  Clowns, by their very nature, are structured forms of controlled “spontaneity” utilized to simulate fun and earn affection.

The Moon is also tied into these dynamics through the trine and sextile aspects to each side of this polarity.  This means that being a clown is a release to the unstable, combustible emotions we explored earlier and these emotions equally enhance the exaggerated nature of the clown.

Fate and Free Will Revisited

Heath ledger pic

It is doubtful that there is any dissonance over specific artists embodying the archetypes of creations that are altruistic or heroic, but what about archetypes of mass murderers?  This is why Heath Ledger’s chart is a good selection to kick off this series of articles.  While we may vaguely assume the believability of a role is contingent upon the existence of some type of link between an actor and their character, to meticulously observe and compare the inner dynamics to a performance that is flawlessly symmetrical can be unsettling.  It forces us to speculate on the degree to which the individual is struggling with dynamics that may be harmful to the self and others.  This is why it is fundamental and essential that each individual possesses the discretion to manage unhealthy manifestations of desires or needs and redirect them in alternatively positive, productive manners that don’t betray the core qualities or functions of the archetype.  OtherwiseJoker pic2, as crazy as it sounds, we find ourselves asking, “Is Heath Ledger really the Joker?”  Personal evolution is dependent upon the degree of inner awareness and this is why studying Astrology’s multivalence can be invaluable.  Please keep this in mind as we explore more charts in this series.

End Notes

[1] As compared to the character’s original creator.

[2] It is possible that Nicholson’s Joker performance worked because he was able to channel some of the similar dynamics from his performance in The Shining.  I will be analyzing that performance in later articles.

[3] Bil Tierney, Dynamics of Aspect Analysis, (California: CRCS Publications, 1983), 111.

[4] Pluto’s involvement here echoes the Scorpionic archetypal themes we delineated in Bob Kane’s chart.  The Joker is the perfect example of transformation that devolves the individual.

[5] Pluto is the only astrological body containing the element of air.  This elemental imbalance tends to manifest as an inability to detach and objectively evaluate the self.

[6] Cosmetics are an extension of this.

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