Fans are calling for Heath Ledger’s rendition of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster bash The Dark Knight to be acknowledged as the pinnacle of the character’s representation on film. But these fans won’t be satisfied with a posthumous Oscar; a petition placed on The Ultimate Joker, a Web site started by two dedicated fans, Fer Barbella and Nico Pimentel, is asking the film industry to refrain from recasting the role… forever. One of the site’s creators who spoke with the staff of Wired magazine via e-mail made the following comments:

“We truly believe Ledger’s performance as Joker is the best an actor could ever do,” the site’s team leader, Fer Barbella, told Wired.com. “Any other performance will be below expectations for sure, so we want to forever keep Ledger’s Joker as the one,” added Barbella, who launched The Ultimate Joker site last week.

Perhaps the fans at The Ultimate Joker are right—maybe there are those unique moments when the perfect mix of talent, determination, and material coalesce into a shining example of what it means to really bring a character to life; and with Ledger’s untimely passing, which many suggest was an indirect result of the intense process he underwent in order to transform into the white-faced psychopath, calls to immortalize his highly acclaimed performance as The Joker are understandably intensified.

But film is not baseball. The film industry does not “retire” a character the same way a team retires a player’s number. The way the industry at large shows respect to actors is well established: posthumous awards, film dedications, plaques, memorial services, lifetime achievement awards… Calls by Ledger’s fans to “retire” the character of The Joker from film (the petition does not include television or animated representations) are calls for something that, while it would be an unprecedented honor for the late Mr. Ledger, might also represent a limitation placed on the creativity that the medium of film was founded on.

The fact that we can’t imagine a better portrayal of The Joker on film, having now witnessed Ledger’s, does not mean that another actor would not come along who could present what some might view as a better portrayal. The fact that I could not imagine a better portrayal of Batman than Michael Keaton certainly didn’t stop Christian Bale from blowing Keaton’s sullen caped crusader right out of the water with his own take on The Batman only sixteen years later, for example.

That said, the propriety of The Ultimate Joker’s calls for the retirement of The Joker from film is up to you to decide. Even if you disagree with the site’s goals, we highly recommend browsing the amazing collection of quotes, interviews, fan videos, photos and other interesting information that The Ultimate Joker has compiled.

Do you think that The Joker should be retired from movies?

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