Fact Check: Policeman Did NOT Get Disfigured -- That's Heath Ledger's Joker

Fact Check

  • by: Gita Smith
Fact Check: Policeman Did NOT Get Disfigured -- That's Heath Ledger's Joker Joker Cop

Does a photo of a policeman with lacerated cheeks show a real officer scarred by an Antifa thug who threw bricks covered with razor blades at him? No, it does not. The photo circulating on social media of a disfigured policeman is actually actor Heath Ledger playing The Joker in his 2008 Dark Knight movie role.

The claim appeared in a meme (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on June 20, 2020. It featured two photos of Ledger and the text:

It opens:

"This brave policeman had both of his cheeks severely lacerated when an ANTIFA thug threw bricks covered in razor blades. I bet none of you snowflakes are brave enough to share this so this hero gets the appreciation he deserves.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Sun Jun 28 18:20:12 2020 UTC)

A simple Google image search shows that the man in the photo is Ledger in costume, wearing facial prosthetics, and is not a city policeman.

Even though the photo is easily searched and shown to be a spoof, a week after it was posted it had been shared 287 times. Normally, a horrific maming such as the one concocted for this meme would come with supporting evidence -- place, date or time that the purported attack occurred.

Kudos were awarded to the makeup artists who transformed Ledger's smooth face into the Joker's ruined one. The artist who designed Ledger's makeup to create this look was nominated for an Academy Award. In the Aug. 6, 2018 issue of Mental Floss, John Caglione Jr. talks about designing the look for Ledger's Joker.

"What would it be if this guy slept in his makeup?" he said in the interview. "If he didn't spruce up his makeup for two weeks? You think of a clown's makeup and for the most part they're pretty detailed with sharp lines, but this had to be the opposite of that."

Caglione worked with Ledger to scrunch and contort his face as he applied the makeup... This method resulted in lines and creases in the paint that made it look like the character had been wearing his makeup for days. Lightweight silicone was used for the scar tissue.

Ledger died on Jan. 22, 2008 of an overdose of prescription medicines. The Joker was his final completed movie role.

There is no record of the Australian actor ever dressing up as a cop to participate in real-life street demonstrations.

Finally, bricks have appeared in other fake news about protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Lead Stories debunked one that claimed Boston Police unloaded pallets of bricks close to the sites of demonstrations. They did not.

In another false rumor, pallets of riot bricks were ACME brand (like in The Roadrunner cartoons) owned by billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Lead Stories showed that there were no such bricks, and the two philanthropists do not co-own any such company.

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  Gita Smith

Gita Smith covered news for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Montgomery Advertiser, and she wrote/edited medical newsletters for American Health Consultants at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic when clear, factual information was as needed. 

For a time, she taught in Auburn University’s journalism department and ran the History-Geography lab at Alabama State University, where she taught students to write research papers . She believes the following to be true: The power of the free press may appear to be a weak reed to lean on, but it separates democracies from juntas.

Read more about or contact Gita Smith

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