The Joker film is a powder keg of controversy and as it gets closer to its premiere date it seems to attract more and more.
Joker Used to Call for Gun Control
Four family members of the victims killed in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012 sent a letter to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff calling for her and the studio to support gun control measures throughout the country. (Related: Director Todd Phillips Describes Joker Critics Slamming The Film for Its Violence as “Bizarre”)
The letter reads in part:
“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called “Joker” that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause.
We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.
“Over the last several weeks, large American employers from Walmart to CVS have announced that they are going to lean into gun safety.We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe.
Specifically, we’re asking you to do the following:
● End political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun
reform. These lawmakers are literally putting your customers and employees in danger.
● Use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping
everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.
● Help fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs to help survivors of gun violence
and to reduce every-day gun violence in the communities you serve.”
It was signed by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips who lost their 24-year-old daughter Jessica Ghawi; Theresa Hoover who lost her 18-year-old son Alexander J. Boik; Heather Dearman, whose cousin Ashley Moser lost her 6-year-old daughter and an unborn child; and Tina Coon, whose son witnessed the attack. (Related: Valiant Comics Editor Heather Antos Falsely Claims James Holmes Was Inspired by Joker)
However, Mike Senecal, the father of Katherine Senecal, who was a victim of the 2012 shooting, told TMZ his daughter would have disagreed with the sentiments in the letter.
“He says Katie would have been able to separate the movie from real life, and Mike believes those who can’t are part of the problem. He adds that violent people exist regardless of whether “Joker” comes out, and people who have issues with the film don’t have to see it.”
Not only did certain family members call on Warner Bros. to help enact gun control measures, but TMZ also reports the Century Aurora and XD theater where the mass shooting took place will not be screening Joker.
“The theater reportedly will not be showing “Joker” — there are currently no showtimes listed and a theater employee tells The Hollywood Reporter no advance ticket purchases are available because the multiplex won’t be showing the film.”
Warner Bros. Responds
Warner Bros. responded to the family member’s letter:
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
The U.S. Army Issues a Warning
The family member’s letter is not the only one circulating concerning Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. The United States Army sent out an email warning of a possible copycat attack by incels during screenings of Joker. Though in the letter they admit that: “there are no known specific credible threats.” (Related: Joaquin Phoenix Walked Out of Joker Interview After Question About Film’s Violence)
The letter reads:
Posts on social media have made reference to involuntary celibate (“incel”) extremists replicating the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at screenings of the Joker movie at nationwide theaters. This presents a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members, though there are no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October.
Incels are individuals who express frustration from perceived disadvantages to starting intimate relationships. Incel extremists idolize violent individuals like the Aurora movie theater shooter. They also idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series, admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against his bullies.
When entering theaters, identify two escape routes, remain aware of your surroundings, and remember the phrase “run, hide, fight.” Run if you can. If you’re stuck, hide (also referred to as “sheltering in place”), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.
** this is a condensed version of an HQ Army Materiel Command, G-3, Protection Division Security message
According to an unnamed Air Force officer at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia who spoke with io9 warning like this occasionally circulated if they are deemed “credible.” However, the officer told them “Frankly, beyond the email, I’ve heard little about it. A few folks said they’d avoid opening night, or passed it on to their family members for consideration, but I haven’t heard much else in conversation beyond that.” (Related: Woke Rotten Tomatoes Reviewers Tank Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Critic Score)
The Army was made aware of the possible threats from a bulletin sent out by the FBI. However, io9 reports the bulletin was “relayed purely as a precautionary measure.”
What do you think about all of this controversy surrounding the Joker? Has this film struck some sort of nerve with people? If so, what? What do you make of the two letters? What about Warner Bros. response to the family members?