In the weeks since its premiere in August at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the top prize, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” film has become the center of both debate and concern.
The film deals with a neglected and beaten down man, one who is not particularly mentally stable, committing horrific violent acts. The worry is that it will potentially inspire people akin to its protagonist to do the same.
On the one hand this has long been the argument levelled at violent movies and video games, and studies have previously shown violence in those works don’t have any impact. You can argue that you can’t really censor something for fear of its impact as lone homicidal nutters will often find something to latch onto and it rarely matters what – be it song lyrics, book passages, or screen works.
Nevertheless in an increasingly politically polarised society, and especially in the United States where wilful legislative apathy is still the go to response over frequent mass shootings, the concern is somewhat understandable.
Some family members of victims that were killed during the 2012 Aurora shooting in a cinema showing “The Dark Knight Rises” have penned an open letter to the CEO of Warner Bros. about the troubling plot of the film and its portraying of the villain as the hero of the story. The letter asks Warners to help implement steps that might curb potential incidents of violence.
The studio has since responded to the letter, defending the film and saying that they are already involved with anti-violence campaigns. The statement (via Deadline) reads:
“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.”
“Joker” will certainly not be playing at the Cinemark Aurora theater where the previous mass shooting took place, a decision made by both the studio and Cinemark.
In addition the US Military has instructed service members that, as a precaution, they should “identify two escape routes” when entering theaters and, if an attack does happen, they should “run, hide [and] fight.” The FBI is reportedly unaware of any specific terror plots or suspects.
“Joker” arrives in cinemas on October 4th.