DC and Warner Bros. upcoming Joker movie is due out in just over a week, but the film has already gone from initial critical acclaim to being at the center of controversy. The film, which follows a broken man (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who transforms into the notorious villain the Joker, has prompted some concern that the film glorifies not only the villain but the violence he carries out as well. It's a concern that has many worried that the film could inspire real-life violence -- including the friends and family members of those who were killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting which took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises who have written a letter about their concerns. But when it comes to Joker's writer and director Todd Phillips, he thinks it's unfair to link the movie and real-world violence.
Speaking with the Associated Press, Phillips was asked if he could understand the concerns some people have and while he acknowledged that the Aurora shooting was a "horrible, horrible" situation, he then said you can't blame movies for it and stressed that Joker takes place in a fictional world -- and that other movies are more violent and more toxic but they don't get held to the same standard.
"I mean, I think that Aurora is obviously a horrible, horrible situation but even that is not something you blame on the movie,” Phillips said. “Quite frankly, if you do your own research about Aurora that gentleman wasn't even going in as Joker, That was misreported, his hair was dyed red he was having, obviously, a mental breakdown and there's something horrifying about that but it wasn't related to it outside of the fact that it happened at a movie theater. This is not the thing that the movie is trying to represent. The movie still takes place in a fictional world. It can have real-world invocations, options, but it's a fictional character in a fictional world that's been around for 80 years. The one that bugs me more is the toxic white male thing when you go, oh I just saw John Wick 3. He's a white male who kills 300 people and everybody's laughing and hooting and hollering. Why does this movie get held to different standards? It honestly doesn't make sense to me."
While Phillips does have a point that the specific concerns with Joker weren’t' applied to John Wick: Chapter 3, there's a bit more nuance to the situation. The concerns about Joker aren't just about the elements of violence; the primary point of contention falls around Joker's depiction of an angry loner escalating to a larger-scale societal threat being too real and too disturbing. No one is arguing that John Wick: Chapter 3 isn't violent, but John Wick the character is quite a bit different from Joker's Arthur Fleck. Even early reactions to Joker expressed concern that the film could be seen as a rallying cry for those who feel oppressed by society to rise up and take matters into their own hands with violent acts. There are also critics, however, who feel that the film also works as a warning for where society is going instead of as an endorsement of violence.
Still, the concerns are enough that the theater where the Aurora shooting took place will not be screening Joker.
"The theater chain did not respond to a request for comment." a report from The Hollywood Reporter explains. "But as of Monday night, no showtimes were listed online for Joker at the Aurora multiplex, and a theater employee told THR that advance ticket purchases were not available because the film will not be shown at the venue."
What do you think Is it unfair to link Joker to real-life violence or the potential for it or is this an important conversation to be having? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Upcoming DC movies include Joker on October 4th, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.