Warner Bros.' latest DC film, Joker, opens in theaters in just over a week but as excitement for the film ramps up so has criticism. The film has drawn particular scrutiny over its themes and graphic violence, prompting concerns that the film glorifies violence and may even inspire some to carry out their own violent acts due to identifying with Joaquin Phoenix's downtrodden Arthur Fleck. The concerns have reached a point where the studio and the film's director Todd Phillips have attempted to distance Joker from real life violence. Phillips specifically has stated he thinks linking Joker to real-world violence is unfair, and now he's going a bit further. Phillips is blaming the criticism of Joker on outrage culture.
In an interview with The Wrap, Phillips puts the blame for Joker's criticism and concerns on outrage culture, even claiming that the discourse reminds him of the "far right".
"I think it's because outrage is a commodity, I think it's something that has been a commodity for a while," Phillips said. "What's outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It's been really eye opening for me."
While Phillips places the criticism on the shoulders of the "far left", the film has also received criticism from a group of survivors of the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012 that took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. That group sent a letter to Warner Bros. about their concerns, prompting the studio to issue statement condemning gun violence while also noting that Joker is not intended to inspire violence. Instead, the hope is that it will inspire conversations about the issues presented in the film.
“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,” a representative from Warner Bros. said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”
"We didn't make the movie to push buttons," Phillips said. "I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, 'Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film'. It wasn't, 'We want to glorify this behavior.' It was literally like 'Let's make a real movie with a real budget and we'll call it f–ing Joker'. That's what it was."
Joker, directed by Todd Phillips and starting Joaquin Phoenix, opens in theaters on October 4th.