DC's upcoming Joker movie has been at the center of concerns that the film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a downtrodden man who transforms into a notorious and violent killer when he fails to be successful, glorifies the violence and the villain and could spark real-life violence, serving as a rallying cry for people who identify with the film's themes. It's a concern that the U.S. military is taking very seriously. According to io9, service members have been warned about the potential for a mass shooter at screenings of Joker.
According to the report. the U.S. Army has widely distributed the warning following posts to social media from extremists within the incel subculture being discovered by the FBI. The warning, which was sent out in an email on September 18th, instructs service members to be aware of surroundings and to take some very specific steps -- such as identifying two escape routes -- when going into theaters. If a shooting does take place, they are instructed to run, hide, or fight.
"Run if you can," io9 notes that the email said. "If you're stuck, hide (also known as 'sheltering in place), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can."
Incels, which is a portmanteau of "involuntary celibates", define themselves as being unable have a romantic or sexual partner despite their desire for them. Their forums are often characterized by content that is misogynistic, racist, and that has a sense of entitlement to sex as well, though some incels also endorse violence, particularly against people in relationships or who are sexually active. The service member alert also asserted that incels "idolize the Joker character ... admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against bullies."
The military isn't the only group to have concerns with Joker and the potential for violence. Family and friends of the victims killed in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises have written a letter to Warner Bros expressing their concerns while various members of victims' families have spoken out in the press with their concerns.
"My worry is that one person who may be out there -- and who knows if it is just one -- who is on the edge, who is wanting to be a mass shooter, may be encouraged by this movie. And that terrifies me," Sandy Phillips, mother of Aurora victim Jessica Ghawi said, adding that to her the film is "like a slap in the face".
Warner Bros. issued a statement regarding the concerns over Joker earlier on Tuesday afternoon.
"Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies," reads the statement. 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, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, is set to hit theaters across the country on October 4th.