Warner Bros. Has Responded to the Families of Aurora Victims Over Their Joker Concerns
After Todd Phillips’s Joker premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in August, critics quickly pointed out that the film arguably carries a theme of empowerment for its violent protagonist, an incel who rises to power—which might not be the best message during our era of rampant mass shootings.
On Tuesday, the controversy finally moved past reviews and social media when the relatives of those killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shooting addressed a letter to Warner Bros. about Joker’s release. The letter expresses concern about the film’s plot, but never calls on the studio to not release Joker—instead asking that it stops donating to political candidates with pro-gun agendas.
"When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie ... that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause," the letter reads. "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… 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."
On Tuesday afternoon, Warner Bros. responded—insisting that Joker doesn’t support real-world violence, or heroize its protagonist.
“Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind,” the statement reads. “It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
Later in the statement, Warner Bros. mentions its history of donating to the victims of Aurora, and mentions its belief that gun violence is a critical issue in America that needs to be addressed by policymakers.
“At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues,” ends the statement.
The statements between Warner Bros. and the Aurora families comes after Robbie Collin of The Telegraph asked Joaquin Phoenix if Joker would “perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results.” Phoenix said, “Why would you…? No… no,” and walked out of the interview.
Although in a different conversation with Indiewire about how Joker should be interpreted, Phoenix said, "Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong... And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to.”
Joker will be released in theaters on October 4, 2019.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.