Ever since the reviews for Joker first started pouring in, there have been two general opinions: that it’s probably going to be nominated for several Oscars, and that there are some fucked-up “awww, poor Joker” undertones. And of course that’s just a little dangerous, considering how fired up some assholes get when they start to confuse who’s the villain and who’s the hero. In 2012, James Holmes shot up a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people died, with many, many injuries reported, and Holmes was reportedly a big fan of the Batman franchise. So naturally, people are a little concerned that this most recent version of The Joker might be seen as sympathetic, misunderstood, or justified in his actions.
Some families of the victims of the Aurora shooting have recently written a letter to Warner Bros., to express their concern over the violence in Joker, as well as how Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker appears to have gotten a sympathetic character treatment. Warner Bros. has responded with a message, and it’s that Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is still very much the bad guy.
Joaquin recently walked out of an interview after he was asked about the possibility of his portrayal inspiring violence (he later returned, saying that it’s not the filmmaker’s job to teach right-from-wrong, and that murderers can get inspiration from anything). Warner Bros. obviously doesn’t want a nightmare on their hands – PR or literal – so they’ve released a statement with very clear instructions that no one should be cheering for the brave, inspiring Joker when they go to see the movie on October 4th. via TMZ:
“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.”
Even though Warner Bros. swears The Joker isn’t the hero, the Century Aurora and XD, which used to be the Century 16, has decided not to show the film. TMZ says it’s not sure whether the decision is out of respect, or for fear of a copycat incident.
A father of one of the victims of the Aurora shooting, Mike Senecal, tells TMZ that his daughter (who survived the shooting but took her own life last year) would have agreed with the statement released by Warner Bros., adding that violent people exist, regardless of whether they’ve seen Joker.
But still, there are definitely going to be some people who mistake Joaquin’s grimy evil for greasy-haired charisma. So maybe Joaquin should release a statement of his own. You know, it might help to hear it right from The Joker’s mouth. Here, he can use this as a template:
“Look, for the last time, The Joker is not some misunderstood sweetheart – he’s a violent asshole who is most definitely the bad guy. But if you still think you really want to root for me as a grimy, exhausted-looking social misfit, go rent I’m Still Here.”