Families of Shooting Victims Demand 'Joker' Filmmakers Promote Gun Control, Publicly Bash NRA
Family members of victims of a 2012 shooting that took place during a screening of a Batman film are now urging Warner Bros. to embrace anti-gun causes as the new movie “Joker” is set to hit theaters.
The 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in a movie theater showing “The Dark Knight Rises” left 12 people dead and 70 wounded.
In a letter to the entertainment company, concerned relatives of those killed in the shooting are demanding action.
“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,” said the letter, parts of which were published by The Hollywood Reporter.
The letter asks Warner Bros. to “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform” and “use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.”
The Aurora shooting was “perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt ‘wronged’ by society,” the letter says. “Joker” portrays a mentally unstable character who teeters into violence.
“I just need to see a ‘Joker’ promo and I see a picture of the killer,” said Sandy Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the 2012 tragedy. “For me, it’s the gratuitous violence that this film glorifies and elevates with the Joker character.”
“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.”
Director Todd Phillips (no relation to Sandy Phillips) has dismissed criticism of the film over its gritty tone.
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while,” he said, according to The Wrap. “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 really been eye-opening for me.”
Warner Bros. has released a statement about the movie and gun violence.
“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 bipartisan 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,” the statement said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In an interview with IGN, actor Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the lead character, rejected the argument that the film could lead to violence.
“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. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious,” he said.
Phoenix was asked if the movie could “fuel” an individual towards violence.
“I think if you have somebody that has that level of emotional disturbance, they can find fuel anywhere. I just don’t think that you can function that way,” he replied.
“I don’t think it’s the filmmaker’s responsibility to teach morality,” Phoenix said in a separate interview, according to The Washington Post. “And if you don’t know the difference between right and wrong, then there’s all sorts of things that you are going to interpret in the way that you want.”
Todd Phillips said the movie is not all about violence.
“The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world. I think people can handle that message,” he told IGN.
“It’s so, to me, bizarre when people say, ‘Oh, well I could handle it. But imagine if you can’t.’ It’s making judgments for other people and I don’t even want to bring up the movies in the past that they’ve said this about because it’s shocking and embarrassing when you go, oh my God, ‘Do the Right Thing,’ they said that about [that movie, too].”
Not all families of the victims of the 2012 shooting are opposed to the movie.
Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in Aurora, said he does not think the movie will “jump-start somebody” to commit acts of violence.
“I don’t think that seeing something is the catalyst to, ‘OK, that is what I am going to start to do,'” he said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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