Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated “Joker” standalone DC film starring Joaquin Phoenix has come under fire from critics who fear the film, which depicts a psychologically unstable lead character embracing violence, may glorify mass murder in an era increasingly plagued by mass shootings. Just a few weeks out from the film’s release, Phoenix reportedly walked out of an interview after being questioned about the film’s potential culpability in promoting violence, while a group of victims of the Aurora tragedy has sent a letter to the studio calling on the studio to promote gun control and donate money to aid gun violence victims.
“Family members of those killed in the July 20, 2012, mass shooting at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, have signed a letter to Warner Bros. sharing concerns about the upcoming Joker film and asking the studio to donate to groups that aid victims of gun violence,” The Hollywood Reporter reported Tuesday.
“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,” reads the letter, which was signed by five family members of victims of the Aurora shooting and sent to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff Tuesday morning. The letter was organized by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, founders of the nonprofit Survivors Empowered, and Igor Volsky, who works with gun control advocacy group Guns Down America.
The letter “does not seek to halt the release of the film nor to rally gun critics to boycott it,” THR reports. “Rather, it asks the studio 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.'”
THR notes that Century Aurora and XD, the remodeled theater where the mass shooter (whose name is here withheld per Daily Wire policy) murdered a dozen people and injured another 70, has already decided not to show the new film.
The letter follows a series of headlines amid a flood of complaints on social media about the “dangerous” new film. After reports that Phoenix walked out of one interview in response to questions about the film’s potential to encourage violence, IGN published an interview it conducted previously with the actor in which he addressed the issue.
“Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” said Phoenix. “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.”
“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 added.
“It”s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for all of us,” he said. “I think we all are aware of these issues and we’re concerned, and I think that’s why we talk about it. I don’t think that we can be afraid to talk about it. So I understand why you asked that question. But I think the same way that you feel that you need to ask that question and engage in the conversation this way, I think that’s how I feel as an actor. And that’s all I have to say.”
Below is a recently released trailer for “Joker,” which hits theaters on October 4: