Let me start by saying that I am not trying to make light of the concerns of the Aurora shooting victims and their loved ones, either by connecting them to Todd Philips’ snobbery or by making more commentary on how comics are looked down upon. However, you don’t have to be Dirk Gently to see how all of this is connected.
“All of this” refers to recently quoted remarks by Todd Phillips about how he approached his Joker movie and why he ignored the comics, while also having what I feel is a big misunderstanding about how Heath Ledger’s Joker, also not an accurate depiction, connects to James Holmes, who shot up an Aurora, Colorado movie theater during a showing of The Dark Knight, where we were told he was inspired by the Joker, either of that movie or the character in general. I fully understand that theater not wanting to show the Joker movie because of that incident and I’m not calling them out for it. I’m not even calling out the families of the victims. However, a better understanding of the character, which you won’t be getting from Phillips’ re-imagining of The King Of Comedy by using the DC villain, is in order lest we continue the mistaken belief that this movie or that video game is to blame for any non-politically motivated mass shooting that occurs. Sometimes we make media the scapegoat because it’s easier than addressing the actual problems.
Let’s get Phillips out of the way first so we can focus on the real tragedy rather than the fan snobbery. It makes sense for him to defend his movie‘s right to exist and denounce those saying that his movie will convince people to go on shooting rampages, but I want to get this out of my system to focus on the important debate.
“We didn’t make the movie to push buttons,” Phillips told the Wrap. “I literally described to Joaquin (Phoenix) at one point in those three months as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.’ It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’ It was literally like, ‘Let’s make a real movie with a real budget and we’ll call it (expletive) Joker.’ That’s what it was.”
Phillips’s reason to make this movie was because he hated comic book movies and wanted to trick comic and superhero fans into watching a “real” movie, in other words a movie that caters to his tastes and preferences as being superior to that other “crap”. This goes to what I’ve been saying about how Hollywood and even the new writers of the big two superhero comic companies are approaching these beloved characters and stories. They know better what’s good and will convince, bully, and trick you into going along with it. If any reason exists to boycott this movie that would be it, to say that these characters matter to people and you don’t decide what our tastes are, throw “it’s not for you” back in their faces. Heck, most people enjoy multiple types of movies but don’t want one property to act like the other. Sameness is boring and Phillips has a poor idea of what a superhero movie is. So I am not defending this movie at all. I’m questioning the reason some people are looking down on it.
Now to their credit the victims’ families are not calling for a boycott or even necessarily demanding Phillips was wrong to make it. I think they’re just taking the opportunity to remind people that their loved ones, the youngest being six years old, shouldn’t be forgotten, or even maybe seeing an opportunity to continue the call for stricter anti-gun laws.
“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called “Joker” that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause.
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. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.
“Over the last several weeks, large American employers from Walmart to CVS have announced that they are going to lean into gun safety.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.
Specifically, we’re asking you to do the following:
- End political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform. These lawmakers are literally putting your customers and employees in danger.
- 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.
- Help fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs to help survivors of gun violence and to reduce every-day gun violence in the communities you serve
Props to not calling for the movie to be banned, at least by the family whose last name is also Phillips, but I guess harsher comments have come out. Joaquin Phoenix reported walked out of an interview when asked about the controversy caused by making a sympathetic story of a man slowly descending into psychopathic madness as if this was the first time. Again, this is a poorly-veiled remake of The King Of Comedy. There have been all kinds of defenses put together at both the premiere, where interviewers were denied, and at theaters, where costumes are forbidden, as “genre movie” fans (that term confuses me by they way) like to dress up for their favorite movies as a sign of unity with fellow fans. And not everyone agrees with the letter. TMZ updated their article on the controversy with a detractor.
Mike Senecal — the father of Katherine Senecal, who was a victim of the 2012 shooting and helped save her friend who was shot — tells TMZ … his daughter would not have echoed the sentiments of the letter sent to Warner Bros.
He says Katie would have been able to separate the movie from real life, and Mike believes those who can’t are part of the problem. He adds that violent people exist regardless of whether “Joker” comes out, and people who have issues with the film don’t have to see it.
Mike says he plans to see the movie and thinks his daughter would have too. Sadly, Katie died last year by suicide. He says she struggled with mental health issues before the shooting, and she recognized the biggest epidemic in this country is a lack of mental health care … not movies.
Even the military is weighing in on this. How out of control are we getting when the United States Army is concerned about a “comic book movie” by a guy looking to upstage comic book movies with a “real” movie that’s just a remake of someone else’s movie co-opting a comic book villain?
Posts on social media have made reference to involuntary celibate (“incel”) extremists replicating the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at screenings of the Joker movie at nationwide theaters. This presents a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members, though there are no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October.
Incels are individuals who express frustration from perceived disadvantages to starting intimate relationships. Incel extremists idolize violent individuals like the Aurora movie theater shooter. They also idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series, admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against his bullies.
When entering theaters, identify two escape routes, remain aware of your surroundings, and remember the phrase “run, hide, fight.” Run if you can. If you’re stuck, hide (also referred to as “sheltering in place”), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.
** this is a condensed version of an HQ Army Materiel Command, G-3, Protection Division Security Message
There aren’t even reports or indications of this happening. They’re just talking about people on Twitter worried about potential copycats. What was even the point? Warner Brothers had their own response:
“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.”
My response is WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? “Idolizing” the Joker? What makes this movie so controversial when the story, which is by design nothing like the proper Joker depiction, has been told before. If they were imitating the Joker they wouldn’t be just grabbing a firearm and letting bullets do the deed. The Joker isn’t just some “incel fighting the bullies and winning” unless Todd Phillips really screwed this up. That’s what the superHERO does, not the superVILLAIN! Even Christopher Nolan got that the Joker is chaos, someone who “just wants to watch the world burn” as Alfred stated in The Dark Knight. I’m not going to say what the Joker would do lest I get accused of inciting the deranged but the Joker is a showman who weaponized slapstick and cartoon gags, something you won’t see in the real world with methods that don’t exist in the real world. According to the History.com article in the first link Holmes suffered from some of the more violent tendencies falsely connected to all mental illness everywhere, and had plenty of warning signs before the movie hit theaters. The man could have been stopped and wasn’t, which is a tale we hear far too often in these mentally disturbed mass shootings. A dude with orange hair and wearing a gas mask is not following the Joker’s MO and he may never have read a comic or watched any of the TV and movie depictions of the Joker prior to this. We still don’t know why he did it.
To immediately place blame on this or any movie is to fail to address the real issue of mental illness, especially the dangerous types, and take the easy coward’s way out in dealing with the real issue. It makes only slightly more sense than blaming an inanimate object but I’ll stop there because this is a storytelling blog, not a political one. The point is that the Joker character, whether in Christopher Nolan’s minor misinterpretation or Todd Phillips “I can do it better even though I don’t care about superhero movies” intentional reinterpretation are not going to cause some mass violence. This was one mentally disturbed individual who for reasons we don’t know went to a “grounded” superhero movie and murdered 12 people while wounding 70. I’m not trying to downplay that. I’m saying don’t blame a movie or comic book character for his actions, especially when there’s no evidence of either except to people who have little understanding of either. He alone is responsible, no matter how much of that should be blamed on mental problems. Put the blame where it belongs.
What would you have done if he dressed up like a Pokemon and shot up a kids movie? Blame Team Rocket?
UPDATE: Slight correction, it was The Dark Knight Rises, the one that didn’t even have the Joker as the villain but Bane. So Holmes was even acting as the wrong villain. Forget comics, he didn’t even know what movie should be allegedly influencing him, and again we don’t know what his actual motivation was. My point still stands though. Nobody knows what they’re talking about.