'Joker' director slammed by Aurora shooting victims for 'flippant and dismissive' remarks on gun violence
The parents of shooting victims had reached out to Warner Bros. in a letter calling for the discontinuation of profit from movies that showcase gun violence
While 'Joker' starring Joaquin Phoenix grossed over $1 billion, it also raised eyebrows because of its violent storyline.
Recently, Todd Phillips, the acclaimed film's director, commented on the criticism, and people didn't take kindly to his remarks.
Most significantly, the families of victims in the Colorado mass shooting in 2012 that occurred during the screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' were outraged over Phillips remarks.
“We knew our intentions in making the movie. It kind of bummed us out that it was so divisive,” said Phillip. “But it does seem to be that we live in an age of outrage now and people look for things to be outraged about and they’re going to be outraged just about that comment, probably. It’s become a thing.”
The parents of one of the shooting's victims had reached out to Warner Bros., signing a letter calling for the discontinuation of profit from movies that showcase gun violence. They feel as though their concerns, as serious as they are, are not being taken seriously.
“We are outraged because, in the face of such carnage, Warner Bros. continues to profit from movies that depict fictional acts of gun violence while donating to lawmakers and candidates who make it easier for individuals to obtain firearms and commit acts of violence in the real world. We are outraged at your flippant and dismissive remarks about our very real concerns and we are outraged that Warner Bros. has refused to meet with survivors of gun violence," said Sandy and Lonnie Phillips in a letter shared on Twitter.
The Hollywood Reporter reported that the family members of those who lost their lives during the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting had sent a letter to Warner Bros. before the film's release in October 2019. “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,” the letter read.
The letter did not call for the halt of the film released but asked 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."
Warner Bros. released the statement after the letter went public, saying, "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."
Joaquin Phoenix himself addressed the concerns, saying, “Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” he said, according to IGN. “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.”
Phoenix went on to win a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama 'Joker' and is up for best actor at both the SAG and BAFTA awards.