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Aurora Shooting Victim’s Family Outraged Over Todd Phillips’ ‘Flippant’ Reaction to ‘Joker’ Violence

In an open letter, the victim's parents also criticize Warner Bros. for continuing to profit off a movie they say celebrates gun violence.

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix


The fomenting discussion around the depiction of gun violence in “Joker” and whether the revisionist DC origin story celebrates it or not isn’t going away anytime soon. Especially as we inch closer and closer to the Academy Awards nominations announcement, bright and early this coming Monday, January 13.

Following in the footsteps of the surviving families who spoke out last year when the film was released theatrically, parents of a victim of the 2012 Aurora shooting — where 12 lives were lost at a Colorado movie theater screening “The Dark Knight Rises” — have spoken out against “Joker” director Todd Phillips and distributor Warner Bros. in an open letter published Tuesday (shared by Yahoo!), Sandy and Lonnie Phillips expressed concern over Todd Phillips’ (no relation) “flippant” remarks regarding his film’s portrayal of violence as he recently told Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” The full letter, which arrived via Twitter, is embedded below.

“We are not outraged about The Joker because it has become a ‘thing’ to ‘look for things to be outraged about,'” the family begins, saying that they are “outraged” because their daughter “was murdered by an individual who was easily able to obtain firearms and ammunition in Aurora, Colorado. We are outraged because since her death, approximately 272,700 more Americans lost their lives in gun violence.”

On the January 6 “Fresh Air” episode, Phillips told Gross, “We knew our intentions in making the movie. It kind of bummed us out that it was so divisive. 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 good news is the movie obviously struck a chord and people were having discussions about it and arguing about its merits.”

Warner Bros. has reiterated since “Joker” opened on October 4 that the film does not endorse real-world violence. However, the Aurora victim’s family disagrees, taking issue with a major corporation profiting off onscreen carnage. (Sandy and Lonnie Phillips were among those that signed a letter to Warner Bros. last September.)

“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,” Sandy and Lonnie Phillips continue. “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.”

Though Todd Phillips told Terry Gross that the backlash to the film has been “stressful,” he added, “Luckily, most people saw it for what it is: a movie about childhood trauma, a movie about the lack of love in the world, a movie about the loss of empathy in society. Most people saw that for what it is.” And many people sure saw it. It has topped more than $1.06 billion at the global box office — the highest ever for an R-rated movie.

And given the backlash, whither the movie’s awards chances? In the last week alone, Joaquin Phoenix took home Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, and the film received 11 BAFTA nominations.

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