Warner Bros. is standing by the release of “Joker” in the wake of accusations the movie will encourage violence. The studio issued a statement defending the movie several hours after family members of the Aurora, Colorado shooting victims sent a letter to the studio expressing concerns over the upcoming release. The letter also urged the studio to support anti-gun laws as it continues to promote the Venice-winning comic book movie. Warner Bros. maintains “Joker” is not an “endorsement of real-world violence,” nor has the movie been designed to turn its title character (played by Joaquin Phoenix) into a hero.
The full statement from Warner Bros. reads: “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. ”
“Joker” follows in the footsteps of movies such as “Taxi Driver,” “A Clockwork Orange,” and “Do the Right Thing” in causing industry anxieties over whether or not the subject matter will entice violent acts. Joaquin Phoenix issued a firm statement to IGN writer Jim Vejvoda defending the movie against criticisms.
“Well, I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” Phoenix said. “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 added, “The truth is you don’t know what is going to be the fuel for somebody,” the actor said. “And it might very well be your question. It might be this moment, right? But you can’t function in life saying, ‘Well, I can’t ask that question for the small chance that somebody might be affected by [it].’ I wouldn’t ask you to do that.”
Warner Bros. is releasing “Joker” in theaters nationwide October 4. The movie has earned strong reviews and is expected to a major Oscar contender for Phoenix’s leading role.