Todd Phillips’ Joker is already dealing with controversy ahead of its worldwide release, and some theaters have taken action. The film will serve as an origin story for the classic Batman villain and is set in 1981, following failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck who turns to a life of crime in Gotham City after being constantly rejected by society.
When it premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2019, Joker won the Golden Lion and received positive reviews from critics, with most praising Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the titular character. But amidst all the praise, Joker has been met with a lot of controversy regarding concerns it could drive some viewers to violence.
On September 24, 2019, news broke about Joker not screening at Century Aurora Theater, where a shooting took place in 2012 during a screening of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Family members of the victims expressed their concerns over the film’s depictions of violence, prompting the theater to not show the film at all. However, not all victim family members agree on a link between films and violent events, shifting blame instead to bigger issues, like lack of mental health care in the country. Still, this move from the Aurora Theater has made other theaters take special measures to ensure that all visitors are safe. Many theater chains, such as AMC, have prohibited fans from applying face paint, wearing masks, or carrying props, with Landmark Theaters going as far as to also banning costumes related to the Joker. On the other hand, Regal Cinemas shared they don't believe Joker will cause violence.
Other theaters are opting for increasing security without actually banning fans from wearing costumes or anything else. This concern or paranoia over Joker has gone so far that the U.S. Military issued warnings to service members about potential shootings inspired by the film, although the Army has already said they are not aware of any specific and credible threats – but they are prepared, anyway. While it’s understandable that people are concerned about Joker being a possible trigger for another violent and tragic event, it also raises the question once more about the links between violence, mental health, and pop culture.
In the end, it’s hard to measure the impact and actual level of violence prior to its release, and the backlash to Joker could affect the film in two very opposite ways: it will either pique people’s curiosity, or it will drive them away. Once the film is out, the audience will judge if all the concern around it was justified or if it was just shadowed by past events – truth is, there have been many other violent films in recent years that didn’t prompt this many measures, and there are deeper issues to be explored in relation to this that are not necessarily about the film’s story.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019