With the imminent release of Joker, Landmark Theaters has completely banned anyone in its cinemas from displaying anything related to the movie in their appearance. Loosely inspired by Alan Moore’s graphic novel The Killing Joke but largely an original creation, the film portrays an origin story for Batman’s most enduring and iconic villains, and follows failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck as he embarks upon a crescendoing rampage against the society that rejected him.
Joker is far from the first film to attempt to humanize its protagonist in spite of their violent actions, but the concern for the unintended incitement of violence takes a precedent from the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012 during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The perpetrator of the shooting claimed to be inspired by the Joker. At the time, the shooting was the third deadliest in U.S. history and also resulted in the greatest number of additional wounded.
As reported by TMZ, many theater chains have prohibited fans from applying face paint, wearing masks or carrying props. However, Landmark took the proscriptions further by also banning any costumes, and explicitly extending the restriction to their employees. The decision was made in light of the danger of people taking to heart the movie’s themes of a disturbed individual taking revenge society’s perceived injustices against him by lashing out with violence and murder, first by becoming provoked but ultimately taking perverse pleasure in his brutality. Other chains are less concerned about potential violence, but all agree that safety should remain paramount.
Earlier this week some of the family and friends of the Aurora shooting’s victims sent a letter to Warner Bros CEO Ann Sarnoff, urging her to use the company’s influence to aid in the reduction of reduce gun violence and help the survivors of shootings return to something resembling ordinary lives. Warner Bros responded by stating it is already taking steps to do so, and reiterated their position that Joker is not meant to glorify gun violence, nor does it portray its titular character as being in any way heroic or somebody whose actions are to be admired.
A film cannot be held solely responsible for a tragedy that results from inspiration somebody takes from its content, but neither should they remain blind to the effect that being intentionally provocative can have on people, particularly when taking pains to tap into a cultural zeitgeist, in this case one of frustration and disenfranchisement. The Joker of The Dark Knight was a reaction to 9/11, appearing fully formed seemingly from nowhere with the sole intent of causing destruction and suffering, but this Joker is instead someone who was always there, gradually becoming isolated by mental illness, his own irrelevance, and able to find no significance in his life other than in chaos, something that will resonate with some people and create the danger of them emulating what they see. The irony of the situation is that a large majority of people discussing Joker haven’t actually seen it yet, and only once they have will it become clear how vindicated or otherwise people are in their positions regarding it.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022