Joker statement

For a movie about a clown, the discussions around Joker haven’t exactly been amusing lately.

Todd Phillips‘ Golden Lion-winning film has earned a fair share of hand-wringing about its depiction of the villain’s origin story, leading many to express concerns about whether it goes too far in sympathizing with its protagonist and if it could potentially even incite viewers to perpetrate violence. Now, Warner Bros. has issued a statement defending the movie, saying that it is not “an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind” and it is “not the intention” of anyone involved with the movie to “hold this character up as a hero.” Read their full Joker statement below.

Earlier this morning, some friends and family members of the Aurora theater massacre victims sent an open letter to Warner Bros. explaining how it gave them pause when they learned about Phillips’ approach to his lead character in this movie. But instead of demanding the film be pulled or organizing a boycott, they asked the studio to support gun reform in the U.S. Warner Bros. had apparently not received the letter by the time the press picked up on it, but the studio has now had time to look it over and issue an official response. Via Deadline:

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.

There you have it: we’ve now reached a point where a major Hollywood studio has to make a statement explicitly saying that depiction doesn’t equal endorsement. We’re living in strange times. To read some of the filmmakers’ responses to concerns about the movie’s violence, click here.

I can appreciate the studio going to bat for its filmmakers, but it seems like this was the perfect opportunity to make a donation to an organization like Everytown For Gun Safety, which has spent years pushing for common sense gun laws. Maybe they thought it would set a bad precedent – that they might be boxed in to making a donation to support a different cause every time someone complained about the content of a movie they made.

Joker arrives in theaters on October 4, 2019, and it seems like this aspect of the movie will continue to dominate the conversation surrounding it for the foreseeable future.

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