By the Numbers: “Joker” movie facing backlash for gun violence


“Joker” is set to release in theaters on October 4. The movie, while heavily anticipated by fans, has faced backlash online and from the media for its portrayal of violence and the sympathizing of its titular character despite many parallels towards the protagonist and mass shooters in America today.

Warner Brother’s upcoming “Joker” film was surrounded with discussion and anticipation from the moment it was announced. The movie, to be released on October 4, is the first R-rated live action Batman franchise film, and takes a unique spin from the rest of the Batman movies, highlighting the Joker’s untold origin story instead of Batman’s and presenting his story before he becomes the arch-nemesis of Batman. 

“Joker” premiered on August 31 at the 76th Venice International Film Festival as a way to get buzz going for the film before it’s release. And to Warner Brothers credit, it seems to have worked, as most critics from the film festival gave the movie a positive review. Anticipation for the movie has grown since its premiere.

I saw the trailer and I am hooked. I can’t wait,” Carlin Garey (11) said.

Despite the anticipation, the “Joker” movie has also been engulfed by controversy and backlash following its premiere for its violent portrayal of the character. 

The movie strays away from the cartoon Joker from the DC comic books, instead telling an original story. The film was described to be more like a character study of the Joker before he fully takes on the mantle of the Clown Prince of Crime.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a lonely man whose life is consumed with disappointment, violence, and isolation. This lack of compassion in his life and constantly being beaten down pushes Fleck into crime as he becomes the Joker.

While many film critics praised the film, many also denounced it as being “dangerous” at this time in America, drawing parallels to Arthur Fleck in the move and mass shooters in America today.

Stephanie Zacharek, a TIME’s  film critic who attended the Venice film festival, said “In America, there’s a mass shooting or attempted act of violence by a guy like Arthur practically every other week. And yet we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for Arthur, the troubled lamb; he just hasn’t had enough love.

Kathleen Newman-Bremang goes even further, pushing the issue towards Warner Brothers, saying “Did we really need a brutal movie about a white terrorist figure who uses gun violence to enact revenge on the society that rejects him? And did we need it now?”

These critic reviews deeming the movie as too dangerous for 2019 and a way to humanize the evils of gun violence have riled up the internet, with conversations about the movie morphing into heated debates. Debate about the film online became so widespread that Warner Brothers finally spoke up about the issue on September 24 in a statement, saying that “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.”

The statement by Warner Brothers did not do much to quench the flames though. Talks of the movie inspiring  those who could become mass shooters have grown so large that the FBI issued violence warnings for several opening weekend screenings of the movie after uncovering several threatening social media posts from extremist accounts discussing targeting certain theaters in violent acts.

The gun violence backlash surrounding “Joker” has made this movie one of the most controversial films of the year before it has even been released.

Controversy aside, the movie is still being projected by box office analysts to do well at theaters, with opening weekend forecasts ranging from $50 million to $90 million. The movie is set for wide release in theaters next week on October 4.