Variety reports that Warner Bros. has decided they will no longer be allowing interviewers on the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Joker, the critically acclaimed R-rated film about the origins of DC Comics’ ‘Clown Prince of Crime’ this Saturday at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Presumably, they don’t want reporters asking cast and crew members any more controversial questions about the role movies play in inspiring gun violence in the United States.
Since debuting at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this month, the movie has drawn rave reviews and some concerns over its realistic portrayal of a character shifting into a psychosis that leads him to kill people.
The film’s director, Todd Phillips, fiercely defended his film in a newly published interview with The Wrap, arguing that those worries are little more than the complaints of people looking for something to be angry about.
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me.”
Though the film won the top prize in Venice and has been well reviewed before its October 4 release in the United States, it has also stirred fears of gun violence and criticisms that the film glorifies the bloody action at the center of its plot.
The Greenwich Time reports:
Although reviews have been largely positive, with a 75 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes to date, some critics have raised concerns that the movie could inspire violence from radicalized men clamoring for a moment of recognition – a description not unlike how many reviewers have characterized Arthur Fleck, the failing comic and for-hire clown who eventually becomes the Joker.
“He could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels,” Time magazine critic Stephanie Zacharek, wrote, referring to an online community of men who espouse violently misogynist views and share anti-feminist hate online. “Arthur inspires chaos and anarchy, but the movie makes it look like he’s starting a revolution, where the rich are taken down, the poor get everything they need and deserve, and the sad guys who can’t get a date become killer heroes.”
In the newly published interview, Phillips pushes back on those critiques, arguing that he’s making art, which can be controversial. The director, best known for comedies such as “Old School” and “The Hangover” trilogy and the darker “War Dogs,” which portrays the near-true story of two Miami stoners turned gunrunners.
“Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence?” he said in an interview with the Wrap. “Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?”
The director also saw “Joker” as a chance to make a gritty and serious film with the kind of massive Hollywood budget usually reserved for franchises. “Joker,” which reportedly borrows its style and substance from films like “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy,” takes the superhero film formula and runs it through a dark filter.
“We didn’t make the movie to push buttons,” Phillips told the Wrap. “I literally described to Joaquin (Phoenix) at one point in those three months as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.’ It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’ It was literally like, ‘Let’s make a real movie with a real budget and we’ll call it (expletive) Joker.’ That’s what it was.”
The movie’s lead actor, Phoenix, has also been rankled at allegations that the film could be dangerous. He walked out of an interview with the Telegraph last week when a reporter asked him about criticisms of the film’s tone.
“I don’t think it’s the filmmaker’s responsibility to teach morality,” Phoenix later told the Associated Press. “And if you don’t know the difference between right and wrong, then there’s all sorts of things that you are going to interpret in the way that you want.”
Phillips told IGN in another interview that his movie aims to capture the human suffering behind the Joker’s descent into madness. “The movie makes statements about a lack of love, childhood trauma, lack of compassion in the world,” Phillips said.”I think people can handle that message.”
In an interview with IndieWire, Phillips took his defense a bit further. “The one that bugs me more is the toxic white male thing when you go, ‘Oh, I just saw John Wick 3.‘ He’s a white male who kills 300 people and everybody’s laughing and hooting and hollering. Why does this movie get held to different standards? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”
Recently, surviving families of the 2012 Aurora shooting — where 12 lives were lost at a Colorado movie theater where “The Dark Knight Rises” was screening — expressed concern about the film’s potential to spark similar attacks. Scott Mendelson, writing over at Forbes, pushed back on some of these criticisms by dispelling some of the associated myths that have been used to attack the movie:
James Holmes didn’t dress up as the Joker nor was he explicitly inspired by Chris Nolan’s Batman sequel when he opened fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012. Columbine school shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were not bullied outcasts or members of the “Trench Coat Mafia.” They were not cosplaying as Neo and reenacting The Matrix’s climactic office lobby shootout when they shot up their school on April 19, 1999. Even the attack on a subway ticket tooth employee initially blamed on Money Train was unrelated to that Woody Harrelson/Wesley Snipes action-comedy. The thieves who infamously forced robbery victims to drink bleach before shooting them planned to commit a robbery/homicide months prior to watching Magnum Force.
There are a few movies over the decades, like Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers, which have inspired real-life violence. However, and this is a key distinction, they have mostly inspired the specifics of violent action rather than the violent act itself. Individual pieces of pop culture, be it movies, TV or video games, don’t turn empathetic people into murderers. We know this because the science says as much again, and again and again. Even the rise of violence in PG-13 flicks (as post-Columbine pressures and the allure of worldwide box office glory led Hollywood to nip-n-tuck arguably R-rated genre films like Taken and White House Down into the PG-13 box) ran parallel with a decrease in violent crime from 1985 to 2015.
Warner Bros., meanwhile, has responded to critics by noting its advocacy for reducing gun violence and disputed claims that the film would stoke violence. Warner Bros. went even further to say that the film does not endorse real-world violence.
‘Joker’ will be released this Friday, October 4.