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Families of Colorado shooting victims are concerned about upcoming ‘Joker’ film

  • The much-anticipated ‘Joker’ origin story faces backlash even before it is released to the public
  • Five family members of the 2012 Colorado shooting wrote a letter to Warner Bros. about their growing concerns towards the portrayal of Joker in the movie
  • Warner Bros. responds that the movie is not in any way promoting violence

Joker has certainly garnered much buzz and praise ever since it swept the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival in August. Lead actor Joaquin Phoenix has even gotten Oscar buzz himself for the outstanding performance. The film is very much anticipated; but recently, the blockbuster movie has found itself dab smack in the middle of a discussion about gun safety and violence in America. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, five family members of the victims of a 2012 shooting in a Colorado movie theater sent a letter to Warner Bros. expressing their concern about the upcoming film.

The letter was signed by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, a couple whose 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was murdered; Theresa Hoover, the mother of 18-year-old Alexander J. Boik, who was shot and killed; Heather Dearman, whose cousin Ashley Moser, lost an unborn child and a 6-year-old daughter in the attack; and Tiina Coon, whose son was a witness to the shootings.

“We are the family members and friends of the 12 people killed at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012. This tragic event, perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt ‘wronged’ by society has changed the course of our lives,” the letter stated via NBC News. 

Image result for aurora 2012 batman shooting
via CBS News

The 2012 mass shooting took the lives of 12 people and injured 70 others. The shooting took place at a screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” The mass shooter, James Holmes, is in jail for 24 counts of first-degree murder, 140 counts of attempted murder, and one count of possession or control of an explosive or incendiary device. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker, that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause,” the letter continued.

Joker, movie poster
via IMDB/Warner Bros./E! Online

Joker is a character study in itself. It portrays how Arthur Fleck, an aspiring stand-up comedian, and clown-for-hire, who battles with mental illness. In the movie, he is described to be a lonely individual, who faces life’s harsh disappointments and borderline cruel treatment of him with a very maladaptive manner. It’s an origin story of the classic Batman arch-nemesis and how his maltreatment morphs him into the murderous villain. 

While they aren’t asking for the movie to be pulled or moviegoers to boycott it entirely, the devastated family and friends of the victims are asking Warner Bros. to “end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform.”

They’re also asking Warner Bros. to use what political influence they have to lobby congressional leaders for gun reform and fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs. 

Image result for joker
via Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros./Variety

“Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act,” the letter stated. “We certainly hope that you do.”

Warner Bros. has since responded to the letter, expressing the intentions of the upcoming movie. 

“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 bipartisan legislation to address this epidemic,” the studio said in a statement to NBC News. “At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues.”

The studio hammered on the fact that Joker had no intention of excusing nor endorsing violence in the real world. “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.”  – Variety/Eonline/CBS News

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