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‘Joker’ controversy: Aurora shooting victims express concerns

Families and friends of victims of the shooting sent a letter to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff ahead of ‘Joker’ release.

The Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix film may set record. But the numbers are still mixed.
The Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix film may set record. But the numbers are still mixed.
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Family members and friends of the victims of the 2012 Aurora mass shooting voiced concerns about the release of the new film “Joker,” which is a gritty, controversial take on the origin story of the Batman villain.

During a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” a lone gunman with orange hair — resembling the Joker character — killed 12 people inside a movie theater.

Families and friends of the shooting victims sent a letter to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, urging the company to advocate for gun safety as the company prepares to release “Joker.”

“We’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns,” the letter reads, according to Variety. “We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe.”

The letter did not call for a ban, however. According to Variety, the families and friends wanted Warner Bros. to stop any donations to candidates who take money from the NRA or vote against gun reform, and to use its political power to lobby congressional leaders for gun reform.

“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 reads. “We certainly hope that you do.”

The letter comes as a wave of mass shootings have plagued the United States. El Paso and Odessa, Texas, both saw mass shooting last month. There was another in Dayton, Ohio, too. Companies like Walmart have responded to mass shootings.

This all happens as “Joker” is raising controversy. The film — which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a man who is damaged by society and becomes the Joker — has been receiving some backlash, as reported by the Deseret News. The film “sympathizes with a homicidal loner at a time when America and the rest of the world are plagued by gun violence,” Variety reviewer Brent Lang wrote.

“That all but guarantees that ‘Joker’ will be a topic of fierce debate at Toronto ... as critics and audiences grapple over the questions of whether it’s a brilliant piece of art or a danger to society,” according to Variety.

Similarly, Stephanie Zacharek of Time magazine said the film is the wrong movie for this era.

“But it’s not as if we don’t know how this pathology works: In America, there’s a mass shooting or attempted act of violence by a guy like Arthur practically every other week,” she wrote. “And yet we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for Arthur, the troubled lamb; he just hasn’t had enough love. Before long, he becomes a vigilante folk hero — his first signature act is to kill a trio of annoying Wall Street spuds while riding the subway, which inspires the masses to don clown masks and march enthusiastically around the city with ‘Kill the Rich!’ placards.”