clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘Joker’ director Todd Phillips argues against claims that the film will incite violence

Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival in August, ‘Joker’ has received many complaints regarding its violent content.

Director Todd Phillips, left and actor Joaquin Phoenix pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening for the film Joker, at a central London cinema, Wednesday, Sept 25, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Joel C Ryan, Invision via Associated Press

Since its debut at the Venice Film Festival in August, “Joker” has received many complaints regarding its violent content.

While the film received an eight-minute standing ovation at its premiere, according to The Wrap, many are worried that it glorifies the gore that occurs throughout the movie and that it could inspire violence from radicalized groups or people.

The film’s director, Todd Phillips, recently argued in an interview with The Wrap that these worries are nothing more than complaints from people who want something to be mad about.

“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while,” Phillips said in his Sept. 20 interview first published Wednesday. “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.”

On Sept. 18, a U.S. Army Base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, sent out a memo to its service members, warning them of threats that had been made to target an unspecified theater during the “Joker” release.

A second memo was sent out Monday reiterating the concerns. Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman Christopher Grey told The Washington Post that while there is no specific, credible threat, the warnings were shared “out of an abundance of caution to help keep (soldiers) and their families safe.”

The Washington Post also reported that earlier this week, families of those killed in the Aurora, Colorado, shooting in 2012 have asked Warner Bros. to donate proceeds to groups supporting victims. The theater in Aurora where the shooting took place during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” has also refused to show “Joker.”

Phillips argued that, while the shooting in Aurora was horrible, it’s not something that should be blamed on a movie. He also stated that those involved in making “Joker” didn’t do it with the intention of “pushing buttons.”

“The movie still takes place in a fictional world. It can have real-world implications, opinions, but it’s a fictional character in a fictional world that’s been around for 80 years,” Phillips told the Associated Press.

Phillips also discussed his annoyance at the treatment of his movie versus the treatment of movies like “John Wick.”

“Why does this movie get held to different standards?,” Phillips said. “It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”

The film’s lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix, has also been burdened with criticisms about his character — the actor walked out of an interview with The Telegraph last week after being asked about criticisms of the film’s tone, according to The Washington Post.

“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.”

Warner Bros. has also responded to critics, supporting those advocating for the reduction of gun violence.

“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” they said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “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.”

Meanwhile, the studio also argued against claims that “Joker” would incite violence.

“Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind,” the studio said. “It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”

The film won top prize in Venice, has a 76 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and opens in theaters on Oct. 4.