Joker may not reach cinemas for a couple of days, but already the supervillain story has caused controversy. Some critics have claimed the movie could inspire violence from susceptible cinemagoers – something director Todd Phillips has dismissed, with the filmmaker comparing the uproar to the initial reaction to Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (a movie that was accused of potentially inspiring riots before going on to become a classic).
Following those reviews, the families of the victims of a mass shooting at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, have written an open letter asking the studio, Warner Bros., to donate profits to charities that aid victims of gun violence. The Dark Knight Rises shooting occurred on July 20, 2012. Twelve people were killed and another 70 were injured. Warner Bros. donated $2 million to those affected by the shooting.
"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, via The Hollywood Reporter, reads.
The studio has since responded to the letter in a statement saying the movie does not "hold [Joker] up as a hero". The statement reads: "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 bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic.
"At the same time, 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."
Director Todd Phillips previously told our sister publication Total Film that the movie "is not meant to be political, but it is meant to be provocative." Joker reaches UK and US cinemas October 4.