Warner Bros. Defends Joker After Aurora Shooting Victims' Families Speak Out

Joaquin Phoenix stars in the controversial movie that won the top award at Venice International Film Festival

By Mike Vulpo Sep 24, 2019 9:57 PMTags

A blockbuster movie has found itself in the middle of a discussion about gun safety and violence in America.

Earlier today, five family members impacted by a 2012 shooting in a Colorado movie theatre sent a letter to Warner Bros. expressing concern about the upcoming film Joker.

"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. "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."

While they aren't asking for the movie to be pulled or for moviegoers to boycott, the families and friends of victims are asking Warner Bros. to "end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform."

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They also want Warner Bros. to use its political clout to lobby congressional leaders for gun reform and fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs.

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"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."

In response to the letter, Warner Bros. expressed the intention of its 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 bi-partisan 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 added, "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."

Ever since winning the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival in August, Joker has stirred debate and sparked conversation in Hollywood.

And while the show's star Joaquin Phoenix has remained quiet about the debate, he reportedly walked out of an interview when asked if he felt the film might inspire real acts of violence.