Director Todd Phillips probably expected the press tour for Joker to be a standard series of talkshow interview, press junkets and red carpets. Instead, it’s turned into a thorny debate on gun violence and popular culture, thanks in large part to a letter from family members of victims of the 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Phillips spoke to the AP recently and pushed back at critics who say his film, which at least from the trailers appears to foreground a disturbed white male who feels isolated and resorts to violence, is inappropriate at a time when gun violence is wreaking havoc around the country.
“This is not the thing that the movie’s trying to represent, the movie still takes place in a fictional world. It can have real-world implications [and] opinions, but it’s a fictional character in a fictional world that’s been around for 80 years.”
Phillips also seems to believe that his film is being treated unfairly. Speaking about John Wick 3, he referred to the title character as “a white male who kills 300 people and everybody’s laughing and hooting and hollering.
“Why does this movie get held to different standards?” Phillips continued. “It honestly doesn’t make sense to me.”
Writer-director Todd Phillips says it isn't fair to link his #JokerMovie to real-world violence: "It's a fictional character in a fictional world that's been around for 80 years." pic.twitter.com/NcT4d9fjOQ
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) September 24, 2019
He has a point, but it may be that all films deserve the kind of scrutiny Joker is receiving, not that every violent film deserves to have its violence go unexamined.
Of course, blaming gun violence on pop culture is a classic canard that doesn’t address its real causes. So while the discourse around Hollywood’s glamourization of violence is definitely worthwhile, what would really be useful is a sane set of gun laws that actually limited the carnage.