LA audiences think threat of violence from film 'Joker' overrated

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 7, 2019
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Warner Brothers' R-rated thriller film "Joker," which opened on Thursday in the United States, is stirring up controversy and grabbing headlines across the nation.

In the wake of a mass theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado in 2012 during a showing of "Dark Knight Rises," theater chains and the police are taking no chances this second time around.

They have stepped up police presence in many theaters and theaters themselves have sent out parental advisories that effectively ban children from seeing the movie.

One theater in Huntington Beach, California was actually closed briefly due to a "credible" threat on Thursday. The incident is still under investigation and the Huntington Beach Police Department will provide patrols at the theater for the rest of this weekend.

Based on DC Comics characters, "Joker" is directed by Todd Phillips and stars Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. The film follows the devolution of Arthur Fleck, a mentally-ill failed stand-up comedian who turns into the killer-clown, Joker.

An FBI bulletin noted that some of the threats surrounding the "Joker" use references to the "involuntary celibate," or "InCel" community, and the smaller subset group, "clown-cels."

The families of the Aurora shooting victims also weighed in on the film with a heartfelt statement to Warner Brothers, the film's distributor. "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," they said in a letter. "With great power comes great responsibility."

They called on the Hollywood studio to use its massive platform and influence to support their fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.

"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," explained the studio in a statement in response.

Without a doubt, the film has spawned a (largely self-serving) media frenzy with the usual haters, trolls and incels stoking the flames of controversy, but is it really driving people amok?

What are actual moviegoers saying?

At the TCL Chinese Theater in the throbbing heart of Hollywood, other than a predominance of DC Comic Joker fans, there were few common denominators in the crowd. As an urban area aware of the grimmer realities of poverty and helplessness, for many, this is their daily bread, with nary a rioter in sight, and precious few patrons in the theater either.

"Just look around you," advised William, a local patron, indicating the tranquil theater, "That whole 'inspire people to violence' thing is way overstated. I think that's spread by people who'll never see the movie."

Zack, a local Angeleno, told Xinhua, "I think all the news is just going for shock value headlines, trying to grab attention," he said dismissively. "And violence and the threat of violence is what gets people's attention."

Joshua, a moviegoer from Hollywood who came with his girlfriend Cortney, told Xinhua it was the film's unique perspective that attracted him. "Its great storytelling. I'm tired of movies about superheroes saving the world. It's interesting to see a film that dives so deeply into someone's inner world, even if it's a twisted one."

He explained, "The joker is a violent character who decided to step out of society. It was the only thing he felt he could do. That was his journey...and his posse are malcontents and people just as twisted as him."

Cortney added, "But hopefully people see the film just for entertainment value, not as a role model. I mean, the guy is a clinical sociopath."

Ben, a poli-sci graduate from UCLA, said, "The film's about a crazy joker who sews hate and divisiveness among his followers until the whole place goes up in flames."

Daniel St. Pierre, a tourist from Canada who works in politics in Edmonton, Canada, told Xinhua thoughtfully, "I thought the movie was phenomenal as a commentary on our current state of society and the idolization of disruptors and the celebritization of bad people. It's an incredible statement about 'now.'"

He shared his concerns, "As Canadians, we have to watch what is going on down here from afar and it's scary."

But, Karen from Woodland Hills, California, was unmoved. "I don't know what all the fuss is about. Except for the last ten minutes, the movie's kind of boring."

The film received a modest "B+" rating from moviegoers on CinemaScore and a 70-percent certified fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to date.

"'Joker' has earned polarizing reviews, extreme on both ends," wrote Kevin Fallon, a senior entertainment reporter at The Daily Beast.

"The Joker discourse is so exhausting because everyone thinks they're doing something different, something renegade, something disruptive here. But it's the same old song over and over again, a cultural record scratch," he added.

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