The upcoming “Joker” movie is stirring up memories of the deadly 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. That year, a young man entered into a Century 16 movie theater with tear-gas canisters and multiple firearms, and killed 12 people and injured another 70. Audiences were gathered to watch the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third Batman installment to the Christopher Nolan trilogy. In October, Warner Bros. Pictures is releasing “Joker,” and with only a few more weeks before the premiere, people are questioning the studio’s decision to release an in-depth storyline about a character that is a mass murderer.

Warner Bros. Pictures released a statement this week, hoping to quell the growing concern surrounding the film’s nationwide release in theaters. 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.”

The statement was a response to a letter collectively released by the family members and friends of the victims of the 2012 shooting. In the letter, the group recognized the artistic rights of the studio to create the film but insisted that the studio should offset the message with more involvement in gun control legislation, and refusing to donate to any politician with ties to the NRA. The studio did not agree to either of these requests.

The final “Joker” trailer released in August and introduces Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Fleck is depicted as a misunderstood and mentally ill man who enacts his own personal vendetta against a society that he feels has wronged him. The trailer shows him both as the star of the film, and as a love interest of Zazie Beetz. The most disturbing part of the trailer, when connected to the Aurora, Colorado shooting, is that the video shows other people have started to follow Arthur, and a violent movement begins in the streets with people dressing up and taking up Arthur’s mantle.

On a side note, Warner Bros. Pictures makes a lot of money selling “V for Vendetta” masks, which have become the imagery and go-to mask for the “Anonymous” hacking collective. Millions of Anonymous supporters have bought the masks to wear in online videos, for protests, and for profile pictures. These supporters may not realize that Warner Bros. Pictures is the trademark owner of the mask, and that the studio profits directly from the sale of the merchandise, but the company hasn’t done anything to discourage the use.

Todd Phillips directed “Joker,” which stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, and Zazie Beetz. The film is opening in over 4,000 theaters across the country on October 4th. The film screened at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion.

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