Joker: How Fear-Mongering and Negative Publicity translated into Financial Success for the Film Industry


It isn’t a secret that modern society has an obsession with Violence, whether it be in Television, Video Games, Films or in books but recently there has been a film that has had Critics and Corporate News Media at witts end; and that is Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Ever since the first teaser trailer debut in April, fans have had mixed reactions towards the Todd Phillips directed the film, some good but mostly negative responses; In September Cinemark Aurora released a statement regarding not showing Joker in their establishment. In 2012, the film, The Dark Knight Rises was set to debut on a Midnight release at the Century 16 Theater (Now known as the Cinemark Aurora and XD) a terrorist masquerading as Batman’s nemesis The Joker came into the theater wearing a Bullet Proof Vest, riot helmet, Gas Mask and carrying an Assault Rifle with a high capacity ammunition clip loaded in the rifle, opening fire on people in the theater leaving twelve killed and 70 injured, 58 of them hurt from Gunfire. According to Deadline, the families of the Aurora shooting victims penned an open letter to Warner Bros. CEO and Chairperson Ann Sarnoff in the Hollywood Trades, while the Letter didn’t demand the film company to pull the film rather calling for the Company to help build a safer community with fewer guns.


“When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story. We’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns; End political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform. These lawmakers are putting your customers and employees in danger. Use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers. Help fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs to help survivors of gun violence and to reduce everyday gun violence in the communities you serve. 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. We certainly hope that you do.”

Aurora Families’ Open-Letter to Warner Bros.

There has been a lot of concern with certain films or anything related to Popular Culture that involves Guns or Mental Illness, Politicians have used it as a scapegoat or blamed it for their shortcomings (Greed mostly) when it comes to Gun Violence. In September, the Army distributed an email warning to service members regarding the film’s release and noted the Joker Character’s popularity with the Incel Community, stating that they received a memo with Credible Evidence regarding “the targeting of an unknown movie theater during the release.” Also, lead to movie theaters such as the Alamo Drafthouse issuing a visual warning on social media about Joker:

Credit: Alamo Drafthouse, Warner Bros., DC Comics

It also lead to News Stations such as CNN to release news headlines such as “‘Joker’ hits movie theaters with controversy and extra security” but being warned or told not to do something does cause people to the exact opposite, in this case, it caused more people wanting to watch the movie and see for themselves what all the controversy was about. The result of all of the outrage? The Negative Publicity and Fear-Mongering? Box Office Records Shattered. Joker raked in $93. 5 Million domestically, while $140.5 Million overseas; resulting in $234 Million for a Global Start.

In conclusion, while it backfired in invoking a boycott of the film and for the company to meet the needs of the concerned public but it leaves another question, Where was the outrage and concern over the violence, Gun Violence when Sylvester Stallone’s latest film ‘Rambo: Last Blood‘ was in theaters? An article from Forbes has the answer to that question.

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