10/02/2019 11:11 EDT

'Joker' Costumes Won't Be Banned In Canadian Movie Theatres, Unlike In U.S.

In the U.S., where gun violence is much more common, the military has warned of a possible mass shooting.

Canada’s largest movie distributors are not planning to ban costumes at screenings of the upcoming movie “Joker,” despite many American movie theatres doing so due to a possible threat of violence.

“Our guests are welcome to enhance their movie-going experience at our theatres by wearing costumes if they choose, and screenings of ‘Joker’ are no exception,” a spokesperson for Cineplex, which owns 164 theatres in Canada, told HuffPost Canada.

Face masks, however, have been banned for several years, she added, and weapons are not allowed either. Props and toys “will be reviewed on an individual basis.”

Landmark Cinemas, Canada’s second-largest movie distributor, is unconnected to the American Landmark Theatre chain, which announced last week it would ban “Joker” costumes. Canada’s Landmark will not ban costumes, but will similarly ask guests not to wear masks or face paint, or to enter the theatre with any simulated weapons. (“Even lightsabers,” a company rep specified.) 

Warner Brothers
Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker."

“Joker,” a dark, gritty film starring Joaquin Phoenix as an unhappy and unsuccessful comedian who goes on to become the Batman villain, opens Friday. 

In the U.S., the military has been warned of possible mass shootings during screening of the movie. Authorities sent out an email to service members, instructing them to look for exits during screenings of the movies. They fear violence by “incel” groups, who they say “idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series, admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against bullies,” according to Gizmodo.

Gun violence is much worse in the U.S. than Canada

Gun violence is significantly higher in the U.S. than in Canada. Guns kill nearly five people out of every 100,000 in the U.S., compared to 0.47 people in Canada, NPR reports.

Nearly 40,000 people were killed from gun violence in the U.S. in 2018, the highest rate in 50 years.

Warner Brothers
Joaquin Phoenix applies his makeup in "Joker."

“Joker” has received mixed reviews in early screenings. It got an eight-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, with critics praising Phoenix’s “astonishing” performance and calling The Guardian calling the movie “gloriously daring and explosive.”

But other reviewers were troubled by what they described as the movie trying to glorify a lonely man’s descent into violence. “I see in ‘Joker’ an attempt to elevate nerdy revenge to the plane of myth,” David Edelstein wrote in Vulture. “That’s scary on a lot of different levels.”

The problem with ‘Joker’

Time said the character “could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels,” a charge echoed by IndieWire, which praised elements of the movie but also called it “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels.”

“Joker” has also stirred up fear in people still reeling from the 2010 mass shooting at a premiere screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. Dressed in body armour, shooter James Holmes set off tear gas before he used three guns, including an assault rifle, to kill 12 people and injure 70 others. He later reportedly told police officers that he was “The Joker,” although Aurora’s chief of police at the time told The Hollywood Reporter that there was “no evidence” of that statement.

Christian Bale, the star of "The Dark Knight Rises," and his wife Sibi Blazic visit a memorial to the victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. 

Family members of people killed in the massacre expressed concerns about “Joker” in a letter sent to Warner Brothers earlier this month. 

“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” they wrote, according to The Hollywood Reporter

The outlet interviewed Sandy Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the shooting. “My worry is that one person who may be out there — and who knows if it is just one — who is on the edge, who is wanting to be a mass shooter, may be encouraged by this movie. And that terrifies me,” she said.

“I don’t need to see a picture of [Holmes]; I just need to see a ‘Joker’ promo and I see a picture of the killer.”

Warner Brothers responded by saying that “one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues,” and added that “it is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.” 

The movie’s director Todd Phillips said he was “surprised” by the controversy, and that part of the reason he wanted to make a comic book movie was because “woke culture” has made comedy harder to do. 

“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while,” he said in an interview with The Wrap. “Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?”

Phoenix told IGN that “for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” and that “I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong.”

Earlier in September, he walked out of an interview with The Telegraph after he was asked if he thought the film’s audience might respond to it in a way that was unintended. He later said that idea had not occurred to him.

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