The upcoming release of Todd Phillips’ Joker has certainly not been without controversy. Along with depicting the titular comic book villain committing graphic violence, many feel that the timing of a movie about a white man who feels marginalized by society (and grows homicidal) seems … not great! So much so that the leading man Joaquin Phoenix recently walked out of an interview when a journalist asked about the film inciting violence.
Now, families of the Aurora, Colorado shooting victims, who were massacred during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, are calling on Warner Bros. to address the issue of gun violence ahead of the film’s release. (Note: Joker will not screen at the theater where that mass shooting occurred.)
In a letter to Warner CEO Ann Sarnoff, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who lost their young adult daughter in the shooting; Theresa Hoover, who lost her teenage son; Heather Dearman, whose cousin lost two children (one unborn); and Tiina Coon, whose son witnessed the massacre, are asking the media conglomerate to join the growing list of American companies committed to ending gun violence.
“Dear Ann Sarnoff,” reads the letter obtained by Variety. “We are the family members and friends of the 12 people killed at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012”:
This tragic event, perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt “wronged” by society has changed the course of our lives.
As a result, we have committed ourselves to ensuring that no other family ever has to go through the absolute hell we have experienced and the pain we continue to live with. Trust us, it does not go away.
We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why 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.
Over the last several weeks, large American employers from Walmart to CVS have announced that they are going to lean into gun safety. 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.
The letter also lists a number of actions they’re asking from Sarnoff: (1) For the company to stop giving political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA as well as vote against gun reform; (2) For Sarnoff to use political clout to leverage Congress to actively lobby for gun reform; and (3) For the company to help fund survivor and gun violence intervention programs.
“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,” the letter concludes. “We certainly hope that you do.”
It’s certainly a compelling argument. However it remains to be seen whether or not Sarnoff will take action.