Since receiving an eight-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, Todd Phillips’ Joker has sparked a national conversation about violence in movies. Earlier this week, family members of the Aurora shooting victims sent a letter to Warner Bros. expressing concerns about the film’s reportedly graphic nature. Before that, star Joaquin Phoenix walked out of an interview after a question about whether Joker could inspire real-life copycats. Amidst all this, Phillips seems to think his movie has fallen victim to a political agenda, one he told The Wrap stems from “the far left.”
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity,” Phillips stated in the new interview. “I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye opening for me.”
The controversy around the first R-rated Bat-movie seems to have taken Phillips slightly off guard, as he said he didn’t intend for “the movie to push buttons.” He explained, “I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.’ It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’”
Even so, his surprise isn’t so much about there being conversations around the movie as it is the specific direction they’re taking. “Isn’t it good to have these discussions?” he asked. “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?”
It’s of course debatable how storming out of interviews contributes to the discourse, as well as how “far left” shooting victims’ families and British reporters are. Still, the fact remains that practically nobody talking about the movie has actually seen it yet, and context will surely play a big part of the discussions going forward. Joker comes to theaters worldwide October 4th.