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Why So Serious? Joker Movie Prompts Mass Hysteria In Media, Police Departments

The Joker from Todd Phillips' movie

The upcoming release of Todd Phillips’ Joker this Friday has led to a remarkable wave of media hysteria.

On Tuesday, the New York Police Department confirmed that it would have plain clothes officers at screenings of the movie, for fear of an incel mass shooter inspired by the 2012 Aurora theatre shooter, while the U.S. military also warned personnel about potential incel violence, prompting some to avoid opening night screenings of the movie altogether.

“Posts on social media have made reference to involuntary celibate (‘incel’) extremists replicating the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at screenings of the Joker movie at nationwide theaters,” warned the military in a memo. “This presents a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members, though there are no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October.”

“Incels are individuals who express frustration from perceived disadvantages to starting intimate relationships. Incel extremists idolize violent individuals like the Aurora movie theater shooter,” the memo claimed. “They also 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 his bullies.”

On Twitter, Men’s Health Magazine Weekend Editor Philip Ellis declared, “Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix can shrug their shoulders as much as they like about their little movie but when the armed forces are preparing to deal with active shooters at screenings you might want to admit that you’ve made Citizen Kane for incels.”

Comedy writer Fred Delicious commented, “Twitter rules because in the space of two weeks Joker has gone from ‘Oscar bait masterpiece’ to ‘incel trash for man babies’ and it’s all because of our hard work doing posts.”

The Daily Mail has also described Joker‘s titular character as an “incel-friendly” icon, and on ABC’s Good Morning America, Amy Robach commented that it is “certainly making a lot of parents nervous about letting their kids go see this movie given what it could inspire,” despite the fact that Joker is an R-rated movie for adult audiences.

Though Joker-related concerns have dominated the news cycle for the past month (Vice even published a comprehensive roundup of Joker-related controversies), the Hollywood Reporter reported that “there have been no ‘credible threats’ connected to Todd Phillips’ R-rated take on the DC character.”

In an article Wednesday, the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern also criticized the “wildly irresponsible media coverage” surrounding Joker.

“The notion that Joker could inspire a real-world shooter is not only downright Trumpian, but has little basis in scientific fact,” Stern wrote, noting that “irresponsible media discourse surrounding Joker has led distributor Warner Bros. to tighten security at its Los Angeles and New York premieres.”

On Twitter, Forbes movie critic Scott Mendelson remarked, “At this point, the thing most likely to inspire copycat violence during/after the release of #Joker is the constant media chattering about whether the release of #Joker will inspire copycat violence.”

Another Twitter account questioned, “If the Joker is an incel hero why would incels go to a theatre filled with other incels and commit violence there? This whole thing feels like it hasn’t been thought through.”

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