Joe Cunningham: A False Narrative Is Stoking Fears Over The New Joker Movie

It is very difficult for me to trust Warner Bros. to do any justice to a DC live-action movie ever since they started trying to churn out their own “cinematic universe” to rival Marvel’s. However, being a standalone film and not tied to any of those abominations, there is a lot of positive feedback for Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.


The problem is that the last time the Joker had a major, perception-altering role in cinema, there was a shooting that was attributed to a worship of the character.

Many police forces are announcing they’ll be providing security at theaters to prevent another “Aurora-style” mass shooting. Other critics are pointing out the idol-worship that comes with making the villain the hero of his movie. Many people are just outraged that we would dare portray a mentally-ill person like this.

However, much of this fear and hatred is based off Aurora, Colorado, where a lunatic took a gun and shot multiple people at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the sequel to The Dark Knight featuring Heath Leger’s portrayal of Joker that was widely acclaimed. There were reports that the movie – and Leger’s Joker in particular – were motivating factors for the shooting.

Those reports, though, were bogus.

The Washington Post’s story with the photo gallery said this: “Holmes, who told police he was ‘the Joker’ … .”

The article linked to a 2012 ABC News report with a statement by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, saying Holmes had called himself the Joker.

Kelly’s comment to the press appears to be the origin of this myth. Why the NYPD police commissioner would be in a position to know anything about police activity in Aurora is beyond me.


Indeed, why would New York’s police commissioner know or even comment on that?

“It is not true,” said George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, who prosecuted the case.

“It is ridiculous,” he said. “Completely unfounded. Some of this stuff. … It gets repeated by so many sources by people doing their research that it just becomes real.”

Investigators heard no witness talking about the Joker, he said. And no police officer claimed Holmes called himself the Joker.

People point to the shooter’s red hair as a sign of the idol worship – except the Joker’s hair is green and when asked by investigators, the shooter himself said it was because red suggests bravery.

But nonetheless, there is a panic among people who think that the Aurora shooting coupled with the political and social environment we live in will undoubtedly lead to another major event. It’s impossible to say one way or another whether that’s the case, but as is so often the case, the issue has way more to do with mental health than it does the move of the night.

If someone were to do try for a repeat, they will be doing so because of the myth that was constructed here, not because of the worship of the Joker. The Joker is a compelling character, no matter what interpretation you are viewing, but he’s not someone who gets “worshipped.” However, the myth of James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, and the reduced inhibitions of someone who is mentally ill and seeking to be remembered for something like he is are far more likely to bring trouble.


Had the myth of Holmes as “The Joker” not been spun into existence by people who were ignorant of the case, then that risk would be greatly diminished. Instead, we get people who, once again, like to find ways to blame something else other than mental illness as the reason people do horrific things.


*A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Aurora shooting happened during the release of The Dark Knight. It happened during the release of The Dark Knight Rises.


Joe Cunningham is a Senior Editor at RedState. You can find more of his writings here and his commentary on Louisiana issues at The Hayride. You can also follow him on Twitter at @JoePCunningham and Like his page on Facebook.


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