Joker is a 2019 superhero film based on the DC Comics character and Batman supervillain The Joker. Directed by Todd Philips, the film is an origin for the character and stars Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role.
On August 22nd, 2017, Deadline reported that Hangover director Todd Philips would be writing and directing a Joker origin film inspired by the film’s of Martin Scorsese, who they announced would be producing the film. They wrote that the film would exist outside the continuity of other DC Extended Universe films, such as Wonder Woman and Aquaman. “This will be the first film under a new banner that has yet to be named in which WB can expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters.”
The following year, the film was greenlit by Warner Bros and Joaquin Phoenix was announced as the star.
On September 16th, 2018, director Todd Philips posted a picture of Joaquin Pheonix as the character out of makeup on Instagram, adding the caption “Arthur”, which would later be revealed to be the name of Joker’s secret identity in the film. The post received more than 84,000 likes in less than one year (shown below).
Several days later, on September 1st, 2018, Philips posted a video of a camera test of the character set to the Guess Who song “Laughing”. The video featured the first images of the Joker in makeup and received more than 288,000 likes and 2.1 million views in less than one year.
On April 2nd, 2019, DC premiered the trailer for those in attendance at CinemaCon. The following day, Warner Bros premiered the trailer on YouTube, where it received more than 2.1 million views in less than 12 hours (shown below).
Online, the trailer received mostly positive responses. Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy actor Karen Gillan tweeted, “OH MY GOD just saw the trailer for Joker and it is quite clearly one of my most anticipated films to see ever!!! THAT IS A BIT OF ME wowowowowow.” The post received more than 1,000 retweets and 8,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below, left). Writer Louis Virtel joked, “Just watched The Joker trailer. I hate origin stories but ‘Mediocre man wants to be funny’ is the realest villain explanation I’ve heard yet.” The tweeted received more than 1,000 retweets and 8,000 likes in 24 hours (shown below, center).
Some, however, were less enthusiastic. Writer Oliver Willis tweeted, “everything about this seems bad – we dont need to know joker’s back story – leans way too much into the clown thing – joker w/o batman is unnecessary – i guess its a 70s period piece because… reasons? feels like another step backwards for dc.” Within 24 hours, the tweet received more than 130 retweets and 795 likes (shown below, right).
That day, Twitter published a Moments page on the reaction to the trailer.
Additionally, that day, Redditor DemiFiendRSA posted the trailer in the /r/movies subreddit. The post received more than 47,000 points (91% upvoted) and 6,500 comments in less than 12 hours.
“Incel” Violence Claims
On September 18th, the U.S. Military send around an email warning its members about the risk of violence following screenings of the film. “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,” the email reads. “Incel extremists idolize violent individuals like the Aurora movie theater shooter. They also idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series.” The email goes on to tell military personnel to either “run, hide, or fight” in the event of a shooter.
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. 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. 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.
When entering theaters, identify two escape routes, remain aware of your surroundings, and remember the phrase “run, hide, fight.” Run if you can. If you’re stuck, hide (also referred to as “sheltering in place”), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.
** this is a condensed version of an HQ Army Materiel Command, G-3, Protection Division Security message **
The email lead to a controversy following various claims by journalists about the film and its titular character inciting violence and an incel uprising, reminiscent of the Gamers Rise Up and We Live In a Society memes which have grown in popularity over the recent years and became closely associated with the Joker. In reply to the controversy, on September 27th, the film premiere disinvited interview press and restricted the red carpet to photo-only.
On August 10th, 2019, verified Twitter user @mallory_andrews tweeted “Now cancel J*KER,” voluntarily censoring the name of the film, with the tweet gaining over 20 retweets and 300 likes in two months (shown below, left). On the same day, Twitter user @Mister_Batfleck made a post poking fun at the user’s decision to censor the name of the film, with the tweet gaining over 100 retweets and 680 likes in the same period (shown below, right).
In the following months, more posts in which Twitter users voluntarily censored the name of the film were posted online, with other users making fun of the self-imposed censorship (examples shown below).
On October 2nd, 2019, Twitter user @SophNar0747 posted a collection of Tweet screenshots in which the name of the film was censored, criticizing the users who tweeted them (shown below). The tweet received over 740 retweets and 3,400 likes in one day, with a repost to /r/KotakuInAction subreddit gaining over 1,000 upvotes in the same period.
In the weeks before the premiere of the film, multiple news sources reported that extra police officers will be stationed at cinemas showing the film in a number of cities across the US. On October 1st, 2019, Deadline reported that during Joker screenings in Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, undercover police officers will be present in the cinemas.
If something happens inside one of the screenings, we intend to be able to pacify the situation quickly and conclusively.
There are no specific or credible threats at this time and these events will continue to be closely monitored
In the following days, more news outlets reported on the expected undercover police at Joker screenings in the US, including articles by IGN, The Source and Business Insider.
Joker N-Word Countdown
On September 23rd, 2019, Twitter account @Joaquer (Joker N-Word Countdown), created by YouTuber cer spence, tweeted “11 days until I say it,” implying the intention to say a racial slur in the spirit of the Gamer Joker meme on the day of the Joker film premiere. In the following days, @Joaquer made daily tweets promising to say the word, counting down time until the day of the premiere, with tweets receiving a higher amount of likes and retweets every day. The tweet written by @Joaquer 24 hours in advance of the announced time gained over 24,000 retweets and 141,000 likes.
On October 3rd, 2019, @Joaker tweeted a compilation of personal messages from African-American Twitter users in which they granted him N-Word Passes.
On October 4th, 2019, @Joaquer tweeted a two-minute comedy sketch in which he attempted to say the word only to be stopped by YouTuber twomad (shown below). The video gained over 29,000 retweets and 87,700 likes in one day.
— Joaquer (@Joaquer) October 4, 2019
On October 5th, the account was allegedly hacked, with an unknown person tweeting the slur.
Man Removed From Times Square Showing
On October 4th, 2019, Twitter user Nathanael Hood tweeted a photograph of a man standing against a wall, claiming he had been escorted out of a Times Square movie theater in Manhattan for “spitting at people and clapping whenever Joker killed somebody” (shown below).
This is the guy who spent our entire screening of JOKER in NYC spitting at people and clapping whenever Joker killed somebody. Security escorted him out after a third of the audience fled the theater out of fear that he’d start hurting people. pic.twitter.com/vRmotvZxVV
— Nathanael Hood (@NateHood257) October 4, 2019
Shortly after, Hood tweeted a photo of another man, claiming he had “confronted the guy and deescalated the situation until security came” (shown below).
This is the guy who calmly confronted the guy and deescalated the situation until security came. Coming out everybody was shaking his hand and calling him a hero. I asked for his name and he said “V for Vegas.” Not all heroes wear capes, folks. pic.twitter.com/zSWPg2TH0k
— Nathanael Hood (@NateHood257) October 4, 2019
On September 7th, 2018, the @jokermovie Twitter account launched. Within seven months, the account received more than 28,000 followers. Additionally, the film’s Facebook page has more than 20,000 likes and followers.