After a year filled with dramatic subway filming, peeing incidents, and polarizing early buzz, Joker is finally being released into theaters this weekend. But along with the mixed reviews have come fears about the film inspiring violence, mostly based off of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting which happened during a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. As a result, the NYPD (as they did following the 2012 incident) is reportedly deploying plainclothes officers to Joker screenings at movie theaters around the city.
Deadline reports that the NYPD’s Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison told officers this week that the department plans to visibly station cops at theaters showing Joker. In addition, they report "a significant undercover detachment will also be deployed to make sure nothing untoward occurs inside cinemas in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island."
“This is 360-degree policing approach to ensure safety for ticket buyers in their seats, as well as on the streets,” a law enforcement official told them. “If something happens inside one of the screenings, we intend to be able to pacify the situation quickly and conclusively." This level of scrutiny has apparently extended to critics screening of the film early this week as well.
Asked for confirmation on the Deadline story, the NYPD provided Gothamist with the following statement: "There are no specific or credible threats at this time and these events will continue to be closely monitored. Any additional personnel will be deployed as needed. Members of the public are encouraged to help police in the shared responsibility of public safety. If you see something, say something by calling 911."
Marlow Stern of The Daily Beast reported on the Joker panic, after early reviews like the one from The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg, who argued that the film was “deeply disturbing and, I fear, could incite real-world problems.” Marlow argues that the irresponsible media discourse surrounding Joker has led to this increased police presence.
The notion that Joker could inspire a real-world shooter is not only downright Trumpian, but has little basis in scientific fact. Psychologists have been studying the link between violent media and real-world violence for decades, and the results have been inconclusive. In a June 2017 memo, however, the American Psychological Association (APA) cautioned media outlets against claiming that violent media influences real-world criminal acts.
While reviews have been polarized to say the least, the film has still picked up considerable Oscar buzz, especially for star Joaquin Phoenix. Along with that has come reports of his intensity on set, including some tension between Robert De Niro and Phoenix. This all culminated last night with Jimmy Kimmel showing an outtake from film in which Phoenix berated someone for “constant whispering” and comparing him to "Cher" (which, as he rightly points out, should be a compliment).
“That was supposed to be private, I’m sorry you guys [the audience] had to see that," Phoenix said at the end of the clip, which for all we know was staged, given Phoenix's history of cinéma vérité pranks. “I should probably publicly apologize to Larry. I am sorry, but he did whisper constantly while we’re trying to work, and sometimes it’s really hard to find the emotion you’re after… he shouldn’t have done it."