"Incel" Violence Targeting 'Joker' Screenings a Possibility, Warns U.S. Military

No specific threat has been identified
"Incel" Violence Targeting 'Joker' Screenings a Possibility, Warns U.S. Military
The U.S. military has issued a memo regarding the incel movement's connection to the release of Todd Phillips's Joker next month. Though no specific threat has been identified, the army nonetheless is preparing its troops for an event like the theatre shooting in 2012 Aurora, CO, that resulted in 12 people being killed at a screening of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Night Rises.

In materials that have been circulated to members of the U.S. Army, personnel have been warned of the incel movement and their idolization of characters like the Joker, and even the Aurora shooter. Here's an excerpt from the circulated email:

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.


Earlier this week, the families of the Aurora shooting victims pleaded with Phillips to address the issues surrounding gun control in the U.S., fearing that film could inspire another shooting. Phillips responded by diverting attention to another violent film series, John Wick

Warner Bros. responded to the families' concerns with a statement denying their endorsement of the Joker character's behaviour in the film:

Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero. 

Last week in an interview with The Telegraph, Joaquin Phoenix walked out when asked about the film's potential to inspire violence. He eventually returned to the interview, but never responded to the question.