Aurora shooting parents tell Warner Bros to 'put your money where your mouth is' over 'Joker'

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker (Credit: Warner Bros)
Joaquin Phoenix as Joker (Credit: Warner Bros)

The parents of one of the victims of the Aurora mass shooting has told Warner Bros to 'put its money where its mouth is' when it comes to combatting gun violence.

24-year-old Jessica Ghawi was among the 12 people who were killed and 70 who were injured when lone gunman James Holmes opened fire at the Century 16 cinema in Colorado in 2012.

The shooting happened during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, and though early reporting suggested Holmes was inspired by the Joker character from the previous Batman movie, this was later debunked.

Now her parents Sandy and Lonnie Phillips have signed a letter, penned by the Guns Down America group, addressed to Ann Sarnoff, the new Warner Bros CEO, around its new Joker movie.

“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” the letter reads (via THR).

Read more: Warner Bros responds to Joker violence controversy

It also asked that AT&T, the telecoms company that owns the major studio, stop donating funds to politicians who also accept money from the National Rifle Association.

Instead, it wants them to make those same donations to gun violence victims groups.

It follows a statement released earlier this week by the studio, following criticisms over gun violence in new movie Joker, in which it said it has a 'long history of donating to victims of gun violence, including Aurora'.

The studio also stressed that the character of the Joker, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is not seen as heroic in the movie.

FILE - In this July 23, 2012, file photo, James Holmes, who was convicted of killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 more in a shooting spree in a crowded theatre in 2012, sits in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. In a new book and an interview with The Associated Press, psychiatrist William H. Reid, who spent hours talking with Holmes, says what led Holmes to open fire was a vortex of his mental illness, his personality and his circumstances, along with other, unknown factors. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File)
James Holmes, who was convicted of killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 more in a shooting spree in a crowded theatre in 2012 (Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)

But the Phillips family said in response: “In its statement, Warner Bros. highlighted its past support for the survivors of gun violence and its rhetorical public call on lawmakers in Congress to pass stronger gun reform laws.

“Let us be clear: Asking for change is a good first step, but it’s nowhere near enough. Warner Bros. and its parent company must put its money where its mouth is and announce that it will no longer provide political donations to candidates and lawmakers who stand in the way of gun reform.”

The movie has become the centre of the debate into violence in movies, since another group of Aurora victim's families signed a letter to the studio also calling for it to show 'social responsibility' in its movies with regards to violence.

It then emerged that the re-opened cinema in Aurora where the shooting happened would not be showing the film.

Read more: Todd Phillips expresses anger over Joker double standard

In the meantime, two cinema chains in the US have now said they are banning the wearing of masks or costumes for Joker screenings, while the US military took the unusual step of issuing a memo to servicemen and women saying they should be aware of potential mass shootings.

A safety notice, issued after a spike in social media posts relating to 'incel extremism' ('incel' being the shorthand for those who describe themselves as 'involuntary celibate'), said that they should 'identify escape routes', and 'run if you can'.

It added: “If you’re stuck, hide (also known as ‘sheltering in place’), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.”

Director Todd Phillips has expressed his anger that the movie has come under such scrutiny, criticising the lack of similar outrage over movies like the violent John Wick series.

Joker lands in the UK on October 4.

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