Army warns soldiers about copycat shootings at 'Joker' screenings

The U.S. military issued a warning to service members about potential threats surrounding next week's theatrical release of Todd Phillips’s Joker. The news comes as some critics have called out the R-rated film for its realistic violence and humanizing portrayal of the Batman villain, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who commits acts of mass murder.

Christopher Grey, Chief of Public Affairs/Media for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, confirmed the accuracy of the memorandum but noted they are not aware of "a specific" threat.

"I can confirm that the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command field office at Fort Sill, Oklahoma did send out a memorandum on this subject to a select internal group at Fort Sill on Monday," he told Yahoo Entertainment on Thursday. "The internal law enforcement information was obtained from the Joint Crime Information Center, Texas Department of Public Safety. The Fort Sill CID office did so out of an abundance of caution to help keep our soldiers and their families safe. At this point, we are not aware of any information indicating a specific, credible threat to a particular location or venue."

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Gizmodo obtained the memorandum that was circulated by the military about "incel" extremists wanting to replicate the 2012 Aurora, Colo. mass shooting when a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

"Incels are individuals who express frustration from perceived disadvantages to starting intimate relationships. Incel extremists idolize violent individuals like the Aurora movie theater shooter," the document read. "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,'" it continued. "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."

Grey confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment the FBI first alerted the Army to potential threats. While FBI officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment, an FBI spokesperson told Gizmodo, "While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is in touch with our law enforcement and private sector partners about the online posts. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to law enforcement."

The news comes days after families of Aurora victims voiced concerns over Joker.

"My worry is that one person who may be out there — and who knows if it is just one — who is on the edge, who is wanting to be a mass shooter, may be encouraged by this movie. And that terrifies me," Sandy Phillips (no relation to Joker director Todd Phillips) told The Hollywood Reporter. Sandy, whose 24-year-old daughter was murdered in the theater seven years ago, said the movie is "like a slap in the face."

In a letter to Warner Bros., five family members encouraged the studio to donate to gun-victim charities. The studio issued a response this week:

"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."

Phillips and Phoenix have both pushed back on criticism that the film is dangerous.

"We didn’t make the movie to push buttons," Phillips told The Wrap, adding, "I’m surprised… Isn’t it good to have these discussions? Isn’t it good to have these discussions about these movies, about viole

nce? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?"

Phillips said that "outrage is a commodity."

"I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while," he continued. "What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me."

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