WASHINGTON — The Army has sent out warnings to service members who plan to attend showings of the new film “Joker” to be alert to the dangers of mass shootings during the show.
In a Sept. 18 email, the Army urged service members to maintain situational awareness and “identify two escape routes” when entering theaters, Army officials confirmed to TMN on Wednesday.
In the event of a shooting, they were instructed to “run, hide, fight,” the memo said.
Of concern to the Army and other service branches are threats posted on social media, and investigated by the FBI, about the possible targeting of an unknown movie theater or theaters for violence during the “Joker” film.
The film is scheduled for release on Oct. 4 and stars Joaquin Phoenix as the demented criminal. The film depicts the rise of the sociopath villain the Joker, who first appeared in the Batman comic book narrative. The character has appeared, and been portrayed, by various actors in different Batman movies but was never the star focus of a film.
The film has already met with protests and concerns, particularly among families of those killed in mass shootings, according to news reports.
“Run if you can,” the Army notice said. “If you’re stuck, hide (also known as ‘sheltering in place’), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.”
Army officials told reporters they acted after receiving the warnings from the FBI. The possible threat is pointed toward unspecified individuals who loosely align as “incels,” an online subgroup of self-professed “involuntary celibate” men.
Among the violence often attributed to incels are the 2012 killings of 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater showing a newly released Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” by a gunman whom many people referred to as “the Joker” because of his brightly dyed red hair; the slaying of of six individuals near the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014, and attacks in Toronto in May, 2018.
In the alert emailed to service members, the Army noted that incels “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 bullies.”
Some relatives and friends of the Aurora mass shooting wrote an open letter to Warner Bros. on Monday expressing concerns about the new movie and asking the studio to support gun reform in the U.S. In a statement issued in response, Warner Bros. said “gun violence in our society is a critical issue” and added that its parent company has called on “policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic.”
“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.”