Joker director Todd Phillips says he's surprised by the backlash to the upcoming movie—and he thinks some of its detractors were just waiting for a target. Some critics have warned that the film glorifies "angry loners" and could inspire mass shooters, with Stephanie Zacherek at Time saying Joaquin Phoenix's Joker could "easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels," reports NBC. Relatives of Aurora mass shooting victims have written to Warner Bros. with their concerns. Phillips say the criticism has been "eye-opening." "I think it's because outrage is a commodity, I think it's something that has been a commodity for a while," he tells the Wrap. "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."
Phillips says they didn't make the movie, which gives the Joker a sympathetic backstory, to "push buttons" or glorify violence. "Isn't it good to have these discussions?" he asks. "Isn't it good to have these discussions about these movies, about violence? Why is that a bad thing if the movie does lead to a discourse about it?" He says that at one point during filming, he told Phoenix: "Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film." Forbes movie reviewer Scott Mendelson has also criticized the criticism, tweeting that "the thing most likely to inspire copycat violence" after the movie's Oct. 4 release is "the constant media chattering about whether the release of Joker will inspire copycat violence." (Read more Todd Phillips stories.)