Why the Military Is Warning Troops About Movie Theater Shooters, Incels As ‘Joker’ Nears Release

Joker is officially slated for release on October 4, and fans of the iconic DC villain are already chomping at the bit. Joaquin Phoenix promises to bring his typical verve and flair as an actor to the role — no one can question his talent as an actor. However, that’s not what fans are worried about. 

Some would-be moviegoers are planning on avoiding the opening week of Joker. Their reason? Fear of domestic terrorism at the hands of disgruntled men — more specifically, incels. In fact, the military recently issued a warning to the troops about incels, and what to do in the case of an attack.

What are incels?

 Joaquin Phoenix in 'Joker'
Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker’ | Photo by Gotham/GC Images

Incel is a widely used term today. Short for involuntarily celibate, it refers to a group of men who gather largely online to discuss what they feel are the unfair conditions in society leading to their celibacy. Most often this manifests itself in diatribes against women. 

According to incels, women are any variety of negative things — shallow, gold diggers, ruthless and cruel, you name it and an incel probably believes it. Incels tend to believe that women are out to get them, and that they are entitled to sex with women. People like this who have “woken up” to the evils of women consider themselves “redpilled,” a term hailing from The Matrix

Incels have misdirected their anger, and instead of aiming to improve or better themselves, have typically found solace in fatalism and hopelessness. Some incels take this to the extreme, advocating violence against women. 

In May 2014, Elliot Rodgers launched an attack in San Bernadino, California. Rodgers lived a life of luxury as the son of a filmmaker. He described himself as the “ideal magnificent gentleman,” and was obsessed with the fact that he hadn’t yet had sex. After writing a manifesto, detailing how he was not at fault for the world that allegedly forced him to remain a virgin, he went on a shooting and stabbing spree. 

Rodgers believed himself to be in the right, and many incels have since idolized him for his actions against women. The 2018 Toronto van murderer, Alek Minassian, drove onto a crowded sidewalk and killed ten. He too was motivated by misogyny and saw Rodgers as an idol.

The military released a notice

Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

These attacks have motivated other incels into encouraging “mass rape” and acid attacks against women online. Many view the Joker’s character in the eponymous film as a reflection of incel ideologies and fear potential copycat attacks in the wake of the film’s premiere. 

As domestic terrorism enacted by men typically aligned with right-wing theories burgeons in the U.S., the military has released a notice to its troops ahead of Joker’s premiere. 

The email read, in part, “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.”

It went on to read, “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.”

Joaquin Phoenix left speechless

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Joker'
Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker’ | Courtesy of TIFF

Meanwhile, Joaquin Phoenix himself was left unable to answer a question posed to him about the impact Joker might have on incel behavior. 

During an interview with the Telegraph, Phoenix was posed a challenging question, “So when I put it to him – aren’t you worried that this film might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results? – his fight-or-flight response kicks in.”

Phoenix allegedly left the interview entirely. And when he came back, he never fully addressed the question anyway. It seems odd that Phoenix would not have suspected or considered this aspect to his character unless he lives in a news vacuum.