Real life tragedies affecting film releases isn’t a new phenomenon. There was a period after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 where films shot in New York City before the World Trade Center went down had to go back and edit scenes out or use digital trickery if even a glimpse of the Twin Towers appeared in a shot. And, more recently, upcoming comedy The Watch had its title changed and one of its trailers pulled after content in the ad too closely echoed the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. People don’t like to be reminded of horrible things when they’re trying to go out for a night of entertainment. So, it comes as no surprise that in the wake of the theater shooting that took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, some films are going to be making adjustments to their content and marketing efforts in order to not inappropriately echo the tragedy that took place.
So far the studio that’s most immediately affected is Warner Bros. Not only did they have millions of dollars worth of violence-filled TV ads for The Dark Knight Rises pulled from the airwaves over the weekend, but they also cancelled several special screenings where the stars of the film were scheduled to make personal appearances. And another of their upcoming releases, the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad, is making it necessary for them to make even more adjustments.
Due to a scene in the film’s trailer where several men with machine guns open fire on a movie audience from behind the screen, not only has the studio had to pull the ad out of theaters and take it offline, but they’re also opting to remove the scene from the finished film entirely. And seeing as the theater shooting is a crucial moment in the movie that wouldn’t make any sense to just excise, that means they’re going to have to go back and do some re-writing and re-shooting before its September 7 release.
This, of course, raises questions of what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to self-censorship. Certainly it’s in good taste for Warner Bros. to not release a movie that includes a scene of people getting murdered in a theater so soon after something so awful really happened in a highly publicized way, but should other studios start following suit? Which bits of onscreen violence will closely resemble this shooting enough to be deemed offensive and which won’t? How much time needs to pass before studios stop worrying about echoing a real-life incident? And seeing as people doing horrible, violent things to each other has been an unavoidable fact of life since the very beginning of human history, is there really any appropriate way to wade through these murky waters at all? [Variety]