Joaquin Phoenix's Joker Sparks New Backlash for Using Song by Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter
Gary Glitter is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence
The Todd Phillips-directed film uses Glitter’s 1972 stadium anthem “Rock and Roll Part II” to underscore one of the movie’s biggest scenes, in which Phoenix’s character dances down a large set of stairs.
Some online critics believe this means Glitter will be earning royalty money on the film’s DVD and soundtrack sales — in addition to what Warner Bros. paid initially for using the song.
PEOPLE has reached out to the studio for comment.
Joker already broke October box office records this weekend by earning an estimated $93.5 million at the domestic box office, and made $234 million internationally.
“Whatever my mixed feelings about Joker, director Todd Phillips using a track by child abuser Gary Glitter over a key scene — in a film that uses child abuse as a plot device no less — is absolute bull—-,” said writer Simon Ragoonanan, on Twitter. “Gary Glitter gets royalties for Joker. They’re literally paying a pedophile to use his music in a movie about the consequences of child abuse.”
“The inclusion of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll, Part II’ is (by far) the most morally irresponsible thing about Joker, despite the cacophony around the film,” added author Darren Mooney. “Most of the film is teenage provocation. The decision to pay a pedophile royalties is indefensible.”
Glitter is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence after being found guilty in 2015 for one count of attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one count of having sex with a girl under the age of 13.
The 75-year-old British glam rocker (né Paul Gadd), who had denied all charges, had a long history of sex offenses.
In November 1997, Gadd was arrested after child pornography was found on his laptop; he was sentenced to four months in prison in 1999 and was listed as a sex offender in the United Kingdom.
In 2000, Gadd fled to Spain and then to Cuba and Cambodia. He was deported from Cambodia in 2003, however, over other alleged sex offenses. His next stop was Vietnam, where he was arrested in 2005 following accusations of “obscene acts with a child” made by two girls aged under 18.
One of the rape charges was dropped, though he did admit that an 11-year-old had slept in his bed. He was forced to give compensatory payments to the girls’ families.
Not long after, in March 2006, Gadd was tried on more charges of obscene acts, this time with two girls aged 10 and 11. Found guilty, he was imprisoned for three years. As part of his sentence, he was deported back to Britain from Vietnam upon his early release in August 2008.
Glitter’s current sentence is stemming from a 2012 arrest, after police uncovered new evidence of sexual abuse committed by Glitter in the 1970s.
Joker stirred up a fair amount of controversy before opening. In September, family members of those killed in the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 sent Warner Bros. a letter about their concerns.
“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” the letter reportedly reads.
Though the group doesn’t propose pulling the movie’s release, it does reportedly ask the studio behind the film to “use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.”
Phoenix has meanwhile defended the film.
“For most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong,” he said at a press conference for Joker in September, according to IGN. “And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to. People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”
Warner Bros. has also released a statement, according to Indiewire. “Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” it read. “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.”
Joker is now playing in theaters.