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The People’s Joker is a Surprisingly Moving DC Parody and Queer Origin Story

After long copyright battles, Vera Drew’s wacky autobiographical take on The Joker is finally out in theatres.

by Noémie Attia

What if the Batman supervillains were queer? What if that was the reason for their exclusion from society? In The People’s Joker, now finally getting an official release after grappling with the ins and outs of fair use laws, writer and comedian Vera Drew appropriates the DC Comics universe to recount her coming of age and coming out story.

Drew imagines herself as ‘Joker,’ an alter ego living in a fantasy world that parodies the iconic superheroes’ home city. After growing up in Smallville with a depressed mother and absent father, Joker decides to pursue her dreams of becoming a comedian in Gotham City. But not everything goes as she hoped. 

In Gotham City, the UCB (United Clown Bureau) has a monopoly on comedy. Joker first tries to conform by joining UCB, then forms her own anti-comedy show with her friend Penguin and other Batman villain misfits. While many already saw the villains from the DC movies as queercoded, they now become actual queer characters with their own struggles and idiosyncrasies, helping Joker in her transition. 



Drew shot the film in a few days on green screen backdrops where live action, 2D and 3D animation, and even puppets cohabitate. Although this DIY device doesn’t always land, it embodies the “hazy blackout,” in Joker’s words, that is life as a closeted trans woman who also wants to make it as an artist in the big city. 

The People’s Joker is the kind of film that’s so bad it almost becomes a masterpiece. It’s a true transploitation movie flourishing with ideas worth discovering. Between the visual madness, the big picture metaphor, the big pharma conspiracy, and the Batman spoof, the film embraces its own chaos, transforming it into pure emotion. The musical end sequence might even make you tear up a little. 

The People’s Joker plays in select theatres across North America, starting on April 12 and 13 at Toronto’s Fox Theatre and April 16 at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver — MORE INFO