The Joker we never expected will have to remain unseen. According to That Shelf, a movie called The People’s Joker, which screened earlier today at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program, had the rest of its screenings canceled because of a “rights issue” with Warner Bros. The film, co-written and directed by Vera Drew, is a satire of comic book movies about “an aspiring clown grappling with her gender identity” who “combats a fascistic caped crusader.” Okay, then. The problem is that The People’s Joker uses the names Batman and The Joker, which belong to Warner Bros. Discovery. While Drew has yet to comment directly, she retweeted this, which includes a screenshot of the apology email TIFF sent to ticket holders:
Holy shit the illegal joker movie was just hit with a cease and desist from WB after playing its premiere showing at a film festival
Reminder that corporate copyright infringement is extremely funny and good especially when you use it to communicate the deeply personal https://t.co/jY9xL0l5zq
— Samperson (Crime Arc) (@SamNChiet) September 14, 2022
Yeah, copyright infringement is a laugh riot. But I don’t think this is a case of a filmmaker bursting at the seams to express herself. I think Drew knew this would happen and used it to generate publicity for her weirdo movie by making herself look like the victim. She could easily have named the characters in her film something other than “Batman” and “The Joker,” just like Hot Shots didn’t name Topper Harley “Maverick” and Austin Powers didn’t call its spy parody lead “James Bond.” Instead, she stole characters to whom someone else owns the rights, and she’s got idiots like one of the guys retweeted up there thinking “the man” is taking something away from her. The film is even billed at TIFF as “an illegal comic book movie about a transgender clown named Joker;” she knew exactly what she was doing. I can’t imagine who’d want to see this movie (well, I guess I can imagine), but now that it’s taboo, it’ll be talked about a lot more than it would have been – and her name will be out there as a dangerous, punk rock filmmaker.
Do you think The People’s Joker was a publicity stunt or an honest attempt to appropriate someone else’s characters? Would you ever watch this thing? Are the defenders of the movie (and I’m sure there are lots of them) already citing the alternate-timeline Joker from Flashpoint as proof that the Clown Prince of Crime has always been transgender? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned to Geeks + Gamers for stories on some comic book movies you might actually get to see!