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‘‘My Community Is Completely Villainized’

'‘My Community Is Completely Villainized’


  • The People’s Joker
    , starring filmmaker Vera Drew, challenges gender norms with a unique take on the iconic character.
  • The film draws from Drew’s own struggles with mental health and gender identity, creating a personal and powerful narrative.
  • Despite initial setbacks,
    The People’s Joker
    has gained critical acclaim, boasting a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In her autobiographical coming-of-age movie, filmmaker Vera Drew opted to make herself the villain. And not just any villain, but DC’s iconic supervillain, the Joker. Directed, co-written (alongside Bri LeRose), edited, and starring Drew, The People’s Joker details its star’s mental health and gender identity struggles. The parody follows Joker the Harlequin (Drew), an aspiring clown grappling with her gender identity. She ventures from her town to make it in the world of comedy but finds herself at odds with a fascistic caped crusader.

The People's Joker

The People’s Joker (2024)


Release Date
April 5, 2024

Vera Drew

1hr 32min

Vera Drew , Bri LeRose

Open Road Films (II)

While it may seem like an odd pairing, Drew tells Variety that she related to Todd Phillips’ 2019 Joaquin Phoenix-led Joker.

“Warner Bros. made a Batman movie about class struggle, the mental health crisis, the fact that our city structures and government systems are completely failing,” she said.

She adds:

“I related to it as a trans woman. My family system failed me. My government is still failing me constantly, and for some reason, I still have to pay them taxes next month. I related to that core element of just wanting to make art and put myself out there. How can I do that in a system that is so rigidly gatekept and so much of it is just an arm of propaganda?”

The People’s Joker premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2022 but was pulled following just one screening due to copyright issues (the film is not affiliated with or endorsed by DC Comics). While it may have taken time, the film is now on a limited theater run and earning praise from critics. The film currently boasts an impressive 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Wired calls it “the best queer Batman parody you almost never saw.”

Why Vera Drew Opted to Play a Villain in Her Autobiographical Film

Vera Drew as the Joker in The People's Joker
Altered Innocence

For the film, Drew, a comedian and writer who has worked with Nathan Fielder, Tim Robinson, Sacha Baron Cohen, and others, draws from her own life experiences. She says that the choice to portray herself -in an autobiographical film – as a villain was questioned by some, even “well-intentioned allies.” However, playing the villain was essential to her artistic vision.

“It’s well-intentioned allies that I see who will say, ‘Why would you make the Joker a trans woman? Do you think that’s a good role model? How could you make a queer villain during a time like this, when we need stories put out there in a light that shows us positively?’ For me, it’s like I’m a villain. I am villainized and politicized and I’m turned into a symbol, just because of my identity. Some people think that just because I was assigned a gender at birth that doesn’t match me, and then embraced that, I’m somehow a political activist or a symbol of their oppression. To me, I could only make a movie about a queer villain at this point in my life, because I’m completely villainized and my community is completely villainized. So it was important to me to do that.”


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The People’s Joker stars Drew, Lynn Downey (Daisy Jones & The Six), and Nathan Faustyn (SADDLED), and introduces Kane Distler. It includes cameos from Tim Heidecker (Us), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Maria Bamford (Big Mouth), and Scott Aukerman (Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis). It is produced by Joey Lyons. Richie Doyle, Connor Hannon, and Riccardo Maddalosso executive produce.

The People’s Jokers
is playing in select theaters.

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