The People’s Joker and ownership of myth
First published in Overland | May, 2023
“You would have to be absolutely batty to miss this rare chance to be among the few people in the world to see this movie!” proclaimed the promo for a secret screening of ‘An Untitled and Perfectly Legal Coming-of-Age Parody Film‘.
Directed by Vera Drew, ‘Untitled and Perfectly Legal’ is the autobiographical story of a young trans woman navigating the aggressively male world of alternative comedy during her transition. It’s often very funny — early jokes accompany praise of successful male comedians with “before the unpleasantness” — but it’s also emotional, at times heartbreaking. Vera’s deadname is bleeped out each time it’s spoken, and her relationships with her mother and boyfriend are rollercoaster rides that are all sharp turns.
Made during Covid, the film is visually like nothing else. Drew called on her collaborators in TV comedy to enlist animators from around the world, each adding their own sequences to the live action, creating a mash-up of a dozen different styles on screen. It feels like someone is riffling a zine in front of your eyes. Purples and greens bleed like battery acid.
But there’s something else noteworthy about ‘Untitled and Perfectly Legal’, and it is hinted at in the dedication to ‘Mom’ and ‘Joel Schumacher’. The film is actually entitled The People’s Joker, and is an unauthorised Batman parody.
At least, the filmmaker is quite sure it’s a parody, and should therefore be covered under the doctrine of fair use.
Warner Brothers’ lawyers, unfortunately, disagree.
Read the full essay at Overland.