Monday, June 4, 2007

She so litigious!


Seriously, I don't know what else to say. I thought Rebecca Eckler couldn't go any lower. I was totally wrong. She is suing the makers of the movie Knocked Up (disclosure: I haven't seen it, and don't plan on it, just because I can't buy the premise that Kathrine Heigl hooks up with that total slob for a one night stand. No effing way.) So, while I loathe Eckler, I'm not crazy about the movie (Judd Apatow's previous work notwithstanding) and am not about to take the side of the movie developers just because.

But honestly? She's suing them because she feels they stole from her novel of the same name. Some of the reasons she lists, other than the title, are that in both her book and the movie, the woman who gets pregnant by accident feels out of place at a party with booze, that she seeks advice/support from a person close to her who has children, and that the fiance is Canadian and Jewish.

Well, not to trivialize Eckler's experience, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and state that pretty much every pregnant woman has gone to some sort of event and felt out of place because she couldn't drink like she could before. I think it is as much a part of pregnancy as morning sickness or back pain. And I know that if I was pregnant, especially if it wasn't planned,I wouldn't go to my childless friends for support and advice. Oh no, I'd be calling my friends with rugrats faster than you can say 'pre-natal classes'. So far, my theoretical pregnancy mirrors Eckler's too. Crap! I'd better duck in case of copyright infringement! As for the fiance being Canadian and Jewish (because that combination never occurs anywhere but in Eckler's book so it must be stolen from her) I can only say that Canada is kinda close to the US, and Apatow has worked with some lovely Canadians, so it is completely believable that he came up with this on his own.

There are other claims she makes, and while some I can't speak to, some just make me laugh. Like that the title is the same. Yes, because the slang 'knocked up' is never used to describe pregnancy in this day and age, especially when the pregnancy is from a one night stand. And while I don't have a degree in graphic art and design, I'm thinking that punching up the words by putting them in different colours is on page one of the design school handbook. The fact that a pacifier and a martini glass were used in both? Quick, think of two items that are each easily recognizable to everyone, no matter the language spoken, the age, or culture of the audience, as a signifier (yeah, I'm getting all semiotical on ya) for the different stages of life being represented in the work, one for pregnancy/having a baby, and the other for the free and easy single life. I'm guessing most of you came up with the pacifier for baby, and if you didn't come up with the martini glass, you picked something to symbolize booze. Coming up with those two ain't rocket surgery. Or uncommon.

Now I should note here that I'm not saying Eckler plagiarized them, or that she shouldn't be pissed. In fact, I can empathize with her. There is nothing fun about working your butt off on something, only to find out that someone else had the same idea and is getting more play. My fourth year project was a brilliant study of Canadian culture and the intrisic link to the donut shop. People thought we were crazy, and there hadn't been anything (that we could find) done on the subject before. But then, around the same time we were finishing up, some grad students did something so similar you'd almost swear they cribbed off of our research, and they got lots of press about it. I was annoyed, and hated explaining that 'no, we came up with the idea on our own and did the work ourselves and didn't copy them thanks very much' to everyone. But I never thought of suing. I just figured it was such a good idea that other people had it too. It sucks, but you move on.

Besides, I think that creative works are all plagiarized in one way or another. Are there really any new stories to tell? Probably not. Most stories have been told, one way or another. So when you tell yours, it isn't so much about the newness of the tale, but about the execution. Make yours interesting and well told, and you've done wonderfully and people will love it, no matter how many times they've heard the "kid from the wrong side of the tracks makes good and wins the girl" narrative. Make it trite and so transparent that one only has to read the first page to know exactly what will happen, pretty much page by page, and you've done terribly and will make people throw your book across the room in frustration. Emily Giffin, I'm looking in your direction here.

Oh, and finally, if two people can independently invent the telephone, why is it so hard to believe that two people could almost simultaneously develop a humourous look at being pregnant?

Just chill, Rebecca.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced Eckler is just doing this to boost her book sales - she doesn't have a chance of winning the case.

And I believe the character in the movie is Jewish and Canadian because the actor playing him is both Jewish and Canadian, and Apatow is known for drawing on the real-life experiences of his actors. Also, there's a pretty big difference between getting knocked up by your FIANCE (who I believe is quite wealthy) and being knocked up on a drunken one-night stand by a unemployed loser.