Forgive me, readers for I’ve sinned. And it’s not my first time. I haven’t posted in a long time. I got a bit lost in competition deadlines and the frustrating efforts to write compelling loglines and synopses and researching what kinds of real life celebrity-related information can/can’t be used in fiction. I’ll get to it in a bit. Again, I apologize for my absence and I’ll try not to be a repeat offender.
Writers Being Sued by Celebrities: Scarlett Johansson Sues French Writer
How long can you go during a day without mentioning a famous person’s name? Or something they were involved in? Without referring to a favorite song or a musician?
It’s only natural conversational flow to mention the name of someone popular that you admire/dislike/respect. So it’s again natural when you mention celebrity names in your stories, given that it’s relevant.
It makes the jokes funnier, too. Some of my favorite lines from TV shows include references or topics about famous works.
Love this line form Friends, from TV show Friends:
Joey: Why do you call him Gandalf?
Ross: Gandalf, the Wizard.
(Joey stares at him blankly)
Ross: Hello, didn’t you read Lord of the Rings in high school?
Joey: No, I had sex in high school. (Season 4, Episode 9)
Omit all the celebrity mentions from the sitcom Will and Grace, and you’ll likely remain with 4 seasons instead of 8. Hell, some celebrities are so comfortable in their own skin, they play a funnier, more exaggerated versions of themselves in films and series. The Kevin Bacon episode of Will and Grace is one of my favorites:
Will: I loved you in Footloose.
Kevin Bacon: You saw that? (Season 5, Episode 2)
With Supernatural, I wouldn’t know where to start. Their banter often includes rockers and sometimes actors. Surely if Mel Gibson can handle the “He’s possessed. Think about it,” joke, it’s no big deal?
I mean no one is suing Ricky Gervais for his Golden Globes jokes, right? Or wait- maybe they don’t want to risk it because Gervais might be richer than the plaintiff?
I have book examples too, but hey I’m scared of mentioning them here. What if those actors want to pull a Scarlett Johansson and sue the authors?
In case you haven’t heard, French author Gregoire Delacourt got sued by Johansson because he described his character as looking like Scarlett. Scarlett is pissed because he didn’t ask her permission first. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know there was a celebrity phone line where I could reach any celebrity of my choice and ask whether or not I could use their name in a certain fictional context.
Freaked out, I did a lot of research and found out it basically comes down to your luck, and the personality of the celebrity whose name you dropped. I’d think comparing a character’s beauty to a living person would get you a basket of muffins, if anything. Definitely not a lawsuit. You live, you learn.
So I decided to try my chance with Gerard Butler. I tweeted him, asking if he would be OK if I were to mention his name in my novel. I even managed to squeeze in my greetings and the context in 140 characters. He hasn’t gotten back to me. Yes, I really tweeted Butler. And no, I wasn’t expecting a tweet back. With all the attention from fans and his busy life, where on earth would he find the time to read my tweet and tweet me back? But from what I saw in his overall reaction to his fans and his attitude in interviews, he is a sweet guy who probably wouldn’t try to take me to court if my book got published.
How did I mention him? A famous, gorgeous actress (fictional) is assumed to have dated a lot of hot men, including Gerard Butler.
It’s not fair or logical to expect actors to lead their lives according to our expectations. We can protest all we want, but in the end, if we tried to protest every actor/celebrity for every behavior we don’t approve of, we’d be left with only a handful of actors and movies.
That said, it’s hard not to be taken aback when a celebrity goes and does something like this. And frankly, I can live without Johansson’s movies. And she doesn’t need me as a fan.
Worry not on my behalf. I never have and never will mention her in any of my stories. But I do have a movie blog where I – drum roll- review movies. Will she try to sue bloggers too? Should I take those posts down? Or as long as it is not a book, and it is real life, we’re fine?
So my dear readers and fellow writers, think twice before writing about a celebrity in your stories. And if you do have a way you use to reach celebrities to ask for their permission, do share.:)