Number four lawsuit target in all of Kazakhstan; or, Kazakhs Gone Wild

It was bound to happen, wasn’t it? From CNN:

Two fraternity boys want to make lawsuit against “Borat” over their drunken appearance in the hit movie. . . . The lawsuit claims that in October 2005, a production crew took the students to a bar to drink and “loosen up” before participating in what they were told would be a documentary to be shown outside of the United States. . . . After a bout of heavy drinking, the plaintiffs signed a release form they were told “had something to do with reliability issues with being in the RV,” Taillieu said. The film “made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community,” the lawsuit said.

In a lot of ways, this story echoes the complaints made about that other cultural icon, Girls Gone Wild. It’s widely known that that dubious company makes its products by paying minor compensation to inebriated women in exchange for permission to photograph them in various states of undress. The process is highly manipulative and coercive. It was examined in a very critical Los Angeles Times piece, which dwelt on the low age of the women, the alcohol consumption prior to signing a release form, and the subsequent embarrassment of the participants, many of whom did not believe that their image would be used in particular ways. The process has led to a number of lawsuits, which seem awfully similar to the Borat suit. As the LA Times story notes:

It seems like Francis spends a lot of money on lawyers. I guess that comes with the territory of filming strangers who take off their clothes. More than a dozen women have sued him, alleging that his company used images of them exposing their bodies on “Girls Gone Wild” videos, box covers and infomercials without their permission. Only a few have convinced the courts that they were unwitting victims. For the most part, judges and juries have sided with Francis’ 1st Amendment argument that the plaintiffs’ images were captured in public places and that the company was free to use them as it pleased, particularly in light of the fact that the women had signed waivers.

It is said that Borat is brilliant social satire; and we can take judicial notice of the fact that Girls Gone Wild is merely exploitative trashiness. Still, isn’t there an underlying similarity between the allegations, the likely defense, and the concerns at issue?

If we’re opposed to a media producer who plies young women with alcohol in order to exploit their images for prurient purposes, shouldn’t we have the same concerns about a media producer who plies young men with alcohol in order to exploit their images in satire?

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1 Response

  1. Very nice! says:

    While viewing the film, it seemed to me like they were playing up their stupidity for the camera. For instance, they repeatedly referred to Borat as Russian. I doubt the producers told them Borat was Russian. Calling a Kazakhstanian a Russian, for ironic comic effect, requires a basic understanding of geography and world history. Upon hearing that they knew they’d be placed in an RV that would pick up a hitchhiker, they had to know their role was to play hicks.

    They just didn’t realize how big of a role they were playing. This is a shameful attempt to renegotiate the consideration of their contracts, and the courts should toss it out because courts don’t get into adequacy of consideration issues. Either there is consideration or their ain’t. They know full well the alcohol was part of the consideration, and if they drank it before they signed the waivers, then the contract existed prior to the waivers being signed. Thankfully, the modification was in writing.

    Dismissed with prejudice.