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December 17, 2013

Shia LaBeouf Apologizes For Elements Of Plagiarizing Daniel Clowes' Comic For A Short Film

You can go several places on-line -- here's one! -- to track the twitter barrage via which the actor and occasional comics-maker Shia LaBeouf apologized for taking material from Daniel Clowes' comic "Justin M. Damiano" to service his extremely similar short film "" A posting of the film -- which was shown at Cannes in 2012 and was directed by the actor -- led to people quickly picking up on similarities including wholesale lifting of lines from Clowes' 2005 comic, a reasonably obscure work for the cartoonist that was published in 2007 in an anthology The Book Of Other and most recently re-appeared as part of The Daniel Clowes Reader. The film was subsequently taken down.

This will be played out in Internet court all day, and in comics Internet court for maybe the next three, where I imagine that you're going to see the actor get credit for the straightforward embrace of culpability, but also get slammed for the stuff where he crouches in the gray area between "copy" and "inspiration" as his answer to the perceived question of "what were you thinking there exactly?"

It will also be pointed out -- and it should -- that LaBeouf grew up in that industry and has enough movie experience in all sorts of different roles making them that this kind of thing should be super-clear by now. He's also a comics fan that knows and purports to respect comics.

I have to admit, I kind of thought that this might be the approach pursued. I'm certainly open to the possibility that this is a case that involves the actor just not registering this was a bad thing until it was pointed out to him, as opposed to someone slyly trying to sneak something by folks: a mutant creature of a bizarre moral orientation, self-indulgence, denial, celebrity entitlement, our world of easy borrowing and comics' traditional role as fodder for other media, often uncredited. No matter how you get there, it still sucks. That guy fucked up.

I also feel badly for Daniel Clowes, one of the great cartoonists, who I imagine in no way wanted to deal with this avalanche of bullshit, some rocks from which will likely hit him on top of his head just for having been involved. One of the awful things about plagiarism is that the person being plagiarized is suddenly attending a party against their will, a pain in the ass above and beyond then having to secure credit for your work as it stands opposed to someone else's appropriation of that work or however one chooses to react. No one wants to spend a few days before Christmas like that. I'm sure Dan has things he would much rather be doing.

No positive outcome absolves the negative circumstance that precedes it, but if you haven't read the comic, The Daniel Clowes Reader was a very strong book of its type, maybe the best I've ever read. You could do worse than to buy a copy for anyone in your circle of friends that expresses interest in this goofy story or that liked the movie (the only reader review of which I read had praise for a funny line: one direct from Clowes).

Weirdly, as reader John Boren pointed out to me on twitter -- whether his original observation or not, I could not tell you -- LaBeouf's apology seems very close in wording and tone to a response in this Internet thread on the bad/good artists steal/copy quote.

Update: Mr. Boren has tweeted the observation about LaBeouf's apology originated with this person.
posted 1:55 am PST | Permalink

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