Friday, November 5, 2010

More "South Park" rip-offs? Captain Hindsight and Excellent Man

A few weeks ago, South Park ran an episode in which they parodied the film "Inception." Apparently, in the course of doing research for that parody, they came across some other parodies on the internet, and, well, swiped from one of them:
When Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone could not find a movie theater showing “Inception,” and were unable to get a DVD screener of the film (or find a watchable version on BitTorrent), they turned to other parodies of that film on the Web, and found the CollegeHumor video.

“We thought their joke was that a lot of those lines were actually in the movie,” Mr. Stone said, “and they were banging them against each other, and showing that the ‘Inception’ characters didn’t even know ‘Inception.’ That was a mistake, and it was an honest mistake.”
Emphasis added.

"South Park's" creators have since apologized:
The creators of “South Park,” the animated Comedy Central series, apologized on Friday to the creators of a Web comedy video satirizing the summer blockbuster “Inception,” following a recent episode of “South Park” that shared numerous similarities with the Web video, called “Inception Characters Don’t Understand Inception.”
So what we have established is that the creators of "South Park," which is possibly the best, most consistently funny and incisive show on television (it's certainly maintained the highest level of quality of any program that has run more than ten seasons), at least occasionally turn to the internet when researching their television programs.

Skip ahead a week: "South Park" runs an episode called "Coon 2: Hindsight," in which there appears a character called "Captain Hindsight." His super power is that he can see what should have been done, after a disaster has occurred. "You should have built fire escapes on the second floor," that kind of stuff. It's funny.

It was also the subject of a short video that was posted on YouTube back in September 2007:

Hmm. (See how thoughtful I'm being about this?)

I found that video because I was looking for images of Captain Hindsight. The reason for that is because I was going to write a jokey post about how "South Park" ripped off me and Chris Gortz, creators of "The Exaggerator." Because "South Park" did rip us off.

In the episode of "South Park," Captain Hindsight is blackmailed because of photos taken which depict himself and someone he thinks is Courtney Love in compromising positions. This is kinda-sorta what happens in our "Exaggerator" episode 2, in which Excellent Man becomes concerned when photos are taken showing himself and the millionaire socialite super hero Parisite in a compromising position. The video is here, if you're interested:

Yeah, it hasn't even cracked 100 views yet. I doubt that the creators of "South Park" are aware of my existence, and probably know nothing of Excellent Man or the Exaggerator. But I was going to point out that our Excellent Man's costume resembles South Park's Captain Hindsight:

Excellent Man.

Captain Hindsight.

As you can see, they're both superheroes with yellow tights and red capes, and dark hair. Clearly, the design for Captain Hindsight was swiped from Excellent Man. And, Excellent Man is a member of the Extreme League, and one of the members of South Park's "Coon and Friends" wants to change the name of their group to "Extreme Avengers League," or something like that.

Clearly, the South Park creators ripped us off.

That was going to be the jokey tone of my jokey post. But, after having seen the "Captain Hindsight" video, it occurs to me that perhaps the South Park creators have are maybe trolling low-view-count videos for material. Hence, Captain Hindsight, blackmail photos with undesirable women, etc.

Probably not. The South Park creators are genuinely creative people, and South Park is a great show. They don't need to be trolling for material in that way. Except:
they turned to other parodies of that film on the Web

So I guess now I don't know, do I? Maybe South Park did rip me off. Probably they didn't, but maybe. Who knows? One thing I do know for certain:

The silence of the South Park creators, in this instance, speaks volumes! Why are they refusing to comment on this issue???

Anyway, speaking of actual internet thievery, check this out: A writer posted an article on her own website, and that article was swiped and published -- without her knowledge -- in a magazine. When said writer contacted the editor of that magazine in an attempt to correct the injustice, she received the following in reply:
"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"
Did you know that the web is considered "public domain"? Did you know that when someone steals something from that "public domain" they should be happy about it, because it's increasing their exposure?

Click over and read the whole article, if you want an example of an actual verifiable internet-related injustice.

But back to the alleged and inconsequential violation of my own work: I note, without further comment (because I'm not entirely certain as to how to comment), the greatest English-language novel of all time, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, features some passages (probably) taken from other works and rearranged.
Scholar Graham Petrie closely analyzed the alleged passages in 1970; he observed that while more recent commentators now agree that Sterne "rearranged what he took to make it more humorous, or more sentimental, or more rhythmical," none of them "seems to have wondered whether Sterne had any further, more purely artistic, purpose." Studying a passage in Volume V, chapter 3, Petrie observes: "such passage... reveals that Sterne's copying was far more from purely mechanical, and that his rearrangements go far beyond what would be necessary for merely stylistic ends."
Shakespeare swiped from people all the time, too.


A.Jaye said...

The first thing people say to me when I tell them I'm a writer is "make sure you copyright your work". Sometime, if I'm in that kind of mood I ask them if they drive. If the answer is yes I tell them to "remember to lock your car."

Accept your losses, compile as hit list, choose your battles, avoid Pyrrhic Victories and read Shakespeare. I'm also happy to say I've never watched an episode of South Park in my life.

Anonymous said...

The syndicated comic strip "Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!" beat both to the punch. Captain Hindsight made his debut in that strip back in 2006.