Journalist Sues American Hustle Makers For Defamation Because Crazy Character Misunderstood His Article

from the that's-just-crazy dept

Hey, remember that funny little trademark lawsuit brought by a software company against the Batman movie makers over fictional software that appeared in the film? Oh, I have one way better than that. Let me tell you about the lawsuit being brought by a journalist against the filmmakers behind American Hustle because a notably crazy character in the film totally portrayed said journalist’s article from the 70’s incorrectly.

Paul Brodeur, a real-life science journalist who has written for The New Yorker, is suing the team behind American Hustle for a reference made to him in the film. In the film, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) tells her husband, Irving (Christian Bale), that microwaves take “all of the nutrition out of our food.” When Irving calls the claim bullshit, Rosalyn responds, “It’s not bullshit. I read it in an article. Look, by Paul Brodeur.”

Brodeur’s complaint states, “Paul Brodeur has never written an article or ever declared in any way that a microwave oven ‘takes all the nutrition out of our food.’” Rather, it states, Brodreur has publicly denounced that claim, pointing to a 1978 interview with People Magazine.

And, as it turns out, Brodeur is actually correct about that part: he didn’t claim that microwaving food took all the nutrition out of it. He made claims about the resulting radiation exposure being a problem, but nothing about nutrition. Even in the book, he wrote about all the myriad dangers of microwave energy, be it from ovens or from US and Soviet soldiers beaming them into each other’s faces and stuff, but still there was no mention of nutrition. For this slight against his position, Brodeur is claiming libel, defamation, slander and false light, and would please like $1 million and the removal of his name from future prints of the film, mmkay?

Since he appears to have missed out on the character development in the movie, the character of Rosalyn is a complete damned whack-job who says innumerable crazy things. In other words, she’s portrayed in a manner that renders the viewer completely incapable of taking her seriously or in anyway thinking anything she claims or says is valid. She’s a manipulative sociopath. In other words, nobody watched this scene in this movie and immediately thought, “Ha, what a piece of shit Paul Brodeur is.”

That’s because the referenced article came out in the late 70’s, featuring a subject nobody really cares about any more, and…whatever this is dumb, and I don’t want to talk about all the reasons why. The point is, Brodeur wasn’t harmed by a crazy fictional character misstating his position in an article from a time when John Lennon was reigning king.

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Comments on “Journalist Sues American Hustle Makers For Defamation Because Crazy Character Misunderstood His Article”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Even though I think he’s wrong, every lawsuit that hits the motion picture industry is deserved.”

This sort of thinking only increases the destruction of the law as a force for good in society. If justice doesn’t apply to everybody, even to people and entities that we despise (rightly or wrongly), then there is no such thing as justice for anybody.

Chuck (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, he’s suing because his name is being used along with an inaccurate portrayal of what he wrote. It’d be like a movie set today having a stoner torrenting a movie and going “But Mike Masnick said copyright laws have no standing in D.C.!” when Mike has just been saying how D.C. has copyright law all wrong.
I don’t see how character development has anything to do with millions of people hearing that line. They didn’t have to use his name, and they misrepresented his articles. This is a bit hyperbolic, but you can’t just having “crazy people” walking around in movies stating things and saying since they’re crazy, anything goes. This might actually be more legal assuming you can pull the satire/parody defense.
I do wonder how this one plays out, because he seems to have a more solid case than LiLo, which was properly laughable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I am absolutely certain you think you wrote something profound. I am a little less certain (but only a little) that you are alone in that opinion.

I doubt that Mr Masnick would worry about your scenario and I’m pretty near certain he wouldn’t file a B.S. lawsuit over it.

If Mr Brodeur is harmed at all in this little fiasco, it will be by the Steisand effect – if any – that his silly lawsuit provoke. Although probably not, as it’s a boring, little lawsuit from someone who’s behavior strikes me as that of a boring, little person.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Off Topic: Point of order Mr. Speaker

Please pardon the digression, but did I miss a memo? Has everyone on the web forgotten the existence of the word “whose”, or did somebody decide it’s deprecated usage? Which of these do you think appears more correct in this instance:

someone who is behavior


someone whose behavior

I realize few people these days have a clue how to use apostrophes any more, but contractions are simple things. Just expand it when you see one, and the meaning will be clear. I usually don’t bother to Grammar Nazi (the web ain’t [sic] Shakespeare), but I have just enough OCD that after seeing this in multiple places over the course of months, it just bubbles over out of my control.

Ahh, I’m okay now. That’ll keep me for at least a few months. Back to the show. Sorry for the interruption.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Suing the character is a great idea. He could get “Law and Order” involved and have the trial in “Night Court”. If he prevailed, he would be movin’ on up to that deluxe apartment next to “The Jeffersons”. Based on his actions, it sounds like this is what he is envisioning.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, this logic doesn’t work because the only factor that even makes your perspective possibly work is that the person being referenced is still alive.

Characters in movies (and people in real life) misquote, misunderstand, and misrepresent the views of published journalists, writers, psychologists, scientists, etc. all the time and nobody screams that such instances call for lawsuits and money paid to their estates or descendants. Politicians in real life misrepresent scientists all the time when they’re trying to push an agenda.

Why is this scenario special and deserving of a lawsuit more than any other?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“No, he’s suing because his name is being used along with an inaccurate portrayal of what he wrote.”

Nonsense. Context is everything. The whole point is that the claim was being made by a character that is inherently and obviously untrustworthy. No reasonable person would take the claim as reflective of reality.

“It’d be like a movie set today having a stoner torrenting a movie and going “But Mike Masnick said copyright laws have no standing in D.C.!” when Mike has just been saying how D.C. has copyright law all wrong.”

I agree, it would be like that. I don’t see the problem with that, either. In both cases, the what the character is saying is obviously not the Word of Authority.

psiu says:

at the same time

Why oh why, did the movie makers name an actual person and an actual article he wrote (if misinterpreted) from 40 years back?

Would it have been so hard to have her say, “here, look at this article, it says microwaves take the nutrition out!” ?

Also, agree with first commenter — if anyone deserves this sort of thing, these turkeys do.

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