Friday, July 15, 2005

Olsen Twins Target "Anorexia" T-Shirt

Reason No. 3,988,644,300 why celebrities need to get over the "Image" and look at the "Self."

Olsen Twins Target "Anorexia" T-Shirt - September 22, 2004

Okay, so you and your company don't like the fact that someone got the idea to make a profit off a your eating disorder. Fair enough. But, well, get over yourself. It's all part of being a public person. You're a celebrity who's entire career rides on nothing more than target marketing (find me an adult who considers the Olsen Twins Oscar-worthy and I'll eat a Tickle-Me-Elmo), paparrazi exposure, and the teenage girls who still believe you're role models of stability based on that marketing and exposure.

Sure, it would suck to have my image on a T-Shirt without permission. But a trademark violation? Have the Olsen Twins - human beings - fallen so far from reality that they exist only as a logo embroidered on their trendy line of clothing? Were they ever anything more?

When I was a broadcaster, I didn't like the fact that old ladies used to lecture me about not giving their 3rd-string grandson more coverage in my sports broadcasts. I didn't like being out and about in San Luis Obispo, on a date or with friends, and having some drunk Baby-Boomer start asking me for commentary on the Dodgers woes. Being even a minor local celebrity for my 15 minutes made life difficult.

But I didn't have publicists leaking information about my eating disorder to the Hollywood press in an effort to boost viability and/or slumping product sales. I never had to hire "handlers" behind the scenes trying to silence critics of mine - if someone was nice enough to offer an unsolicited piece of advice, I'd politely listen and move on. But, then again, neither myself or the entire San Luis Obispo Press Corps made enough money combined to afford such "necessities."

I pity the Olsen Twins. I'm sorry that they grew up as mere shadows of human beings, caught up in one giant marketing campaign after another. That's sad. They never got the opportunity to be real, honest-to-God human beings. Even as college students at NYU, questions have been raised in that college's local press as to whether or not they're real college students or just playing students for their next product launch.

A whole generation of girls grew up with them, thinking, Wow! Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have it all - money, fame, cute clothes and boyfriends. Sadly, these girls now have to face the fact that, as adults, the Olsen Twins have nothing more to offer than a Registered, lisensed, trademark, high-priced human billboards who exist simply in the vacuum of Fame.


Anonymous said...

It certainly isn't an issue of trademark, and if they are coming at it from that angle then yes, they do need to get over themselves.

That said, there are other issues with the T-shirt. A slander approach may work better (depending on the content of the message on the shirt - I have yet to see it so this is just conjecture).

The real issue is profit. It does cross a legal boundary to make money off someone else's image or likeness without permission to do so, be they a public person or not. Those rules extend to all of us. If the T-shirts are free, that's one story. But it's another story altogether if the manufacturer is copying them.

It's similar to what we do blogging. If I charged an access fee to LB, it would be technically illegal for me to post any of the pictures I do, and their subsequent (usually sarcastically derogatory) commentary, if I were making money off the traffic they generate. As it is, because I make no money off the use of those photos, I can get away with it under a sort of 'fair use' argument. Think also of movies; you can make copies of movies if you like, but you cannot sell those copies or charge a fee for others to watch them. Hence the Warning at the start of all films you rent. This is not the copyright issue I'm referring to; that applies to widespread distribution, which although in some respects is similar, falls into a different category.

It's a tricky area of the law, but were the Olsen's to approach it from a standpoint of unpermissioned use of their likeness to make a profit, they would have a much more viable case, and would probably win. As it stands, the trademark approach will probably result in an out-of-court settlement of some sort (as Hollywoodish cases tend to do).

The ZenFo Pro said...

You make a very interesting and valid point, G.

The for-profit use of the likeness makes it questionably legal. Even though the company making the shirts could attempt an artistic/intellectual property and parody defense (There is no specific linkage to Mary-Kate Olsen other than a first name and a caricature; it would be interesting to see how Dualstar's attorneys would try to make the connection) they probably wouldn't win under California Civil Code. Since the "right of publicity" is not necessarily a universal right in the States and is mostly a state court issue. If the IP had been based out of Florida, for example, there would be no such protection. (Florida laws offer no such protection in terms of identity and extremely limited rights to privacy.)

But the fact that these two girls have been legally branded into this bizarre, Dualstar product and the trademark issue makes it more wicked.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Wicked is the word for it.

Anonymous said...

Argh!!! The bizarre Olsen Beast has struck again!

It does come down to the for-profit thing I guess.

I actually ordered one of these Ts a while ago and got their "Starve Wars" Tee instead because they quit making them. Now I know why.

A lot of the Feministas around Vegas (I know, strange to have feminists in the home of Legalized Prostitution, LOL)make their own iron-on patches mocking PARis Hilton and the Olsens and Lindasy Lohan for marketing eating disorders, accidentally or not, to get headlines. OMG,it makes me want to puke sometimes ... no pun intended.

Rock on...
(Mexicana/Lupe's other roommate)

PS - Thanks for helping set up my Laptop. You're awesome! I didn't know librarians could do that...

Anonymous said...

Oh...confessions of a confused mind..just got nipples pierced...sorry

The groups make tees to protest the using eating disorders as a publicity campaign...

That makes me want to puke.


The ZenFo Pro said...

I saw the "Starve Wars" tee on the retail site linked from the blogspot site. Why is the Save Mary-Kate shirt a big deal? They didn't seem to have a problem with a shirt making fun of both girls for being too thin. And why isn't Oprah suing them? Or Topher Grace from the 70s Show?



The ZenFo Pro said...

Wait. Did I see something about "nipples" being pierced?

I'm kind of slow. Don't have that excuse.

And, oh, you're very welcome :)

Stacy said...

(Blush!) both nips peirced...Its Lupe's fault. Se got her eyebrow peirced too while we were waiting for Megan's snake tat to get fixed... Don't think I like it, though.

BTW, I heard you had a ton of piercing back in the day...are librarians allowed to do that? LOL