Writing the first Shame Day of 2014 is a difficult position to be in. The topic must be the source of some terrible wrongdoing, but must also have committed that wrongdoing in a way that truly incenses us as decent human beings. All that being said, let me present today’s subject, Mr. Shia Saide LaBeouf.
Now rest assured, dear readers, I have reasons for targeting the former child star and lead in Disney’s Even Stevens and repopularizer of the word “no.” Believe me, I wouldn’t willingly put myself through having to check and recheck that I’m spelling his surname correctly otherwise. To begin with, midway through December of last year he released a short film titled Howard Cantour.com.
The film follows the titular Cantour, an internet film critic, and received a pretty hefty amount of critical acclaim. Not only that, but it starred my number one favourite stand-up comedian who almost exclusively jokes about food, Jim Gaffigan. It was also a near shot-for-shot adaptation of the comic Justin M. Damiano, by Daniel Clowes.
But look, sometimes it appears that people garner inspiration from other works all the time, like CBS’s upcoming Intelligence and its similarities to a novel by webcomicker K. B. Spangler. What would be nice is if we knew for ourselves just how alike the two pieces of work are. Luckily, Wired’s Graeme McMillan is here to help us out with that:
How closely does the film, which appeared at several film festivals, hew to the comic? Well, both open with exactly the same monologue from their eponymous leads: “A critic is a warrior, and each of us on the battlefield have the means to glorify or demolish (whether a film, a career, or an entire philosophy) by influencing perception in ways that if heartfelt and truthful, can have far-reaching repercussions.”
Both stories then switch to a scene wherein the titular critic discusses a film with a freelance critic he dislikes, who asks whether he’s attending a junket where the director will be present. In Clowes’, the freelance critic explains that the director “so perfectly gets how we’re really all like these aliens who can never have any meaningful contact with each other because we’re all so caught up in our own little self-made realities, you know?” In LaBeouf’s short, she says the director “so perfectly gets how we’re all like these aliens to one another, who never have any meaningful contact with one another because we’re all so caught up in our little self-made realities, you know?”
Oh, and Clowes was [and it pains me to use this word] obviously never credited anywhere in the film.
If you know anything about how I feel about either Bob Kane or Avicii you know that people not crediting others for their work is something I have absolutely no respect for. In general, this alone would’ve been enough to give LaBeouf the CWR Mark of Shame, but no, he does everything he can to truly deserve the award.
See, the guy heads over to Twitter to apologize. In most cases that would be the best possible course of action, except that . . . oh man, it’s just salt in the wound . . . except that it appears his apologies are also not his original work. Here’s one of the tweets:
Oh, and the question being answered? “Why did Picasso say ‘good artists copy but great artists steal’?”
Bleeding Cool has a whole list of his apology tweets with their internet sources beneath them. One of these plagiarized tweets is even a straight-up apology for plagiarizing tweets.
I’m not even going to go to the levels of pretension he attained with his skywritten apology to Clowes. What I want to do is, if all of that still hasn’t convinced you what a bad person he is, present to you the email conversation LaBeouf had with Rich Johnston, writer and creator of Bleeding Cool.
At this point I’m not even going to bother delving into how many of the lines in his emails are not his own, because the answer is a lot. Below is one of their final exchanges, chosen because it’s just about as classless as the rest of it, and because it all but begs for a particular gif to be used:
JOHNSTON:Is the repurposing of other people’s apologies for your own on Twitter art… or laziness? Is it an attempt to create, or is it simple dickishness? Can it be both? Is there an inherent hypocrisy in apologising for reproducing someone’s work without their permission on film, by reproducing other people’s work without their permission on social media? Is it all part of a wider plan, a wider statement, a wider artistic endeavour, or is an attempt to wind people up? Or is it both?
I never asked to be paid
And never profited off anyone’s back
acting is Plagiarism
We tell you we’re gonna lie to you
To bring this all back to the real victim here [no, it’s not us, though at this point we’ve witnessed so much of what a single tool can do we could be expert mechanics], according to his publisher Clowes is currently “exploring his legal options.” Buzzfeed also did some legitimate reporting and got the following quote from the man himself:
“The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf. I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”
So let’s all remember Daniel Clowes and empathize with the feeling of having your own work co-opted for some else’s gain, and then having that same person give you the apology equivalent of a middle finger.
Then let’s all think about running Shia LaBeouf over with an Ultra Lounge-o-matic Superchair.