LaBeouf versus Clowes

I’m a big fan of the comics and graphic novels of Daniel Clowes; have been for 20 years. (His compendium Lout Rampage is one of the funniest and possibly most profound works I’ve ever seen.) As a result of my Clowes-philia, I was interested in this story: Shia LaBeouf admits Daniel Clowes’ uncredited work was ‘inspiration’.

Actor Shia LaBeouf posted the short film he directed and screened at Cannes, “HowardCantour.com,” online Monday. The short stars Jim Gaffigan as a unhappy film critic who opts for a harsh critique of one of his heroes for reasons that are more personal than artistic.

Hours after the posting, comic book fans began noticing that the work bore a significant resemblance to Daniel Clowes’ 2007 piece “Justin M. Damiano.” Not only was it the same idea — unhappy film critic — LaBeouf’s film opened with a voice-over that is a word-for-word match with Clowes’ text…

You might recall LaBeouf as the waste of carbon that starred in such travesties as the Transformers movies and the last Indianna Jones (which I actually didn’t think was as bad as many people did.) He’s one of these actors Hollywood tries to convince you is a person of talent until it’s painfully apparent he is not. (Remember Josh Harnett?)

Not only did LaBeouf “borrow” Clowes work, he doesn’t really seem very apologetic. He’s tweeted:

10:42 p.m.: “In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation”

10:42 p.m.: “I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it.”

Right… what idiots people were assuming LaBeouf actually wrote the film.

I do consider, however, the following. LaBeouf is really of the first generation that grew up in a “content is free” culture. In this culture, if you want to own a song you go online and download it. If you want a picture of a cat for your web site, you find one and click ‘save as’. You happily create mash ups of other people’s work. That’s just how it’s done.

I’ve been thinking about this unavoidable evolution of the creative process and I want to write about it more here. My thoughts might surprise you.

Having said that, LaBeouf is clearly being a douche. I’d like to say I will now boycott his work but I probably wouldn’t have seen it anyway.

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