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The Baddest Mod On The Planet
(See, that’s a pun…)
I just got fitted for a tuxedo for my friend Jimmy’s wedding. What’s always funny about tuxedo fittings, since I’ve done it a bunch of times now (thanks, guys, for all the weddings), is that I have stupidly large feet for my height. Go ahead and make your jokes; they’re not true. But, I’m only 5’ 4”, and I wear a size twelve shoe. Every time the over-perfumed, under employed, gum snapping, bad shoe wearing, Jersey accent spitting dame asks me what size my shoes are, I say twelve and I get this look as if I am mistaken in my own shoe size. Then, the broad will bring out an eleven, an eleven and a half, and a twelve and say something like, “Try these too, just to make sure.” It’s a wonderful little shoe dance we play. It’s like kabuki theatre except with tuxedo shoes, rented clothes, and adult contemporary rock music playing at a reasonable volume in the store. Kabuki is so much cooler than renting a tuxedo.
Speaking of theatre, there’s a dumb movie that is happening soon. And before you jump on me about hating on this movie, keep in mind that I don’t generally watch a lot of comedy. I am a curmudgeonly asshole, after all. Gotta keep up appearances. But yes, to all of those who liked the first one, “The Hangover 2” is coming out on Memorial Day weekend. What a way to memorialize the deeds of the brave men and women of this country and their efforts then by going to see “The Hangover 2.” Before you ask, no, I didn’t like the first one, but I understand that people do. This isn’t a referendum on the state of comedy film. (A quick aside, my friend Steve made a great observation once that said something like, “Isn’t it odd that in the 80s horror movies were rated R and comedies were PG-13? Now, it’s the other way around.” An interesting thought.) We all know that the great “Iron” Mike Tyson was in the first movie in a scene that even I’ll admit was pretty awesome. After all, he is The Baddest Man On The Planet. I’m a big Tyson fan, though. Call me, Mike! Part of the advertising for the new film features the nerdy guy with the glasses (whose name I’m not really interested in looking up) getting a similar facial tattoo to Iron Mike. That’s pretty funny. What’s not funny is what is happening because of the parody tattoo.
The artist that modified Tyson’s face is trying to sue the filmmakers, stopping the set date of release. The artist, whose name I’m having trouble finding (man, it’s a lazy day), claims that the only authorized version of the famous face tattoo is the one on Mike Tyson, and any other reproduction of it is piracy. Let’s talk about it in our Lightning Round segment! Wait. I don’t have a Lightning Round segment. Boo me.
The first thing that came to mind when I read this was parody and its protected rights. Parody is protected as designed by our founding fathers. Say it with me: Founding Fathers. What a great alliteration. Anyway, our nation’s fathers designed parody to be protected to avail the people of the nation the opportunity to criticize or ridicule ironically in a free speech commentary that which is happening socially or politically around them. It’s a wise law in that we are free to point at something and say, ‘You know what; this is kind of dumb,’ or, ‘I don’t agree and here’s my example using what the other guy said.’ See also, sketch comedy shows such as Mr. Show, Kids In The Hall, and of course, Saturday Night Live. Clearly the use of the modification in “The Hangover 2” is a parody of something very socially familiar. In a way, it is also a parody of “The Hangover” itself, as the inclusion of Iron Mike in the first movie was beautiful in its absurdity. Arguing that the use of Tyson’s facial tattoo in the second movie as a parody seems pretty clear and difficult to argue.
That ought to be the end of it, I think, but I have another 900 words to fill, so we’ll continue. If I am reading this tattoo artist correctly, the tattoo on Mike Tyson’s face is the artist’s protected property. So does that mean that every paparazzi photo and every sports magazine article and every public appearance that Mike has done is subject to owing S. Victor Whitmill (I found his name. Yay me.) money for reproducing the image? That seems unreasonable. If that isn’t so, if the publishers of Sports Illustrated don’t owe Whitmill money for putting Mike’s mug on the cover, then why do the filmmakers of “The Hangover 2?” Tattoos are a slippery slope, I imagine. It’s a public art. It’s a shared art. It’s an art form that we freely exhibit with no fee to strangers and curious onlookers. And I am sure that any person looking at a dame’s lower back tattoo has enough sense to know that the broad wearing it didn’t tattoo it herself. Unless she’s in Cirque du Soleil. See, ‘cause she’d be really flexible. But the art itself may have been drawn by the wearer. So does that mean the image is the wearer’s property and the tattoo itself is the tattoo artist’s property? Does the lower back have a say? And what are we paying for when we buy a tattoo? Are we paying for the service of tattooing, or are we paying for the rights of the image? When we dine out, our fee is for the food and the service, but the food becomes our property, right? So when we are modified, are we not paying for the service, the ink, and the right to exhibit the art? If every artist wants to be paid every time his art is publicly displayed, why doesn’t every tattoo have a little ® or ™ next to it?
So the man wants to be paid. I guess, as an American, I can’t fault him too much for that. It does seem a little absurd to stop a multimillion dollar endeavor that is on a schedule and employing hundreds of people just to get a little green in the palm. And I am not going to accept that this guy (S. Victor Whitmill) is carrying some sort of artistic torch for the rights of all people creating art. Yeah, the tattoo on Mike Tyson’s face is cool and Whitmill’s own creation, but seriously, dude; did it take you fifteen minutes to do it? It’s not a Michelangelo, bro. Yes, it’s recognizable, and when Iron Mike had it done it was an attention grabbing and social commentary attracting event. But as so far removed as we are from the tattoo actually having been done, Mike Tyson has become less of ‘the guy with the face tattoo’ and more so ‘the former fighter.’ Tyson is bigger than your tattoo, Mr. Whitmill. Sorry to break it to you. Being a boxing fan, the tattoo on Mike Tyson’s face is the least interesting thing about Mike Tyson. The first thing that comes to mind when someone says Mike Tyson to me is 19-0 to start his career with a dozen of those wins by first round knockout. It’s a career of 50-6 with 44 knockouts. And it’s even the image of Mike looking for his mouthpiece after James “Buster” Douglas put the unbeatable Iron Mike Tyson on the mat and took his belts (after Tyson started 37-0 overall). The tattoo isn’t anywhere on that list, Mr. Whitmill. Sorry.
I guess that last bit kind of got a little angry. Everyone wants his piece, I guess. Everyone wants his due for his work, and I’ll never fault anyone for that. But didn’t S. Victor Whitmill get his due when he took Mike Tyson’s payment for the tattoo? Much like Tyson’s pigeon obsession (yeah, like I wasn’t going to mention that), doesn’t an artist set his creation free when it walks out of the shop? The concession of never seeing your work again as a tattoo artist is that the art lives forever. It’s not a painting that will fall apart, a sculpture that will erode, a meal that will be eaten (and pooped!), or a poem that will get lost in the dark recesses of a dusty library shelf. Of course, I’m not a tattoo artist, and I’m sure that the perspective of one could be different. If you are one, let me know what you think.
So what did we learn today, kids? I have a size twelve foot and I don’t watch comedies. I’ll try to put more effort in next week’s rant, but hey; this shit is free, right? Stay beautiful, kids.
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