Proctor : July 2018
55 PROCTOR | July 2018 My defamation safety net Unless the dog reads this Many people think, because of this column’s low degree of factual content and lack of anything remotely resembling a point, that very little thought goes into its production – but this is in fact not true. I put a great deal of thought into the column, often as many as three thoughts, such as: Have I missed the deadline? What month is it? Where do I work again? I’m pretty sure it is an acronym... So you can see that I put a lot of thought into it, way more than I ever put into any of my law assignments (just ask my lecturers). That thought, of late, has included my dog, and whether or not he might sue me. If it seems improbable that a creature who is regularly surprised by the discovery of his own tail would sue me, think on this: recently, a monkey sued a photographer over a selfie. OK, so technically it was a group known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that did the suing, arguing that the monkey took the selfie and therefore owned the copyright to the photo. The case was unsuccessful, partly because the monkey in question had given exclusive rights to his story to Women’s Weekly and so refused to take the witness stand until the magazine was published, but still I worry. PETA may take up my dog’s cause, saying that I make fun of him regularly in my column and should pay $250,000 in damages, which they of course would administer for my dog until he gained maturity. Since that is unlikely to occur until the Earth has careened into the sun billions of years from now, it seems to me like PETA would be getting too much of a good deal. To avoid this, I will not make fun of my dog in this column, nor – in the interests of avoiding real law suits, will I make fun of any real people. I will make fun of people who do not actually exist. I have come to realise that there are many fictional people for whom I do not care, in the same way that I do not care for the New South Wales State of Origin team (I can mention the NSW Origin side because, let’s face it, their reputation could not get any worse – and based on their defence they do not appear to exist either). For example, on the rare occasions that I watch horror films, I end up kind of cheering for the monster, because the victims are sufficiently stupid that their demise could only improve humanity’s gene pool; case in point, the victims in Blair Witch Project. For younger readers, this was a movie about three kids who seek to make a documentary about a witch, and naturally disappear, their fate being revealed when the movie they were making is found. The angle taken to make things really scary was that the movie marketers pretended the story was actually true, and the movie the actual videotape that the missing kids made. This meant that the premise was cactus from the start, because videotapes in absolutely pristine condition, straight out of the packet, pretty much never worked (which is why you younger readers haven’t got a clue what they are; I would explain, but there are some things you are not meant to know). The idea that you could find one that had been in the wild for a year, roaming free with feral videotapes that lived in the woods, and that it would still work, is ludicrous. In any event, the people in the movie – who, I stress for legal reasons, are fictional people – wander off into the deep woods to track down a kid-murdering witch, and promptly get lost. They respond to that development by throwing away their map, which I feel was a poor choice and made me think that they deserved whatever they got. This was exacerbated1 by the fact that they had walked into the woods following a stream that flowed out of said woods; to get back they needed only to walk back downstream. Let’s face it, if the witch didn’t get these kids they would have killed themselves attempting to use toe clippers. Similarly, the film The Evil Dead inspired no empathy for the victims in myself or my friends when we watched it back in 1981. This was another film intended to be extremely scary (and ended up being marketed as a horror/ comedy, despite being neither amusing nor terror-inducing) but which failed to deliver. The plot involved – as such movies often do – less thought than this column and was roughly that a bunch of college friends decide to holiday in a house in the deep woods where the last holidaymakers mysteriously disappeared. That is a bit like inviting Norman Bates over to play Murder in the Dark – no good can possibly come of it, and people with better than a single-figure IQ would not do it. The kids of course all meet their demise, the last one at the hands of the never-seen chief monster in the forest. This monster was played – for sound dramatic reasons, being that the movie did not have a large budget – by a mini-bike with a camera mounted on the petrol tank, which was driven slowly through the trees and then the film was speeded up. In this way the scary effect of only ever seeing the point of view of the monster – and not the monster itself – achieved its dramatic purpose of saving a lot of money. Unfortunately, the position of the camera meant that every now and then you saw the handlebars of the bike and the gloved hand of the rider. Even as callow youths, we felt it unlikely that a monster brought to life by reciting ancient Egyptian spells had somehow obtained, and learned to ride, a Honda MR 50. Also, the only monster we knew that wore one glove was Michael Jackson, so suspension of disbelief became difficult. And don’t get me started on cartoon characters – they make me so mad I start sentences with conjunctions! So you can see, it is possible to go a whole column and make fun only of people who don’t exist, although I confess I am now waiting to be contacted by someone running a class action on behalf of the reality-challenged. For those who are concerned about my reference to Michael Jackson, I think that it wouldn’t be too hard to establish, in a court of law, that he wasn’t a real person either. My bet is that he was a robot which escaped from one of the Disneyland attractions. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2018. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor. Note 1 From the Latin, meaning ‘really annoying to me’.