October 28, 2007

"She had signed an agreement allowing her to appear in the movie, but she claims that she did not realise how much she would be ridiculed..."

Another in the long line of lawsuits I hope will fail.
Cathy Martin, an Alabama etiquette expert, agreed to let [Sacha Baron Cohen, AKA Borat] film a dinner sequence at her home...
In case you missed it the last time someone sued Cohen, here's the contract. Right up front, it says:
It is understood that the Producer hopes to reach a young adult audience by using entertaining content and formats.
Everyone wants to be in the movies, but somehow they fail to think about why anyone would want to see them in a movie.


rhhardin said...

Probably the lawsuit itself is her way of saying that enough is enough.

She doesn't need the court to say enough is enough ; she has already said it.

George said...


Is that what the contract at Slate says she got paid?

You agree to let a guy and his crew into your home to film you, and all you want is...$200?

Ann Althouse said...

I bet she'd have paid him $200 to get in the movie. People want attention and fame. She had nothing that would have brought her money for appearing on camera. Cohen did. He made a lot of money, and she sees an opportunity to get some of it. He did kind of make the money off her, and she wants her cut.

Ralph said...

She may not have realized how potty youth comedy now is. Part of being square is not knowing just how square you are.

I wouldn't appear in a movie for less than Brad Pitt wages--Geek, know thyself, and cringe.

Jennifer said...

I didn't even think she came off that badly. I think you're right that she just wants a cut of the ginormous profits he's making off with.

Why don't the people who feel this way have a case? Borat's team withheld a lot of information before asking these people to sign. If you enter into a contract with someone, are you not obligated to inform them of information that any reasonable person would need to make an informed decision? That's not a rhetorical question. I'm really curious.

Zeb Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rsb said...

she's just another jerk. some etiquette this freak has. indicative of hypocrites everywhere. this dingbat signed a contract. she makes me sick. thanks for the napkin.

Mark Daniels said...

You have a good point, Ann. People who sign off on appearing in films like 'Borat' may, at some level, deserve the ridicule they incur. Legally, this person probably hasn't a leg to stand on and I suppose that her suit can be filed under "frivolous."

But I always cringe when I see or hear people being portrayed as foolish simpletons. (Even when they appear to be actual foolish simpletons.)

This cringing isn't confined to real people. I get embarrassed also for fictional characters. Often, when I'm watching a sitcom or a movie and I sense that a character is about to be embarrassed or held up to scorn, I have to walk out of the room. (This doesn't include characters like the fruit-and-vegetable stand owner in 'Amelie,' for example, who was cruel to his employee. He "deserved" the treatment Amelie gave to him.) Generally speaking though, I don't like watching when people are hurt only because of their pomposity or quirkiness. It just doesn't seem fair.

It seems to me that when filmmakers or TV talk show hosts embarrass real-life folks, they hold themselves in a place of superiority to the objects of their ridicule. That's a dicey position for any of us to take, since we all have our quirks, oddities, pretensions, and petty pomposity.

This is why I've never been able to bring myself to watch 'Borat.' Or 'The Daily Show.' Or 'Colbert.'

I hope that the woman's lawsuit is tossed out.

I wish that she hadn't found being in a movie so tempting.

And I guess I wish I weren't so sensitive about such things.

But I really wish that satire was only turned on the savage, the cruel, and the unjust, not on ordinary folks whose dinner parties represent no threat to anyone's safety, health, or well-being.

Such people may be personally annoying. But I can be annoying myself. And I guess I'm willing to cut people who annoy me a break. I hope they'll do the same for me.

Mark Daniels

Jennifer said...

But, your assumption that she "wanted to be in a movie" is predicated on her knowing she would be in a movie. I'm under the impression that the Borat team told people they were making a small time documentary about the people of Kazhakstan.

I know I personally might consider helping out a small budget crew making a documentary about their homeland. I would run as fast and far as possible away from a Hollywood movie crew, on the other hand. Of course, I would recognize Cohen. And now I know not to ever participate in anything being filmed. lol

Ann Althouse said...

Jennifer, read the contract: "Participant acknowledges that in entering into [this agreement], the Participant is not relying on any promises or statements by anyone about the nature of the Film or the identity of any other Participant or persons involved in the flim."

Jennifer said...

Ok. As a non-lawyer, I don't think I would have read that as "Take heed: we're all lying to you about everything". Of course, now I know to. So, thanks for that, Cathy Martin.

Brian said...

Methinks Miss Althouse does not get it, despite her brilliant exposition of 1st year contract law.

The distinguishing feature of Sasha Cohan is not his comedy - he's not too funny or creative - but his cruelty. And it's a disgusting thing, morally, to make money off cruelty, whatever the legalities.

See this late 2006 New Yorker article "Borat": The Memo, by George Sanders:


Zeb Quinn said...

I say the first paragraph doesn't at all make it clear that she'll be ridiculed and be made a fool. That's not a fair construction of that clause at all. Even so, it's paragraph 4 that seriously limits any cause of action she may have, particularly subs (d), (e), and (n).

halojones-fan said...

You people complaining about this are all fools. She signed a contract. That's it. She signed a contract. That's it. SHE SIGNED A CONTRACT. THAT'S IT.

She signed a contract.

That's IT. End of discussion. End of complaints, end of objections, end of discussion. She signed a contract, and therefore nothing that happens to her is anyone's fault but her own. If they didn't explain the full extent of their plans prior to her signing, well, that's just her own damn fault for not performing due diligence. You knew I was a snake when you picked me up, didn't you? Or, at least, she should have proceeded under the entirely reasonable game-theory assumption that anyone she meets might be a snake.

Thorley Winston said...

Why don't the people who feel this way have a case? Borat's team withheld a lot of information before asking these people to sign. If you enter into a contract with someone, are you not obligated to inform them of information that any reasonable person would need to make an informed decision? That's not a rhetorical question. I'm really curious.

It depends on the laws of the relevant jurisdiction are but generally no, there isn’t a duty to disclose information. However there’s a difference between not volunteering information and misleading someone by giving them information that you know or should know would mislead a reasonable person.

Depending on what the case law is in New York (assuming the jurisdiction clause is enforceable) or Alabama (where the plaintiff resides and the alleged wrong occurred), it’s possible that a court may decide not to enforce the waiver of liability if the Plaintiff can show that she was mislead into thinking that a “documentary-style film” (which is what the contract says they were filming) would be, well something like a documentary.

Contrary to what some may believe, it’s not an automatic that if you sign an agreement saying that you’re not relying on any promises made by the other party that a court will ignore evidence of fraud in the inducement. If the Defendant really did use fraud (and again, I don’t know what the case law is in the State where the case would be tried) to get her to sign, that might be enough to void the contract and open them up for liability.

I wouldn’t make any predictions on whether she would prevail if the lawsuit went to trial but she might be able to survive the defendant’s motion for summary judgment (which only requires that there be some issue of fact for the court such as what she was told to induce her to sign the contract) and if she can do that, it significantly increases her chances of getting a quiet settlement unless the defendants really want to risk going to trial, possibly losing and facing suits.