Apparently, Ray Bradbury watched Bill O'Reilly and Fox News make idiots of themselves last year with their lawsuit against Al Franken and thought, "Hey, those guys are pretty smart! I should try something like that!" Secular Blasphemy reports:
Michael Moore stole the title to his fictuous documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" from author Ray Bradbury, who in 1953 wrote his dystopic scifi classic "Fahrenheit 451." So what does Ray Bradbury, now 84 years old, think about Moore using his book title for his Bush-bashing movie project?
The answer is, as journalists in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter found out when they called the author, that he is mighty pissed off. Here's my translation of the juicier bits of the interview.
"Michael Moore is a screwed asshole, that is what I think about that case. He stole my title and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission.
Have you spoken to him?
- He is a horrible human being. Horrible human!...
Do you disagree with his opinions...
-That has nothing to do with it. He copied my title, that is what happened....
Bradbury even emulates Fox's strategy of preemptively declaring Franken's book a failure (Franken's book, of course, became an immediate #1 bestseller after Fox's brief in the case called him "increasingly unfunny"):
- Who cares? Nobody will see his movie, it is almost dead already. Nevermind, nobody cares.
Look, I liked Ray Bradbury when I was a kid. But he was in the writing game before I was born -- surely he knows by now that you can't copyright a title, and he's never tried to register Fahrenheit 451 as a trademark.
Also, as a literate guy, he should know that parodying titles goes back at least as far as 1741, when Henry Fielding wrote Shamela in response to Samuel Richardson's Pamela. (And Moore, I'm sure, is a lot nicer to Bradbury than Fielding was to Richardson. Moore's title is really a homage to Bradbury -- it builds on the common cultural knowledge of Bradbury's book, the way creative works have built on people's knowledge of other creative works for centuries.)
I think Groucho Marx had the best response to this sort of thing when Warner Brothers, the studio that released Casablanca, objected to the fact that the Marx Brothers wanted to make a movie called A Night in Casablanca.
...I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on re-releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.
You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about "Warner Brothers"? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (This was originally "Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?" but this was spreading a dime pretty thin...
Oh, and by the way, I would have the same response if the political shoe were on the other foot. I will absolutely criticize Al Franken or Michael Moore if either one of them claims David Hardy has no right to call his forthcoming book Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.
(Incidentally, Modern Library will publish a new edition of Fahrenheit 451 in February, with an introduction by Dave Eggers. I think Ol' Ray's book is doing just fine.)