Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are not suing South Park
The prince and princess would have an extremely weak case if they tried to sue the show, a lawyer told IndieWire.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry may not be big fans of the latest “South Park” episode, but they’re probably better off avoiding legal action.
“If they’ve been infringed, they can sue,” Bryan Sullivan, a media and entertainment attorney at Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae in Los Angeles, told IndieWire. But they wouldn’t have much of a chance to win. “There is no remedy for insult.”
The latest episode of “South Park,” “The Worldwide Privacy Tour,” which aired Feb. 15, focuses on the fictional “Prince of Canada” and his wife, who move to the show’s titular home after the country’s queen dies. Colorado town to avoid media attention.
The characters are clearly modeled after Markle and Harry; the episode showcases the former prince’s memoir ‘Spare’, as well as other projects released by the royal couple since their high-profile 2020 UK debut ‘Megxit’. In a Feb. 16 email to the press promoting the episode, the third-party PR agency contracted with Paramount’s Comedy Central referred to the episode as “Harry and Meghan-inspired” in the subject line. The same PR person had sent a similar email two days earlier – minus the “Harry and Meghan” language.
After the episode aired, publications like the The Spectator and New York Post published stories saying Markle was “upset and overwhelmed” by the satire. Royal commentator Neil Sean also suggested it Fox news that the couple is considering legal action.
“Their legal team is keeping an eye on the episode to see what went wrong and what else could turn sinister. It seems like this is their way of doing things instead of laughing it off, enjoying the moment and showing the world they get the joke,” Sean said.
Courtesy of @ Comedy Central / Everett Collection
The couple’s representative called the speculation “nonsense”, and the media declared it “baseless and boring”. People. An attorney representing Markle and Harry did not respond to IndieWire’s request for comment.
Regardless of whether the reports that Markle and Harry have met with their legal teams are true, Sullivan says they would have an extremely weak legal case. While they could certainly try to sue for defamation or false light — just as anyone in America can sue anyone for anything — “South Park’s” reputation for tackling topical issues gives the show a very strong parody defense.
“’South Park’ is widely considered a parody, and it parodies many, many things. And anything they say on ‘South Park’ is untrue or defamatory,” Sullivan said. “It was clearly a parody. And it really wasn’t defamatory in any way. It’s not like (it was ‘South Park’) I’m saying that (Meghan and Harry) engaged in an action or behavior that didn’t happen.”
Another wrinkle is that the “South Park” episode, while the couple is poking fun at the criticism they’ve received for claiming privacy while relentlessly promoting themselves, never mentions Meghan Markle by name. and Prince Harry; the characters are simply referred to as the Prince of Canada and his wife. According to Sullivan, this only strengthens a potential defense.
“You’re implying who the person is, it kind of takes it out of reality,” Sullivan said. “But you’re not really saying, ‘This is the person and they did this, they said this.’
In order to make a valid legal argument against parody protection, Sullivan said, the piece in question must make extreme claims about the subject matter, such as asserting (or strongly implying) that someone is engaging in illegal activities. The latest episode is on the lighter end of “South Park” celebrity parodies; Probably the most infamous performance on the show was in Season 9’s “Trapped in the Closet,” which poked fun at rumors about Tom Cruise’s sexuality. At the time, there were rumors that Cruise would take legal action, and the actor threatened to pull out of promoting Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible III” after the episode aired (Paramount and Comedy Central are both owned by Viacom), but nothing came of it. that.
Other brutal celebrity parodies — a Michael Jackson-like character who was clearly a pedophile, a Mel Gibson act that portrayed the actor as a crazed anti-Semite — never resulted in legal action. To date, “South Park” has been at the center of two lawsuits, neither of which came from big-name stars. In 2010, the music video’s producer, Brownmark Films, sued Comedy Central and Viacom for copyright infringement after the show parodied their video for “What What (In the Butt)”, but the case was dismissed. They were in 2012 reports that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were sued by Exavier Wardlaw, who claimed that the character seen in the three-part episode “Imaginationland” came from the British children’s series “The Lollipop Forest,” but it’s unclear how the situation was resolved.
Given how soft Meghan and Harry’s blows are compared to depictions that didn’t result in a lawsuit, Sullivan said legal action would likely cost them more than any potential outcome. In other words, he doesn’t take on—or recommend—the case.
“Most lawsuits and the types of companies they use would be quite expensive and damages would be very difficult to prove, so on a cost-benefit analysis it’s probably not worth bringing in,” Sullivan said. “(It’s not) something, as a lawyer, I advise the client to go to trial.”
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