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“Death to Zombie Targets” Zombie Industries ‘Gun Control Lobbyist’

July 11, 2013

Remember Zombie Industries from previous ZombieLaw posts? They make zombie mannequins for shooting target practice. Readers of ZombieLaw will remember their “Rocky” target looked a little too much like Barack Obama and so was banned from the NRA Expo. Now they have created another amusing-(but somewhat offensive) bleeding target mannequin called “Gun Control Lobbyist” and they are already drawing twitter-fire from an actual gun control lobbyist and a letter from an U.S. Senator.

If you were following @LawZombie twitter account yesterday you would have seen retweets from Colin Goddard and his supporters. Colin saw a picture posted on Zombie Industries Facebook page in which the new mannequin was being promoted with a picture of a bunch of lobbyists advocating gun control. Colin Goddard was among that group in the photo, he is not the man most prominently displayed but he is standing just behind him. Also, Colin Goddard is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shootings, he’s been shot before and so he was upset to see his picture used in a way that arguably suggests he should be shot at again. This story was covered in BuzzFeed: “Now You Can Buy Your Own Bleeding Gun Control Lobbyist For Target Practice” by Evan McMorris-Santoro:

Goddard is not amused. On Twitter, he called on the company to remove his face from the advertising for the target. On Facebook, he called the company out for bad taste. “‘Bleeds when shot’…been there already, no thanks assholes,” he wrote.

The mannequin actually looks more like the guy standing in front, but it’s funnier that Colin Goddard is tweeting about it because Colin is also the name of a Scorsese-approved zombie movie – “Colin” (2008)

Then today, Erich Lach at TPM reported on a letter sent by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut to Peter Davis at Zombie Industries: “Sen. Murphy Wants Company To Stop Selling ‘Gun Control Lobbyist’ Target Mannequin“:

Dear Mr. Davis,
I am contacting you today to ask that you immediately end the sale of your “Gun Control Lobbyist” shooting target. This representation is incredibly offensive to both the victims of gun violence and the dedicated people who advocate for gun violence prevention,…[read the rest of Senator Murphy’s letter at his Senate website]

Since the Newtown tragedy, Senator Murphy has taken point on the gun control issue. His perspective is understandable but it seems a shame to target this small business and not the much larger zombie violence industry. Zombies are billion dollar industry of entertainment merchandising and Zombie Industries is just a small business trying to make some money in tough times.

So I decided to call Zombie Industries myself. I spoke to Roger and I asked him about this latest controversy. He sounded like any guy in business, he has a product to sell and he is trying to sell it. He was adamant that their mannequins weren’t designed to look like anyone, Barack Obama nor any specific lobbyist. He said this particular mannequin with the jacket and tie was originally going to be called ‘Zombie Lawyer’ but then they decided ‘Gun Control Lobbyist’ was more apropos to their business. They are just trying to have fun in marketing. It’s entertainment and they do not advocate shooting human beings, Roger advocates only “Death to Zombies”!

Of course, like any business they “appreciate the national media attention” and they think it’s “pretty humorous” and enjoy to “poke fun at liberal media”. They know it’s silly ideas but it’s “meant to be funny not to be offensive” after all it’s “just a shooting target” and “every zombie has a right to die”. Roger believes the humor is in the eye of the beholder and that some people just want to view it as offensive and so they do. Meanwhile he is happy to sell to the other people. At about 90 dollars each, he seemed happy with recent business.

I’ve asked before “Are Zombies Politically Correct Targets?“, and wondered if zombies are a potentially dangerous metaphor for otherness that makes it too easy to view the opposition as mindless. But the problem is not Zombie Industries; they are just one company in a huge industry. If Brad Pitt and “Walking Dead” can kill zombie women and zombies in suits then why can’t Zombie Industries sell these zombie personalities?

For now, it seems Zombie Industries has removed the picture of Goddard’s group from the company Facebook page and told me that they may wind up changing the mannequins name to just “Zombie Lawyer” – But is it really better to shoot at a “Zombie Lawyer” than a “Zombie Gun Control Lobbyist”? Is generic lawyer bashing more acceptable than specific kinds of lawyers? Is it the specificity of the picture with an actual group of lobbyists that makes that particular marketing too offensive? Is it OK to practice shooting as long as the target doesn’t have personality (and is not part of any identifiable suspect class)? Is the zombie only an acceptable target when it’s a generic zombie and nothing else? Does the new genre of zombies with more unique personality make these zombies too human to just kill?

I’ve quoted before “What does it mean? Who cares, it’s provocative” and I’ve wondered before if intent matters when blending symbols.

Have you heard the story of the kid in prison in Texas because of dumb online joke interpreted by police as a threat to school. He even wrote LOL and j/k but the government still think he is a threat so he is in jail on terrorism charges with 500,000 bond pending trial; and apparently he’s been beat up while in prison.

Some jokes are not funny. I wonder if Goddard or others in that group plan any further action against Zombie Industries for using their picture in advertisement. I am not an expert in right to publicity but I think under California law, Goddard could maybe sue Zombie Industries for damages, or for $750 dollars (whichever is greater) and also try to claim any profits Zombie Industries is getting from all this advertising? But I don’t know… See generally CAL. CIV. CODE § 3344.1:

(a)(1)Any person who uses a deceased personality’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods, or services, without prior consent from the person or persons specified in subdivision (c), shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof. In addition, in any action brought under this section, the person who violated the section shall be liable to the injured party or parties in an amount equal to the greater of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or the actual damages suffered by the injured party or parties, as a result of the unauthorized use, and any profits from the unauthorized use that are attributable to the use and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages. In establishing these profits, the injured party or parties shall be required to present proof only of the gross revenue attributable to the use and the person who violated the section is required to prove his or her deductible expenses. Punitive damages may also be awarded to the injured party or parties. The prevailing party or parties in any action under this section shall also be entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.

Yes I know I just cited the section about deceased persons and yes I know Goddard is still alive, but it’s the same rule for living personalities (§3344a) so I thought it was funny 🙂

I also asked Roger at Zombie Industries if he expected to be sued for his marketing team’s use of the picture, but he didn’t seem to think so. I wished him luck. (Of course, any law suit would only make for more amusing media attention and fit even more perfectly with the themes of this blog. … nom nom … )

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