Stealing Ideas and Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola just received $20 million from a Superior Court Jury in Los Angeles because they jury believed that Warner Brothers stole his idea of a live action version of Pinocchio.

Do you ever get paid for your ideas? I’ll bet. I’ll bet you never got $20 million. But then, this is Hollywood, which will spend $120 million on a movie about Kevin Costner riding sea-doos around an old oil rig.

So a jury decided that this idea– to do Pinocchio with live actors– was so good, so brilliant, so original, that it was worth $20 million. Suppose that just by reading this you got an idea. Suppose you thought, hey, why not do a remake of Bambi with live actors? Or how about a remake of “The Ten Commandments” with a live actor instead of Charlton Heston? Or how about a remake of “The Love Bug” with a DeLorean instead of a Beetle? Or with one of those new sexy Beetles that just came out? With all of the remaining Spice Girls stuffed inside? There– that wasn’t hard.

Now all you have to do is find a lawyer and wait for Hollywood to steal your idea. Wait– you might have to prove that they stole the idea from YOU in particular, and not any other person they might have had lunch with. The trick is, you have to have lunch every day in those exclusive Hollywood restaurants frequented by producers and directors and script-writers. As you’re having lunch, just talk loudly about your great new idea. Someone is sure to turn up. Be sure to keep track of who might be stealing your ideas. And believe me, it is a lot less painful than spilling hot coffee in your lap.

Well, Warner Brothers, hold on to your pants. Here are some ideas that I think are way better than Coppola’s idea about Pinocchio, or even my idea about “The Ten Commandments”.. But don’t try to steal them, or I’ll be suing your asses for more than $20 million!

1. The Three Stooges, in an all-new adventure: Curly, Larry, and Moe star as Microsoft software engineers. Starring Jim Carrey, Reg Varney, and Rip Torn as “Moe”. Come to think of it…

2. A lobbyist from the tobacco industry courageously fights prejudice and injustice and succeeds in bribing 50 Senators to vote against a restrictive tax bill that would deprive us of our freedoms and liberties and prevent gas stations from selling cigarettes to pre-teens. Starring Tom Bosley as Newt Gingrich.

3. A courageous high school student brings a semi-automatic rifle to school and is able to prevent a tragedy by shooting 13 fellow students who were all planning to shoot their class-mates and teachers. Starring Sean Penn, and Charlton Heston as the compassionate, understanding, phys-ed coach, who encourages the student to keep lots of ammunition in his locker since you never know when you will be called upon to defend your freedoms and liberties against encroaching atheists, communists, homosexuals, and unarmed liberals. Ellen DeGeneres plays the depraved lesbian sex-education teacher.

4. Let’s see: we’ve had meteorites, volcanoes, tornados, earthquakes… what else is left? What else? I know. A gang of rugged, individualistic, violent, unshaven criminals (all of whom are the only men who could possibly save the world from some stupid massive improbable disaster or psychotic super-killer)- – form a gang and decide to take over the world and require all soldiers and policemen to carry three-hundred pounds of weapons and work alone when confronting enemies. This would be a short movie– about three minutes, or as long as it takes for them to make up a set of rules for the new world order and then break them because “rules only get in the way” and kill each other. Starring Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Chuck Norris.

I was watching Larry King on CNN the other night. He had a theologian from some Southern Baptist Academy on, and Robert Schuller, and the President of the National Organization of Women. They were arguing about women, of course.

I learned two thing. Number 1, I will avoid CNN at all costs. The number of commercial interruptions was excruciating. CNN has no shame, no dignity, no self-respect, no honor, and no class. But if they hire any more of these luscious lips to read the news, I’m investing in the company that makes collagen.

Secondly, I am sick to death of these smug, conservative Christians trying to tell me that anyone who disagrees with their archaic social and political views is, therefore, disagreeing with the very word of God. Because, don’t you know, it says right here in Ephesians 22 that women are to submit to their husbands. Simple. Straight-forward. No interpretation required.

This discussion was a little better than most. From a Christian point of view, most feminists probably don’t spend a lot of time reading the Bible, so they don’t argue very well against people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson. But Larry King knew his bible a little, and Robert Schuller knew it pretty well, and they pointed out that shortly after Paul tells women to submit to their husbands, he tells slaves to submit to their masters. Larry King asked the Baptist theologian whether he believed that slaves, nowadays, should also submit to their masters. Well, the theologian almost came right out and said that he did. He certainly didn’t clearly, unambiguously declare that slavery was wrong.

What ticked me off–pardon the expression– was his insistence that he wasn’t responsible for his own opinions. He was merely obeying God’s infallible word in the Bible and anybody who disagreed with him was going right up against the word of God Himself. That is a load of horse manure. But people like Dobson, Falwell, & Company say it all the time, as if they just happened to read the Bible that morning, and low and behold, it just happened to confirm my very own opinions.

The truth is that these guys are gut level conservatives. They were conservative long before they ever read the bible, and they only seem to read only the parts of the bible that coincide with their prejudices. They pick and choose whatever it is in the Bible they like and ignore the passages that don’t jive with their middle American patriotic right wing free enterprise presumptions.

There were lots of other verses that Larry King or the feminist could have asked Mr. Knowitall Baptist Theologian to explain. How about these. The point is that literal inerrancy– the doctrine that every word of the Bible (usually the King James Version, no less) is infallible– is pure nonsense, and the truth is that even the most conservative fundamentalists don’t act as if they really believe it. There is always a measure of interpretation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It makes more sense to say that the Bible is an infallible guide to the will of the Lord, while allowing for the fact that none of the writers of the gospels foresaw the massive economic, social, and political changes that were going to occur in the next 2,000 years.

Given the social and economic conditions of first century Palestine, Paul would have been no more likely to suggest that women should take leadership positions in the church than he would have been likely to suggest that they go out and get jobs, or put grandma into a nursing home, or start a beauty salon, or go swimming on Sunday, or wear a pant-suit. These ideas would have been meaningless to his audience at the time. It doesn’t mean that women are forever forbidden from doing any of those things.

How do we know how the word of God applies today, then? It’s not all that hard. We know what Jesus means when he castigates the Pharisees, though, Lord knows, we still seem to put up with a lot of Pharisees today. And we certainly know what he means when he says, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone”. No, he didn’t say it was okay to sin. But he did tell us a lot about those who are quick to reach for stones. I have a feeling that if Jesus met James Dobson today, he’d ask him a question: “How many hungry children did your $180 million a year ‘ministry’ feed today? How many poor inner-city teenagers have jobs, thanks to you? How many of the sick and destitute have seen the inside of your glorious office building in Colorado?”