Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Not-so-frivilous lawsuits

I've been thinking about the Baigent/Leigh lawsuit against Dan Brown over plagiarism in The DaVinci Code; a lot of media talking heads are pooh-poohing this as a frivilous suit for more money. I saw Jeff Toobin last night on CNN saying it was ridiculous for them to sue because Brown used their idea that "Jesus married Mary Magdeleine"; that was an old idea, after all, and "they didn't originate it."

The problem with this argument is that it diminishes the amount of stuff Brown took from Baigent and Leigh (and other works of suspect scholarship like The Templar Revelation)--the entire idea that DaVinci's and Poussin's paintings are encoded knowledge pointing to the sacred blood line, and that Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland is encoded with Grail knowledge, and that the Priory of Sion was tied to the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, and that the French nobility were descendents of Christ: ALL of this stuff is born from Baigent and Leigh's brains. Whether or not one thinks they hit the nail on the head, their narrative explanation tying all these mysteries together was absolutely original, and was a minor bestseller before Brown came along. Yes, their books have experienced renewed interest since Brown's novel (which I admit I have not read, but I've seen the History Channel refutation), but to say they're unjustified in crying foul is presumptious. Let the courts decide, because their entire narrative framework--not just an outline--was taken, including their research (suspect as it was), their speculative leaps, their interviews and imaginings, and even their suspects and main players. When I read the jacket of the book upon its release I was telling Borders customers it looked like a complete rip-off to me.

I hope Baigent and Leigh win a zillion dollars for one reason: Brown wrote a novel I wanted to write, dammit--he should be punished for stealing MY idea. And from what I understand from people whose taste I trust, it's a piece of shite. Though I am glad it has a lot of Christians asking questions about their faith--including my suddenly heretical mother.

How do I know so much about all this esoteric bullshit? My 'trash' pleasure reading has for a long time been conspiracy theories, alien books, alternate histories about Atlantis and the intergalactic origins of man, etc. I have a soft spot in my heart for Holy Blood/Holy Grail.

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