I’m not generally up on the pop culture noise, but the GoldieBlox controversy over the last couple of weeks has piqued my curiosity. And, for the record, I am not on board with the idea that all publicity is good publicity.
Admittedly, the Beastie Boys’ song can be considered offensive. It’s all about what girls are good for, like cooking, cleaning, and pleasuring boys. I’ve never gotten too worked up about this song because the Beastie Boys started off as pretty much a joke. I don’t believe much of their music is to be taken all that seriously, especially off their debut album, Licensed to Ill. By the time MCA died, they were a pretty socially conscious group.
It’s a “pick your battles” kind of stance, and by my accounting, this one isn’t worth it.
When I first saw that GoldieBlox commercial, I loved it. Sure, the toys may not be perfect, but I don’t think every single product marketed to the consumer has to be the all-encompassing solution to everything. I’m a believer in incrementalism.
I defended it to people who wanted to belittle the effort and the message.
Then I found out they never got permission to use the Beastie Boys’ song.
GoldieBlox filed a preemptive lawsuit seeking legal protection under the Fair Use Doctrine. From the suit:
This is a civil action for declaratory and injunctive relief to vindicate the rights of toy company GoldieBlox in connection with a parody video set to the tune of the Beastie Boys’highly sexist song “Girls.”
My radar is up. Why the “highly sexist” language? And here’s something else that bothers me. Apparently GoldieBlox was contacted by lawyers for the Beastie Boys. This story was spun as some sort of David and Goliath thing, that the big bad boy Beastie Boys were bullying the poor little girl company.
More Red Riding Hood than Goldilocks, but still…
Not only is that victim stance entirely unhelpful, it also isn’t true. As the two surviving members of the Beastie Boys’ responded:
We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.
As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads.
When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.
HANG ON. Upon further investigation, it turns out MCA specifically prohibited the use of his music in advertisements. IN HIS WILL.
So this isn’t really about feminism or the big bad wolf or sexist music, is it? It’s about a company’s bad decision. The big girl thing to do would be to own up, apologize, remove the song, and move on, right? Much like lululemon, they took the non-apology apology route, doubling down on victimhood. This statement is childlike, and not in a good way.
Since GoldieBlox made this personal, I’ll do the same.
Dear Adam and Mike,
We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.
WTF? I couple of days ago you called their music “highly sexist” and now you love them. Which is it, folks?
In the meat of your answer.
Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.
We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising.
Hang on. You filed a lawsuit in hopes of reaching a peaceful settlement. Right.
And you didn’t know that Adam Yauch (MCA) prohibited the use of his music in ads. Ok, so you didn’t do your homework. Now would be the time to apologize and not throw on the cloak of martyrdom.
Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team.
And the closing.
We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.
WTF times 6,000?
You could inspire the next generation by acting like grownups, teaching them how to deal with mistakes. That’s what the best role models do.
I’m a person who would have been likely to buy one or two of your toys, but now I won’t. Ever.
You stole an artist’s work for your own enrichment. In the how of your what, you’ve given feminism a bad name.