Last week, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott found one of his tweets used, in truncated form, to promote the film Inside Llewyn Davis. He’d been approached by CBS Studios’ publicist beforehand, but did not consent to the use of a shortened version of his off-duty endorsement. “This is new enough ground that it should have been talked about more,” Scott said in an interview with his own employer. Certainly, more people are talking about this issue now and, amazingly enough, some of them are Muppets.
We’ve already seen one terrific trailer for Muppets Most Wanted, the sequel to 2011’s Jason Segel-penned revitalization of Jim Henson’s felt empire. A new trailer for the film, however, makes direct reference to the whole snafu between CBS Studios and the New York Times film critic by employing ecstatic co-signs lifted from Twitter.
With such hearty messages of approval as “I’ll prolly go see this. It looks kewl,” from the likes of @fuzzyben4375, the ad calls out the way people talk about things on Twitter, as opposed to the way they do when they’re, you know, writing a review explicitly about those things for The Paper of Record. If the tweets used in the trailer seem hilariously true to life, though, it’s for a reason. Just like the case that inspired this trailer, all the tweets used are 100% real.
Certainly, there are some situations in which a person’s tweets can be used to advertise goods and/or services, but the lack of consent in Scott’s case is troubling. It also points to a future in which even more Twitterers put “Tweets do not equal endorsements” in their profiles. As with so many other things, though, the ultimate barometer for whether CBS Studios behaved ethically is the Muppets. If the Muppets appear to be mocking you, then you are probably in the wrong.