Stranger Things, one of Netflix’s biggest hits is, allegedly - plagiarized from another source. At least that’s the claim by Charlie Kessler, a long time Netflix digital/technical operation crew member. And - I kind of buy it. After reading more about it, the lawsuit appears to have some merit. Let me break it down for you:
Netflix released Stranger Things in July of 2016; it was an instant hit. If you have not seen it, the show is about weird, macabre happenings around the small town of Hawkins, Indiana during the early 80’s, and how several twelve year olds become unlikely heroes. The main protagonist(s) of the show come from the nearby underground Military base. A Military base that performs horrible cross dimension experiments on children!
The show dripped with Spielberg, King, Gygax nostalgic lore and was both a critic darling and fan favorite.
Now, keep in mind that if a show is released in July 2016 that means it was in pre-production probably early 2015, shot principle photography mid to late 2015 and did post production visual effects, sound editing/mixing, original score recording late 2015 to early 2016. Key point there being - we know the production of Stranger Things began at least - early 2015.
BUT - you can’t go into production unless you have a completed concept. So the Duffers had to have pitched to Netflix before they went into pre-production (obviously), then Netflix had to greenlight the show, and then get money to the producers of Stranger Things (Also, at the time the show title was “The Montauk Experiment.” This is important later)
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, as someone who bounced around the industry, I know it takes quite a bit of time. I’m going to say that all of the pitching/accepting had to begin near the end of 2014. I think that’s a reasonable estimate.
Which, brings us to Charlie Kessler. According to Kessler’s IMDB page, he worked on Netflix productions since 2015’s Jessica Jones, before that he had some crew success on other networks and video games going back to 2005. He’s been around the biz and knows the industry. And, here’s the kicker - Kessler claims that he (and his agents, maybe) met the Duffer brothers at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and pitched them the idea for a Montauk military base / conspiracy sci-fi series based on his (Kessler’s) short film “Montauk.” Kessler claims the meeting lasted “ten to fifteen minutes.”
Well, I just looked up the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and see that it took place from April 16th to april 27th. That’s mid 2014. So the timeline for Kessler’s case works out. If he’s telling the truth, then:
Now, as you may (or may not) know the underground Montauk Air Force Base in Long Island, NY - swirls with conspiracy theories, most of which revolve around the US military conducting experiments on teleportation, thought & behavior control, black hole research, parallel universe theory and, of course - time travel. Often, these experiments were said to be using children as test subjects. Oh, and here’s a good one - even though the base shut down decades ago, no one remembers what they worked on at Montauk Air Force Base because - they’re minds were all wiped clean! =)
And if you’re thinking, “Wow, those conspiracies actually do sound just like Stranger Things” season one. Well - that’s the whole point, ain’t it? But, as you no doubt probably see - stories about Montauk Air Force Base and conspiracies surrounding it, are nothing new. And they are all similar. So, it is totally believable that, in general - two different people can have similar ideas about famous events. I buy that.
BUT - now we have a series of coincidences - there’s the timing of it all, the former show title and subsequent change, and the fact that all of this was pitched to them a few months before the Duffer brothers pitched the idea to Netflix. Again, it’s reasonable to assume that they all had similar ideas. But - it does seem suspicious. And by the way, sorting this all out is exactly what the court system is for. Right?
Now, on the flip side - the Duffer brothers say that they never, ever met Charlie Kessler and never heard any kind of pitch from him. At all. And, that he’s lying. Fair enough. Hence the lawsuit. Which has just moved forward because an L.A. judge denied summary judgement to the Duffer brothers.
What summary judgement would have meant is that, the judge could have decided the outcome of the case without a trial. Summary judgements are more likely to be held under lock and key so, for example - you and I would not have heard what the verdict and/or payout to the alleged damaged party would have been. A trial and verdict is more likely to go public. Which is something the unusually secretive Netflix didn’t want.
The Duffer brothers have been saying since day one that they came up with the idea of Stranger Things years ago. As in - back in 2010, which would have been four years before they had the alleged meeting with Kessler. TMZ even reported, “We have the emails that prove the Duffer brothers talked via email in 2010 about ideas for Stranger Things.” TMZ didn’t publish the emails but claim there are 2 from 2010 and one from 2013 where the Duffer brothers discuss the Montauk show premise between themselves. Which might suggest they didn’t steal the entire show idea.
And I will take it back to the - but two people can have similar ideas about famous world events. For example, it’s very possible that before the Duffer brothers and Kessler ever met, they all had similar ideas about Montauk. BUT, during the Kessler pitch to the Duffer brothers, it’s possible he (Kessler) pitched specific things to the Duffer’s that - ended up on Stranger Things.
That would be a problem.
The Duffer brothers, and Netflix, all say this is a meritless lawsuit and that there is definitive proof the Duffer’s didn’t steal ideas, but the judge clearly thought otherwise ruling that the Duffer’s “lack verifying evidence of the originality of their idea.”
To be perfectly honest, I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m willing to bet that, independently of each other, both parties came up with similar ideas. Then, a pitch meeting happened between Kessler and the Duffers, coincidentally, about their similar ideas. Then, the Duffers - probably on accident - took some ideas from said pitch meeting and placed the ideas in Stranger Things. Which led Kessler to believe, “The Duffer must have taken their entire idea for Stranger Things - from my pitch meeting!”
Anyway. The case goes to trial in May.
Stranger Things season three will be released on Netflix in July, 2019.
On Passover, we read from the Book of Exodus in the Torah explaining the Hebrew’s years of enslavement and the struggle it took to free them. G-d sent Moses to ask Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II to “Let my people go.” When the Pharaoh refused, the Lord sent down 10 plagues:
Scholars have debated how these occurred and scientists have interestingly found scientific explanations for each. This is what they found:
The water of the Nile turned to “blood”. It was undrinkable. One theory is the red clay could have been washed into the river and tributaries, or “Red Tide”, an algae bloom of Oscillatoria rubescens, for example, turned the water red. Moreover the algae can release toxins that kill nearby fish. Once the water is unlivable……
Frogs swarmed into the towns and homes. One theory suggests that since frogs like to live near the water, the toxicity and smell caused them to move from the waterways to the towns. The quantity of frogs still needs an explanation but how many of us see one spider in our house and claim the whole residence is “infested”……
Infestations occurred as the next plague and could be explained by the above two. The frogs eat insects and keep the populations in control when they hang out by the marshes and rivers. The drought and unlivable water conditions cause the frogs to leave and eventually die, so insects go unchecked.
Swarms of flies encompassed the fourth plague. Scientists explain this from the lack of competing insects and frogs not around to eat them. They, in turn, fed on the dead frogs.
One would think the Pharaoh would have given in by now but he didn’t. The fifth plague caused death of Egyptian livestock. Insects carry disease and swarms of them could have caused the livestock to become diseased. Moreover, water sources were becoming scarce as well.
Egyptians became infected with boils on their skin. Insects carry disease, lack of clean water and food could make one susceptible and pathogens can enter into societies and cause epidemics. One theory suggested a smallpox outbreak occurred. Researchers found small pox scars on recovered mummies and postulated that 3000 years ago an epidemic could have occurred.
The plague of hail and fire must have been a scary one. Many have postulated that hail and fire raining from the sky could have occurred from a nearby volcano. If that’s the case why not make “volcano” the plague. But interestingly, 3500 years ago the Santorini volcano north of Crete in the Aegean Sea, erupted. And for those of us who saw Dante’s Peak, there was ash falling everywhere.
Locusts swarmed the landscape. If a volcano was nearby, I’d head south too.
The ninth plague was darkness. Without light, temperatures drop, work can’t be done, crops won’t grow. Scientists suggest this could have occurred from an eclipse, dust storm, or the plume of smoke from the volcano.
The tenth and final plague was the death of every Egyptian first-born. Scientists have some difficulty explaining this one except for many first born were out the fields helping the adults when the pestilence, boils, etc. ensued. Another theory suggests the grain stores became contaminated and the first born might have had first pick of the grain, becoming sick first.
The Bible is rich with history and lessons and such a work needs no explaining. But there are those who like to mesh science with the Bible. So for all of us celebrating our ancestor’s exodus and freedom from slavery, Happy Passover.
By now you all know that the full (but redacted) Mueller report has been made available to the public. I am slogging through it now. It’s long. Four hundred and eighty eight pages long. And I’m only one guy. It’s gonna take me awhile to get through it all.
But I have read a decent amount of it. It’s broke down into two volumes.
Volume I details Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and "if the Trump Team conspired with the Russians."
Volume II deals with the president's “actions towards the FBI investigation” and if any of said actions are "obstruction of justice."
So far - I have some thoughts.
So, what does the Mueller report actually say about Russian interference and collusion?
A lot. Like, way more than I ever expected it to. From Mueller’s introduction to Volume I of the report:
“The Russian Government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Evidence of Russian government operations began to surface in mid-2016. In June, the DNC and its cyber response team publicly announced that Russian hackers had compromised its computer network. Release of hacked materials -hacks that public reporting soon attributed to the Russian government-began that same month …. Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos … (said) that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The information prompted the FBI on July 31st, 2016, to open an investigation into weather individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.
That fall, two federal agencies jointly announced that the Russian government “directed recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including US political organizations,” and, “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
So, this all makes it very, very clear that Russia, a hostile foreign power, endlessly interfered in the US presidential election. That’s not even in debate.
The next part of the introduction talks about how Mueller was assigned, came on board in May of 2017 as Special Counsel and was authorized to investigate “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.
Okay. We all know this. And then the report clearly says this:
“As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered …. principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Hrmmm. The words “numerous links,” and “did not establish” don’t seem to fit together. Let me unpackage it all:
Mueller felt that the while the Russians instigated cyber terrorism and the Trump team accepted the stolen material there was technically “no collusion,” because both groups acted independently towards the same mutually beneficial goal.
Okay. I understand. That’s fair. The Trump team never called up the Russians and said, “Can you steal a bunch of stuff in order to help us win the election?” In which case, for it to be collusion, then the Russians would have to respond with, “Of course! We’ll break into the US Government and steal a bunch of information that will help you win!” Because that specific agreement - tacit or express - did not seem to happen - then there was “no collusion.”
Which … is not exactly how Barr’s four page summary spun it. But, whatever.
Also, I’m only about fifty pages into the report so far.
More to come.