“No Sesame. All Street”: Sesame Street’s Parent Company Sues To Stop Marketing Of Happytime Murders

The_Happytime_MurdersTo quote the Sesame Street theme song, characters in Melissa McCarthy’s new movie “Come and play” but everything is certainly not “A-OK.”  McCarthy is about to release her movie The Happytime Murders, a R-rated production that reportedly depicts puppets engaging in lewd acts.  The movie proclaims “No Sesame. All Street.” Sesame Street’s parent company objects that its brand will be tarnished by “explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets.”

The film is actually directed by one of Jim Henson’s family members.

The complaint states that  “The promotion of The Happytime Murders should succeed or fail on its own merits, not on a cynical, unlawful attempt to deceive and confuse the public into associating it with the most celebrated children’s program in history.”

One of the marketing images included in the complaint includes a tweet image reading “I’ll never look at muppets/sesame street the same way.”

The complaint stresses that this is about the marketing not the movie: 

“While the trailer at issue is almost indescribably crude, ‘Sesame’ is not trying to enjoin defendants’ promotion or distribution of their movie. It is only defendants’ deliberate choice to invoke and commercially misappropriate ‘Sesame’s’ name and goodwill in marketing the movie — and thereby cause consumers to conclude that ‘Sesame’ is somehow associated with the movie — that has infringed on and tarnished the ‘Sesame Street’ mark and goodwill.”

 

My concern is that, since it is unlikely that anyone would confuse this satire with the actual production of Sesame Street, it is unclear why the movie should be enjoined.  If the movie does not constitute a copyright violation, why should the marketing be limited?  Such injunctions have a direct impact on free speech and expression in the form of satire and social commentary.  The threat to free speech seems far clearer than the basis for the lawsuit.

The movie depicts a world where puppets are treated as inferior to humans and apparently things prove “a magic carpet ride” where “every door will open wide
To happy people like you.”

Kudos:Professor Roger E. Schechter

17 thoughts on ““No Sesame. All Street”: Sesame Street’s Parent Company Sues To Stop Marketing Of Happytime Murders

  1. luckoftheesto – I do not have the power to kick anyone off. Who is this person who ‘outed’ me? To the best of my knowledge, only JT has the power to ban anyone and in his absence, Darren. I am not on the list.

  2. “Sesame Street… 20 Years & Still Counting”

    Bill Cosby was allowed to indoctrinate American children with black propaganda on Sesame Street.

    “…TO OURSELVES AND OUR POSTERITY,…”

    What the —- happened, America, guilt, complacency or profits?

    Ben Franklin, we gave you “a republic, if you can keep it.”

    What exactly did Ben Franklin know?

    Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795 and 1802 – Citizens shall be “…free white person(s)…”
    _____

    “Shapiro’s new book, “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV,” according to it’s description “is the story—told in their own words—of how television has been used over the past sixty years by Hollywood writers, producers, actors, and executives to promote their liberal ideals, to push the envelope on social and political issues, and to shape America in their own leftist image.”

  3. I watch only: classic films and television programmes – and am invariably delighted by the intelligent writing, and by acting that seldom fell below a certain standard. How refreshing to see normal people of whatever class, talking intelligibly! Equally, whenever someone drags me along to a modern film, the experience is excruciating.

    ‘The end of the world was long ago, and all we dwell to-day/ as children of some second birth, like a strange people left on earth, after a judgement day.’ – Chesterton, ‘The Ballad Of The White Horse’

  4. I’m no IP lawyer, but. . . (1) Plaintiff Sesame Workshop (SW) is asserting a claim based on *trademark* not copyright; and 2) given your gaffe in (1), you buried the lede. This complaint only objects to the use of the mark “No Sesame. All Street”. Accordingly, SW’s requested relief would not enjoin the entire marketing campaign. Rather, SW asks that the court “Enjoins Defendants from using Sesame’s protected trademarks and intellectual property, including Defendant’s use of the phrase “NO SESAME. ALL STREET.” in connection with their marketing of the film . . .” Full complaint posted by *Deadline*, here: https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/sesame-workshop-stx-suit-wm.pdf

  5. My first instinct was that there might be a claim.
    Second instinct, probably not.
    By way of comparison, there is a very sexually explicit puppet/cartoon offering by Seth Rogan, and there is a whole genre of pornographic anime called Hentai.

  6. Just saw Avengers – Infinity Wars and thought it was worth the money, but pee before you go in. Next is Deadpool 2. The Happytime Murders wasn’t/isn’t even on my radar. As far as I am concerned, Sesame Street has been ripping off the American public for the last 20 years, at least. The alphabet and numbering system has not changed since Sesame Street started, yet they need new programs each year? Why are they not just repeating the old ones? It is because PBS does not produce Sesame Street, they rent it from Jim Henson Productions. Who cares what Jim Henson Productions wants.

    • The alphabet and numbering system has not changed since Sesame Street started, yet they need new programs each year? Why are they not just repeating the old ones?

      Bob McGrath is 85 years old and had the same job from 1969 to 2016. He was still willing to work. A critic of Sesame Street suggested once it was more a celebration of television than anything else, They update their pop culture references by having Katy Perry sing with Grover.

      It is because PBS does not produce Sesame Street, they rent it from Jim Henson Productions. Who cares what Jim Henson Productions wants.

      IIRC, the producer was the Children’s Television Workshop, for whom Henson was a contractor. There were from the beginning Muppet and non-Muppet sequences.

  7. Another reminder that American Popular Culture in the Year of Our Lord 2018 is just one huge bucket of shite.

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