What We Can Learn From The Drunk Girl Video Backlash

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 4.38.29 PMThere has been a great deal of buzz about the “drunk girl” video that made the rounds on the interwebs last week.

If you haven’t seen the video, it features an actress pretending to be drunk as she wanders the streets of Los Angeles looking for a bus stop. Several different creepy guys try to take her back to their place. It is the latest in a series of videos attempting to demonstrate the harassment women face on a daily basis; the first being the NYC cat-calling video, which caused its own controversy, in part because some critics said not everything shouted at the woman was “harassment” and others pointed out negative racial undertones.

Of course, last week’s “drunk girl” video went viral with women lauding the so-called “social experiment” as an example of how dangerous men can be. While outraged men fought back on Twitter using the hashtag #NotAllMen arguing that the video unfairly represented men.

BUT, THE REAL STORY IS THE AFTERMATH OF THE VIDEO FOR THE PARTICIPANTS.

See, they were all actors. Not just the “drunk girl” – but the guys who tried to take her home were also paid actors.

The actors were told they were participating in either a “student film” or a “hidden camera comedy sketch” – but the video never makes that clear.

In fact, the video, created by 20-year-old Stephen Zhang and his partner, 22-year-old Seth Leach, makes the men out to be rapists – or at the very least very bad dudes who are trying to take advantage of a young, drunk girl.

As has been reported by The Smoking Gun,

Josh Blaine, the shaggy-haired man wearing sunglasses in the video, drives a Hollywood tour bus. After friends asked him about the video,  Blaine posted to Facebook that he did “a favor for some camera crew guess this is what I get for being agreeable to someones project.” He added that, “it was supposed to be a funny skit.”

None of the actors were asked to sign waivers or contracts or anything that officially granted permission for their images to be released this way.

Another man seen at the end of the video is Mike Koshak who works as a sales rep for LA Epic, a firm that arranges nightclub crawls in Hollywood. Mike can be seen wearing the LA Epic logo on his shirt and his hat.

The logos were not blurred out.

Koshak’s boss, LA Epic owner Christine Peters, is naturally unhappy that her company’s name is now a part of this.

Mike was taken advantage of when asked to say a couple of lines for a comedy sketch. They made it seem like he was trying to take the girl home. I am very upset the firm had been dragged into it since we don’t condone such behavior.

When Koshak emailed Zhang and Leach to complain, he was told:

The important thing to consider is that this video is going to get you well known and have a future with us and our company.”

They didn’t quite seem to get that the video has made him “well-known” as a predator – not exactly a bonus. And, that these men may not want “a future” with the company that has branded them as such.

After promising Koshak a night of free drinks, Leach said,

We are going to be huge and you are apart of it. Just go with it dude, you are in our team now and we will take care of you.

Again, not acknowledging that these men may not want to “just go with” this negative image the video created for them.

I’d also add that by not expressing any remorse for having damaged these men’s reputations or making any effort to explain their fictional roles, I highly doubt these men will indeed become “huge” as I cannot imagine anyone else willing to work with them.

In the meantime, the men in the video are considering suing Leach and Zhang for defamation and if my old college libel and defamation courses serve me right, I believe they have a case.

SO, WHAT CAN WE ALL LEARN FROM THIS?

  1. If you do create a parody or sketch or hidden camera video featuring actors, include a disclaimer at the end of the video making it clear that these were actor portrayals.
  2. If you do make “man-on-the-street” videos, blur out any logos visible on the clothing of the people you interview.
  3. Always obtain signed releases or waivers from participants that clearly detail the purpose of the video and how it will be shared (online, broadcast, internal, promotional, etc.).

Let me know your thoughts below.

One comment

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