Shia LaBeouf, Plagiarism Addict, With Much Worse To Come

Shia past and present, with apology...

The child star past and present, with apology…

Actor Shia LaBeouf, known to Disney Channel aficionados as the annoying little brother on “Even Stevens” and to movie fans as Indiana Jones’ son and the Transformers Guy, is so much more, and not in a good way. His rapidly expanding list of reckless and socially-clueless episodes, including the obligatory misconduct behind the wheel of an expensive car, signals that he may be the new Lindsay Lohan, a talented former child-star raised to adulthood without basic life-skills, respect for others, and an appreciation of the difference between right and wrong. This is a tragic scenario that we are cursed to witness again and again—we saw it in 2013 in the increasingly obnoxious and desperate conduct of pop star Justin Bieber. Give a child wealth, power and adulation without first imbuing him or her with values, discipline and humility and what do you get? A menace.

As LaBeouf’s acting career has waned with his growing reputation as an untrustworthy (and sometimes violent) jerk, he has refashioned himself into an aspiring artist. Unfortunately, he lacks some basic traits of successful artists, like integrity and creativity. His inclination, being raised, like most child stars, in an unstable environment by self-absorbed and dysfunctional parents, is to cheat. In 2012, LaBeouf attached his name to three short graphic novels and a webcomic series. This year, we learned that at least two of the graphic novels contained text plagiarized from other writers. Then LaBeouf attached his name as writer to the short film (which he also directed) called “,” which was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival and received some praise there. The  short, about an online film critic, included a strong resemblance to Daniel Clowes’ 2007 comic “Justin M. Damiano,” as well as large sections of dialogue directly lifted from it. No one picked up on the plagiarism until LaBeouf  released his film online. 

Clowes is weighing legal action, and LaBeouf, child of social media that he is, has been apologizing profusely via Twitter. Of course, a genuinely contrite individual would seek a face-to-face meeting with an artist he had so wronged, perhaps preceded with that ancient stand-by, a formal letter of apology, and perhaps a phone call. But LaBeouf’s “apologies” are less about regret and contrition than they are about public relations and damage control. What matters  is that everybody else sees him in the best possible light. What matters is creating public sympathy so Clowes looks like a villain if he doesn’t forgive the eager young artist who made “just one mistake.”

If you think I am leaping to conclusions, consider this: LaBeouf’s latest apology was written in the Hollywood heavens, by a skywriter he hired for the  purpose. Said Eric Reynolds, Clowes’ editor, tongue firmly in his cheek, “I imagine airplane messaging is the norm in Hollywood, but someone really should have informed Mr. LaBeouf that Mr. Clowes lives in the Bay Area before he went to all that trouble.”  Come to think of it, skywriting could have been the forerunner of Twitter. A bit expensive, though.

Here is the real smoking gun on LaBeouf: In his first serial Tweet apology to Clowes, the actor wrote,

“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work.”

His apology for plagiarism was plagiarized! A sharp-eyed researcher discovered that the language was lifted from a Yahoo! Answers post from four years ago that read (parallels underscored),

“Merely copying isn’t particularly creative work, though it’s useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work, and it may even revolutionalize the “stolen” concept.”

There is more. Other apologetic language in the tweeted apology stream to Clowes was copied without attribution from Mark Zuckerberg, Alec Baldwin, Tiger Woods and Russell Crowe. Call me cynical, but you’re not much of a writer if you can’t compose your own 140 character apology without stealing someone else’s words. (And who in their right mind copies apologies from Alec Baldwin?)

The issue isn’t really plagiarism. This is signature significance. An individual who simultaneously apologizes for conduct and engages in the same conduct while doing so is morally and ethically lost, and quite possibly a sociopath….except most sociopaths are smarter than this. Paul Petersen, the former child star turned advocate and champion for exploited kids in show business (visit his website here…and maybe give his wonderful non-profit a contribution) once explained to me that almost all child talents come from dysfunctional families, because their talents develop as a coping mechanism for the chaos and uncertainty around them. The child performer is a little con artist, creating an illusion that ensures love and attention, and later, perhaps, riches, fame and power. Those instincts, however, unleavened by strong role models and strong ethical values, can create adult monsters. This episode strongly suggests that Shia LaBeouf is headed that way, if he has not already arrived. Who knows what damage he will do to himself and others before he either learns ethics lessons through bitter experience that should have been completed long ago, or worse, meets the tragic fate of so many former child stars that went before him?


Sources: NY Daily News, Huffington Post 1,2

Graphic: NY Daily News


27 thoughts on “Shia LaBeouf, Plagiarism Addict, With Much Worse To Come

  1. I can’t help but think he was trying to be obvious with the plagiarized apologies (one of them was..”I lifted the text in a drunken stupor, maybe a year ago..” which is the very publicized “apology” from Rob Ford-Toronto, Canada’s mayor- in which he admitted to smoking crack in a drunken stupor)
    It would have been funny if the offense which he was apologizing for didn’t require a sincere apology..

    • I was thinking the same thing. There’s no way he didn’t think it would get noticed, especially multiple instances. Which, in a way, makes me even more angry about it- he doesn’t simply think we’re stupid, he’s setting out to make a deliberate mockery of the concept he did somethign wrong, hoping we’ll all give a hearty chuckle and pat ol’ Shia on the head, the little scamp. Do I think that should happen? Well, to quote the only character he seems able to play in every movie… “No! No, no, no, n-n-no no no no…”

      • Now that you mention it, that makes me realize how much more offensive his “apology” was than I originally thought. I was ready to dismiss it as silly, but he clearly is doing it, as you just mentioned, as a deliberate insult to the person he plagiarized from in the first place.

        • I didn’t quite figure that out either, and you are both right. He is mocking the whole idea of an apology,as if it’s no big deal to rip off someone’s work. This edges into fick territory…

    • I didn’t catch the Ford reference, and you may be right. It’s still lazy. I just don’t think Shia is all that bright, which is Lindsay’s problem as well. I was thinking about this watching Brooke Shields on the Today show. Broken home, crazy mother, abnormal childhood, too much too soon. She doesn’t have the raw talent Lindsay had, but she is very smart, got an education, worked to maximize her talents, built a reputation as a pro, and looks at her—she’s had a successful TV show, been on Broadway more than once, still models here and there, is a mom and has a family, is fit, healthy, and apparently sane.

        • Paul Petersen, himself a really smart guy, enlightened me about that: he pointed out that the child stars who end up healthy and successful somewhere were inevitably the ones who had good and grounded parents in a stable home (Annette Funicello and Shirley Temple are examples) and/or were of above average intelligence. Brooke, Jodie Foster, the Olsen Twins, Michael J. Fox, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Christina Aguilera…these and others are the exceptions to the child-star train wreck rule. (They have to be lucky too.)

      • I assume that you are aware that Ms. Shields suffered for a number of years from clinical depression and has overcome this setback as well. In addition, she had to “overcome” an at-best psychotic rant from Tom Cruise, stating that being depressed and taking medication for it was a sign of a weak will and mind. ‘Course, how many people are paying attention to Tom Cruise these days.

        • Do you want to guess how many non-child stars suffer or have suffered from clinical depression? For seven, my wife, my mother, my sister, my four best friends—and Brooke’s issue was post-partum depression, related to childbirth, not “Pretty Baby” and the “Blue Lagoon.” For the life of me, I can’t see the relevance of your comment to the topic at hand.

    • He should join the Hillary team for her Presidential Campaign writing creative excuses, plagiarized or not 😉
      You know it.

  2. I think his career is going to be over when everyone gets a look at the latest “film” he is involved in.
    It is a real shame for this kid, because he has genuine (acting) talent.

    • With the exception of Dancer in the Dark, I’m not a huge fan of Lars von Trier, but I could easily see George Clooney and Christian Bale working with him. I would think having a Lars von Trier acting credit on one’s resume would be a bit of an honor, as he’s supposedly a difficult person to work with and his films require actors to take risks they don’t get the opportunity to take in many mainstream Hollywood movies.

      Also, we can thank Lars von Trier for being the reason Björk pledged to never be in another movie as long as she lives.

  3. I’m glad to say I’ve never heard of Shia LaBeouf. Sadly I have heard of all the other people you reference. I wish I’d never heard of Alec Baldwin.

  4. There’s an old saying, for which I can’t easily find the original source, that “royalties are the sincerest form of flattery”. They would in this case be the best form of apology.

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