A judge on Thursday refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Georgian chess master who claimed she was Discrediting him in an episode of “The Queen’s Gambit” from the Netflix series.
Nonna Gabrindashviel, who became famous as a chess player in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, filed a lawsuit against Netflix in federal court in September. I objected to a line in the series in which one of the characters incorrectly stated Gabrindashvili ‘never faced men’. Gaprindashvili argued that the line was “Very sexist and degrading,” noting that he actually faced 59 male competitors in 1968, the year the series ran.
Netflix sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the show is a work of fiction and that the First Amendment gives the show’s makers a broad artistic license.
But in a ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Philips and I found that Gabrindashvili made a reasonable argument that she had been defamed. Phillips also argued that literary works are not immune from lawsuits for defamation if they degrade real people.
“Netflix does not cite, and the court is not aware, of any case that rules out defamation suits for depicting real people in works of fiction.” Phillips Books. “The fact that the series was a work of fiction does not absolve Netflix from liability for the defamation if all the elements of the defamation are present.”
Queen’s Gambit is based on a 1983 novel by Walter Teves and follows a fictional American character, Beth Harmon, who becomes an international chess champion in the 1960s. In the final episode, set in Moscow, Harmon defeats a male opponent. Chess announcer explains that her opponent underestimated her: “Elizabeth Harmon isn’t a major player by her standards at all. The only thing unusual about her is her gender. And even that’s not unique to Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the women’s world champion and she’s never faced the men.
Netflix argued that it relied on two chess experts to try to get the details right, and that the show’s creators did not intend to offend Gaprindashvili.
“The chain’s reference to the plaintiff was intended to acknowledge it, not to disparage it,” The broadcast platform’s lawyers argued.
In her judgment, Phillips noted that the show’s theme includes breaking barriers between the sexes. But, he said, the show could be seen as furthering Harmon’s fictional investigation by excluding those in real life, Gabrindashvili.
A casual viewer could easily interpret the line, the claimant claims, as “detracting from the plaintiff’s accomplishments.” YesThe stigma women place on the inferiority badge bears “that the fictional American woman Harmon, but not the plaintiff, can overcome”Judge wrote. “At a minimum, the line despises important accomplishments of the plaintiff’s reputation.”
Netflix has relied heavily on an appeal ruling in a similar case involving actress Olivia de Havilland. In this case, de Havilland sued FX Networks, objecting to his performance in Ryan Murphy’s series “Feud”. The appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the creators had great artistic freedom in their depictions of real people. This ruling was widely acclaimed in the entertainment community.
The de Havilland case featured fictional dialogue with actors playing real people. The appeals court ruled that those scenes would be understood as plays rather than literal versions of real life. Phillips judged, unlike in this case, Viewers may leave the show with the wrong impression that Gabrindashvili has never faced men.
Netflix also noted that “The Lady’s Gambit” included a standard disclaimer, stating that The characters and events depicted in this program are fictional. It is not intended to represent real people or events.” But the judge decided that this was not enough to dispel the idea that the show was confirming a factual claim.
In context, therefore, Netflix “created the impression that it was stating objective facts,” Phillips Books. “The plaintiff claims to be lying sufficiently because the line” is reasonably susceptible to interpretation that includes a manifestly false statement of fact. “
With this decision the case advances in court.
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