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Notorious video game champion Billy Mitchell is a human being — not just a floating head.
New Jersey federal judge Anne Thompson has dismissed a lawsuit filed by former Donkey Kong world champion Billy Mitchell against Cartoon Network, reports the New Jersey Law Journal. Mitchell was unhappy with an animated character on The Regular Show named Garrett Bobby Ferguson (GBF) — who, like Mitchell, has long hair and a beard and is a video game expert — saying that it was an invasion of privacy and a misappropriation of his likeness for commercial gain.
Judge Thompson ruled that the parody is protected under the First Amendment because the GBF character isn’t a literal representation of Mitchell. The GBF character is a giant floating head, said Thompson, and not a human being. GBF’s head also literally explodes when he loses his championship title on the fictional game Broken Bonz, unlike Mitchell, whose head is still intact after losing his Donkey Kong title to rival Steve Wiebe back in 2010.
Mitchell — a prominent player in the arcade scene since the 1980s — is perhaps most famous for his appearance in the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. He’s portrayed as the villian of the piece as science teacher Steve Weibe attempts to break Mitchell’s Donkey Kong record. Mitchell claims that he’s never seen the movie but apparently says he’s happy with the notoriety it’s afforded him.
Judge Thompson acknowledged that Billy Mitchell and GBF have some similarities, both being portrayed as “arrogant yet successful, beloved by fans, and willing to go to great lengths to maintain their titles.” However, she explained, “By exaggerating [the] plaintiff’s well-known traits to make the GBF character ‘cartoonishly evil,’ the defendants have added something new, transforming their appropriation of the plaintiff’s likeness and making their television show a poor substitute for conventional depictions of [the] plaintiff.”
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