Seems Ray Bradbury is upset with Michael Moore’s new movie title being a twist on the title of one of Bradbury’s most famous novels:
Ray Bradbury is demanding an apology from filmmaker Michael Moore for lifting the title from his classic science-fiction novel “Fahrenheit 451” without permission and wants the new documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” to be renamed.
“He didn’t ask my permission,” Bradbury, 83, told The Associated Press on Friday. “That’s not his novel, that’s not his title, so he shouldn’t have done it.”
I love Ray Bradbury’s work as a science fiction author and it was reading his novel Fahrenheit 451 as a child that sparked my interest in gaining knowledge and the issues surrounding the First Amendment. In particular I was heavily influenced by a line of dialogue from Fire Captain Beatty in which he justifies the burning of books because the ideas they hold are harmful to the people’s happiness:
“Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”
Having said that, this little temper tantrum from Bradbury is very disappointing. Perhaps it’s just him getting crotchety with old age, but there’s a certain irony in Bradbury bitching about Moore’s play on words considering that Bradbury is guilty of it himself. As Silicon Valley.com columnist Dan Gillmor points out, Bradbury borrowed from William Shakespeare for the title of Something Wicked This Way Comes and Walt Whitman for I Sing the Body Electric. Considering Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and Walt Whitman on March 26, 1892 I would be greatly surprised if Bradbury got the permission of either author before making use of their works as titles for his own projects. At least Moore used a twist on the title instead whereas Bradbury did not. When asked if he planned to sue, Bradbury has the following comment:
Bradbury, who is a registered political independent, said he would rather avoid litigation and is “hoping to settle this as two gentlemen, if he’ll shake hands with me and give me back my book and title.”
It seems senility must also be settling in, otherwise Bradbury would realize he doesn’t have legal grounds to sue. Again as Dan Gilmor points out, you can’t copyright a title and thus Moore could have used the title without modifying it if he really had wanted to regardless of whether Bradbury likes it or not.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. For being such an intelligent man capable of writing a book as affecting as Fahrenheit 451 and speaking eloquently about the issue of censorship, he’s still managed to say some pretty stupid things over the years in various interviews and the like. For example he’s not real keen on the Internet in general or why anyone would want to talk to “all those morons who are living across the world somewhere”, as he put it. Just goes to show you can be very intelligent and yet very clueless at the same time.