Play any of the Grand Theft Auto games and you’ll understand that under the series’ well-polished crime sandbox sheen, there’s a biting and intelligent social commentary running throughout. Rockstar Games may be a talented developer but they also have a knack for matching tongue in cheek one liners with smart allegories too.
That was the case for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which pulled Carl "CJ" Johnson into a tale of Los Santos gang warfare to mirror the same violence that was pungent to California in the 90's. It was even clearer in Niko Bellic’s campaign in Grand Theft Auto IV, with every inch of his story telling a gritty (and often heart-breaking) tale about an outsider looking in trying to get a slice of the elusive American dream, something that many people both in and outside of America will have experienced.
They don’t just look at the larger scheme of things either, because on a character level people like GTA V’s Franklin helped eschew ‘barbaric black thug’ stereotypes while celebrity NPC Lacey Jonas jabbed a pointy digit at the spectacle of celebrity culture. Rockstar’s portrayal of Lacey Jonas in the billion dollar grossing title may have hit a bit close to home for some though, as (real-life) Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan is suing them for ripping off her likeness.
The comparisons between Lindsay and Lacey are interesting — both are celebrities who’ve had blonde hair, both are young and both have had run-ins with the paparazzi, with one of Lacey’s in-game missions seeing the player help her escape from their large-lensed cameras. A popular hotel/living destination to the stars is also a common thread between them as Lacey’s residence of choice, Gentry Manor, is said to be based on the real world Hollywood location the Chateau Marmont, a place that Lindsay Lohan famously resided in and continues to visit to this day.
Those aren’t necessarily things that are going to see your lawsuit come out with a win though, as there are plenty of actresses with blonde hair and a bubble of ravenous paparazzi around them who have lived at the Chateau Marmont who Rockstar could have either ripped off or simply wanted to add their own brand of comedic commentary onto, but according to Lindsay and her team of lawyers, the comparisons run even deeper than that.
Rockstar is being accused of the following:
“[They] incorporated her image, likeness, clothing, outfits, [Lohan's] clothing line products, ensemble in the form of hats, hair style, sunglasses"
Again, a character wearing jean shorts, t-shirts and a myriad of du jour accessories is something that Rockstar could have lifted from any young woman today (by that logic, I should also be suing the developer) but more concerning is that Lacey Jonas notably suffers from an eating disorder (according to her in-game dialogue) and this is something that Lindsay Lohan has spoken about, detailing her own battles previously.
It could be considered that there’s a slim chance that the Mean Girls and Freaky Friday actress has a chance of getting what she believes is rightfully owed, but less so once her previous allegations are considered. Lohan sparked legal action back in December after GTA V’s release over the same things as a source to celebrity gossip rag TMZ told them that she was out to get “some serious money”.
Furthermore, Shelby Welinder, a model and actress, stepped forward and said that she was the person Rockstar based the character on, not Lindsay Lohan. Photos of Welinder in the magazine Sports Illustrated can be compared to the blonde swimwear model on the GTA V boxart with an uncanny resemblance and as if that wasn’t enough, she was also quick to provide an image of her payment invoice from Rockstar Games to prove that she had indeed been involved with the game.
So that sets Lindsay Lohan’s chances as “shaky at best,” from an average citizen’s perspective anyway, though as she’s also pushing for recognition that her actual voice was used in GTA V too the courts would certainly have to go through a lot of rigmarole to get to the bottom of this one, especially as it appears to have been brewing amongst Lohan and her lawyers for quite some time.
There's also a question of what would happen to the character and her missions should Lohan prove successful. Would Lacey Jonas be left out of the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions or would it all be fixed up with a downloadable patch? And could Lacey Jonas' character model just be changed to accommodate the comparison, as was the case when Ellen Page made similar (lawsuit-less) accusations against The Last of Us?
Rockstar Games has yet to respond to the allegations or the lawsuit, but we’ll keep you posted once they do.