As many of you know, the possibility of a writer from The Simpsons coming to talk to my class has been dangling before me for some time now. Well, one woman at the show (not at the writers’ end) called yesterday to take the opportunity out of my sight.
She had been forwarded an email in which I recounted meeting Dana Gould (appearing on Bill Maher’s show this week) and him asking if I’d had anyone from the show visit my class. I had replied to him that I didn’t even know I could ask for that.
The woman from the show said, “And that’s funny. Because you can’t.”
That’s not funny. Now we know why she doesn’t work in the writers’ room.
At first, she said that they couldn’t have anyone speak because it might seem like an endorsement of my book (which is by nature and necessity “unofficial” (as basically all literary analysis/pedagogy books are, by the way)). I explained that the class wasn’t my book and that I was not after an endorsement.
So I asked if I could have a guest speaker after my book went to the publisher.
She said perhaps, but also reminded me that there are lots of Simpsons classes out there. (I’m not special.)
I had been thinking about trying to get one of the writers here next year as part of our “Conversations With Writers” series. I would hate to think that UC Davis students can’t speak to them because I’m writing / will have written a book.
I tried to salvage the situation by addressing another legal issue, since she kept talking about the legal problem of “endorsing” me. One of the things I need the show to tell me is how long a dialogue can I use and have them consider it fair use.
I try to respect intellectual property and am responsible for getting permissions, after all. Denise and I need to know these things and our publisher doesn’t know what use would tee the show off.
I tried to ask her and she just refused to hear what I was saying (it was like she was in “no” mode and had decided before she called that I would get nothing out of her). First, she said they didn’t have time to read my book and that they couldn’t authorize anything because they didn’t know what we were writing, no matter how well-intentioned we might be.
I wasn’t asking for a reading or an authorization.
So I tried to give her an example. There’s a five line exchange I want to use–how do I know if that’s “too much” and falls out of fair use.
She suggested that I use the DVDs to check the accuracy of the quote, as they can’t do that.
Um, I wasn’t asking for that.
“Could someone tell me what’s considered fair use?”
I still don’t think she got what I was asking.
I’m extremely frustrated. I’m going to try to maintain my other contacts (who have all been very nice) so that perhaps one day I can get someone to say “ten lines is too much; nine is fine” or that they would be happy to have someone speak to us at UCD (which at least one writer did say, until we were told he couldn’t).
For the first time, The Simpsons has made me sad.