The Shape of Unauthorized Imitation

My introduction to YA literature was, I guess, via Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Naomi in the Middle, BlubberFifteen, Jean and Johnny – that sort of thing.

But the first YA I read that I could actually relate to, and that seemed to be better written (to my fifth grade mind, anyway) was Paul Zindel’s Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball. I can still remember much of it vividly, because at that point in life I’d never read anything like it. Though I did read The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger, Pardon Me… will always be my favorite Paul Zindel experience.

So imagine my surprise after seeing the movie The Shape of Water when I read that the filmmaker is “trying to dodge multiple plagiarism” allegations, among them an accusation that the story Guillermo del Toro tells was lifted right from a play by Paul Zindel called Let Me Hear You Whisper.

Zindel’s son told The Guardian he was ‘shocked’ at how similar the movie was to his father’s play, but Fox Searchlight—the studio behind The Shape Of Water—maintains that Del Toro didn’t know anything about Let Me Hear You Whispertelling Vanity Fair that he ‘has never read nor seen Mr. Zindel’s play in any form.’

I can sort of believe that. As we all know, there’s not a new idea under the sun. Not anywhere. At all.

Hearing this news brought Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball into my mind after leaving it decades ago. It’s a shame that del Toro is being accused of plagiarizing a play by Zindel called Let Me Hear You Whisper, because that guy could rock some otherwise good titles:

  • The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
  • And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little
  • Confessions of a Teenage Baboon
  • One Hundred Percent Laugh Riot
  • Every 17 Minutes the Crowd Goes Crazy