Quentin Tarantino, the chode of all chodes, is no stranger to plagiarism allegations. Good thing because his girlfriend, almost-award winning writer Lianne “Spiderbaby” MacDougall, is going to need a lot of help recovering from her own cheating scandal—over the weekend, she admitted plagiarizing from a host of different sources in her column for a horror fansite.
A relatively well-known writer and producer in the horror genre field (at least known enough to get a book deal with St. Martin’s Press), most of Spiderbaby's mainstream fame—until now—comes from being the girl who went on that yacht with Tarantino. (Here is the couple arriving at the Saturn Awards together last month.)
Word in the horror community regarding Spiderbaby’s alleged plagiarism spread rapidly last week, in the form of a tipster's email that reached us and several other outlets. Mike White at The Impossible Funky—famous for pointing out Tarantino’s habit of direct, unacknowledged homage to other films—received the email Friday and began investigating the claim that many film reviews from Spiderbaby’s FEARnet column (“Spiderbaby’s Terror Tapes”) were egregiously plagiarized. Sure enough, what he found was “pretty blatant.”
Even the dumb kids in college, like the really really dumb ones, know to be careful when plagiarizing directly from web sources. But perhaps they teach about plagiarism differently in Canada. Spiderbaby, an “honors graduate with distinction in Cinema Studies from the prestigious University of Toronto,” approached her crimes like a total rookie, borrowing complete sentences and paragraphs from pretty much any website she could find.
To prove the allegations, White outlines in detail all instances of plagiarism in her recently published review of Suspiria; it’s clear this isn’t a case of reading a review and accidentally taking a few words here and there. She copies and pastes the entire fucking thing. Though FEARnet has since removed all of Spiderbaby’s reviews, cached copies of the Suspiria review tell the story. Compare her piece to this one or this one and we have the dumbest case of plagiarism since my brother stole a classmate's test, crossed the first guy's name out, and then wrote his own next to it. In second grade.
White was not the only blogger spending his Friday night researching and posting the damning evidence. MaryAnn Johanson at Flickfilospher realized that Spiderbaby plagiarized one of her reviews as well.
And then the commenters kept finding more. And more. And more.
What followed on Saturday afternoon was a frenzied attempt from Spiderbaby to erase any online mention of her SpiderBooBoos.
She began Saturday morning by disabling her website entirely.
Then, as White and Johanson’s public accusations of plagiarism began making the rounds, at 10:10 a.m. she tweeted the following:
After that, she tried to individually reach both White and Johanson, asking them to delete their articles. At 10:34 a.m., she asks to call Johanson:
This Twitter conversation, and others like it, has since been deleted. And while Johanson did eventually speak to Spiderbaby on Facebook, she will not reveal what was discussed. However, her subsequent refusal to remove the piece after their correspondence says plenty.
Spiderbaby reached out to White via email:
Hi - my name is Lianne.
I'm asking that you please stop writing about me online and let me address the issue. I'm writing an apology for my blog now that I will make available for everyone. I'm undergoing some issues right now and I'm receiving emailed death threats (and have been for the last month) which is why I haven't commented at all on any of this.
I need for these threats to discontinue because it's a separate issue - so can you please remove your blog posts about me so I can do this on my own, apologize to those involved, and then move on with me life without threats. I'm undergoing some issues right now and I'm receiving emailed death threats (and have been for the last month) which is why I haven't commented at all on any of this.
I need for these threats to discontinue because it's a separate issue - so can you please remove your blog posts about me so I can do this on my own, apologize to those involved, and then move on with me life without threats.
The repeating paragraphs, no doubt a result of copying and pasting different versions of her plea to multiple sources, show her urgency in light of the seemingly “separate issue” of death threats. Either that or she was plagiarizing from herself.
Regardless, White also refused to remove his piece.
By 12:19 p.m. on Saturday, Spiderbaby had surrendered. Her website was up and running again though all of her film reviews had been deleted. And her promised apology went up not on her website, but on Twitter instead:
Then what did she do immediately after?
Spiderbaby went on retweeting spree—from David Lynch to Comic Con to The Walking Dead on AMC—12 random tidbits in her feed to help bury a career of lies.
The burying didn't do the trick. On Sunday afternoon, she locked her tweets and again took down her website.
Horror writers are understandably pissed. They’re surprised and disappointed. They know it’s hard to be a female in the horror community but they also know how easy it is to not, you know, steal stuff.
But coming to Spiderbaby’s “defense” is Tim Lucas, editor of the famous horror magazine Video Watchdog. Discussing one of the pieces Spiderbaby has written for him, Lucas believes that while some say it's plagiarized, there are “only two parts that show evidence of cribbing” and therefore “the word plagiarism doesn’t really apply.” Lucas, referred to as “Video Horndog” by some in the community, then goes on to point out:
Ever since Lianne arrived on the scene I have noticed that she projects an image that certain fans hate on sight. She's young, beautiful, affluent, educated, athletic and seems to be living a charmed and golden, bicoastal life, now with one of our leading writer/directors on her arm. (What's not to hate, right?) When she and Quentin went on a sailing trip after his Oscar win, a paparazzo took stealth photographs of the two of them in their swimwear to mock their physical condition. And this was after she had starved herself for three days to fit into her Oscar dress. I am only going into this aspect to point out that she has always attracted trolls online, and that not everything you read about her or her works online is automatically to be trusted. A certain bias seemed to be dripping from the headline of the article that first broke this story.
The short version: she starved herself for three days to fit into her Oscar dress therefore her proven—and admitted—plagiarism should be forgiven. For those who didn’t forgive and continued discussing it online, Lucas has made his punishment clear: he’s unfriended them all, including White, on Facebook.
White is fine with this. As he told me,
I know, personally, that I would flip my wig if I found out that one of my writers were a plagiarist and I would do anything and everything to correct the situation and disassociate myself from the person immediately.
Lucas has chosen instead to play the "y'all just jealous" card.
St. Martin’s Press hasn't responded to requests for comments so there's no telling what the scandal means for Spiderbaby’s forthcoming book Grindhouse Girls: Cinema’s Hardest Working Women—a book rumored to have a foreword written by Tarantino—set for publication in early 2014. And seeing how she’s “leaving journalism behind for awhile,” sadly her next book Hipsteria: A Film History of Hipster Culture is probably on hold too.
Yet by Sunday night, one thing was definitely clear: whoever’s in charge of Spiderbaby’s PR does not want this getting out and is going to great lengths to cover her trail. Her Twitter account, which as of Saturday morning had 4750 tweets and 4105 followers, was closed and quickly replaced by some kind of dummy account with 29 tweets and 10 followers. All that exists in the new account, authored by “DR,” is a series of retweets from Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Jimmy Fallon, and Lena Dunham as well as a conversation with an aging Howard Kaylan from The Turtles. The real Spiderbaby is on the run.