Shia LaBeouf Is the New Celebrity Troll King

Sorry, James Franco, Shia LaBeouf has taken your crown.

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Sorry, James Franco, Shia LaBeouf has taken your crown. LaBeouf, who was caught ripping off a Daniel Clowes comic book for a short film in mid-December, has aggressively kept himself in the news by issuing a string of plagiarized apologies, and took New Year's as an opportunity to continue getting weird press for himself. Olivia Barker wrote at USA Today two days ago that LaBeouf's "behavior is heading toward troll-dom, according to just about everyone." He's no longer "heading toward" anything. Troll-dom is his.

On New Year's Day, LaBeouf tweeted a picture of yet another apology to Daniel Clowes, this time a sky-written one.

Clowes's editor Eric Reynolds told BuzzFeed: "I imagine airplane messaging is the norm in Hollywood, but someone really should have informed Mr. LaBeouf that Mr. Clowes lives in the Bay Area before he went to all that trouble." The skywriting  was followed up today with an interview conducted over email by Rich Johnston in which LaBeouf elaborated on his, let's just say, nontraditional opinions about art and authorship. He told Johnston:

The word law is against my principles.
The problem begins with the legal fact that authorship is inextricably
bound up in the idea of ownership and the idea of language as
Intellectual property. Language and ideas flow freely between people
Despite the law. It’s not plagiarism in the digital age – it’s repurposing.
Copyright law has to give up on its obsession with “the copy”
The law should not regulate “copy’s” or “reproductions” on there own.
It should instead regulate uses – like public distributions of copyrighted work -
That connect directly to the economic incentive copyright law was intended to foster.
The author was the person who had been authorized by the state to print there work.
They were the ones to be held accountable for the ideas.
Simple – should creation have to check with a lawyer?

LaBeouf never really answers Johnston's main question, which is whether LaBeouf considers his continued plagiarized apologies to be some sort of art project. What's evident from the interview, though, is that whether or not LaBeouf's original plagiarism of Clowes (and others) was intentional or just lazy, he's used the opportunity to brand himself as some sort of radical thinker. Or just a big jerk. As Annie Barrett wrote at Entertainment Weekly, following tweets copying apologies from the likes of Eliot Spitzer and Alec Baldwin: "I have just about had it with this troll."

The celebrity troll crown has been held by James Franco for several years now. At least since his stint on General Hospital. But for as annoying as Franco has been with his various artistic and educational pursuits and media baiting, he at least has never seemed this disingenuous. In fact, he is completely serious and passionate about his literary adaptations, and if anything reveres other authors. LaBeouf, for what it's worth, has been compared to Franco in the past. Julie Gersten at The Frisky even compared their offenses earlier this year, when LaBeouf quit the Broadway production of Orphans and apologized via a plagiarized Esquire story. 

LaBeouf seems to be trying to take his mistake and turn it into some social commentary about how no one has ownership over words. On New Year's Eve, he tweeted: "You have my apologies for offending you for thinking I was being serious instead of accurately realizing I was mocking you." He took that one from no other than Erick Erickson. You can at least say this for Shia: He's really good at googling.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.