March 30, 2012 5:17pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Actress Sues Over Controversial Vodka 'Rape' Advertisement
Alicyn Packard, an actress best known for voicing characters for the Cartoon Network's animated series The Mr. Men Show, is suing Moet Hennessy USA over a controversial advertisement for Belvedere Vodka that sparked an uproar over its insensitivity to rape.
On March 23, Belvedere posted an advertisement to its Facebook and Twitter pages. The ad showed a smiling man holding a woman in distress with the tagline, "Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly."
The advertisement, a screenshot for a stricklyviral.com video entitled "Awkward Moments, #542, The Baby Picture," set off a backlash in social media. News organizations too blasted the advertisement as "disgusting" and "making light of rape."
The advertisement was quickly taken down. Belvedere president Charles Gibbs issued an apology, saying "it never should have happened," and in an effort to make amends, the company donated money to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
But Packard, who claims that she is the woman featured in the advertisement, isn't letting the company off that easily.
On Thursday, she filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying that neither she nor Strickly Viral Productions gave the company permission to use the screenshot and that she wasn't shown a copy of the ad nor approved it for publication.
"While Defendants have apologized to nearly everyone else, and admitted the offensiveness of the advertisement," says the lawsuit, "they have yet to apologize to the plaintiff, whose image she says they used without permission to sell vodka, and who has now been unwillingly made the face of the Belvedere advertising campaign that jokes about rape, and has been put front and center in the worldwide controversy created by Defendants."
Packard is suing under a California law that prohibits the use of another's photograph and likeness in advertising without such person's prior consent. She's also suing for misappropriation of likeness and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Packard doesn't specify damages, but she says that she has "suffered injuries to her reputation and her ability to market herself in the entertainment industry, and suffered tremendous anxiety and distress, fearing the effect of this unauthorized marketing and subsequent media firestorm on both her professional and personal lives."
The company hasn't yet commented on the lawsuit or confirmed that Packard is the woman in the advertisement.
Further litigation is also possible.
Strickly Viral Productions, headed by Chris Strickland, who is a friend of Packard's, recently wrote on its Twitter feed that "Belvedere Vodka stole an image from our very own 'Awkward Moments' sketch" and that the company had communicated a legal warning as a result.
Here's a copy of Packard's lawsuit: