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Fyrebrand avatar 8:42 PM on 06.24.2013  (server time)
Two Souls, One Face?

For Reference: Original Story by Jim Sterling

A curious situation has come up, regarding Naughty Dog's latest game, The Last of Us. One of its central characters, Ellie, bears a suspicious resemblance to actress Ellen Page. The character in question originally looked quite a bit more like her, though she eventually underwent some minor visual changes in an attempt to distance her from the actress a bit. Interestingly, Ellen Page had no part in the role, though she does star as the character Jodie in the upcoming game, Beyond: Two Souls.

Here are some image comparisons, to consider:

It made the rounds of the gaming news recently, because of an off-the-cuff comment Ellen Page made on Reddit: "I guess I should be flattered that they ripped off my likeness, but I am actually acting in a video game called Beyond Two Souls, so it was not appreciated."

Those are the facts. In and of itself, there's nothing particularly scandalous or controversial about it, at least in my eyes -- but it does raise some open questions. What is a person's "likeness," and what rights do they have over its use? Surely, it seems like common sense to say that Naughty Dog should have asked her permission to use her face for their character. But, how do you demonstrate concretely that it is her face? Ellen Page comes to mind because she is a famous Hollywood actress, and happens to be appearing in another video game set to release in the near future. However, there are probably hundreds of unknowns out there who could similarly be mistaken for Ellen Page, or either of the two characters inspired by her appearance. I don't think she could make a legal case out of the issue -- nor do I believe she is interested in doing so -- but is there a moral dilemma here?

Ellen Page didn't create her own face. It's not her intellectual property, nor are the faces of any number of other women who might happen to look extraordinarily like her. A number of comments I've seen suggest that she has a somewhat "generic" or "forgettable" face. That may or may not be the case, and is rather beside the point, but maybe it's not a trivial consideration. At least, she doesn't have any rare, distinguishing features or telltale marks. She hasn't got Liam Neeson's nose or Tommy Flanagan's scars, anyhow. I'm sure avid fans of hers, or people who know her personally, could spot her a mile away -- but to the general public or casual moviegoers, it's not so obvious. We might not have seen these resemblances unless we had photos like the ones above shown to us side-by-side.

Also, to put things more in perspective, Ellie in The Last of Us more resembles a younger Ellen Page than the modern-day actress. Ms. Page may have youthful features, but she is a grown woman in her mid-twenties, whereas the Ellie character is clearly a young child. And it does no good to point out that the original design for the character resembled the actress more, because then you're talking about inspirations, and not any tangible product.

This is far from the first time something like this has happened, either. Remember Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? Remember Gray Edwards?

All I remember thinking is "Why is Alec Baldwin's voice coming out of Ben Affleck?" Similarly to the Ellen Page situation, you could argue that resemblances to Affleck here were coincidental. Okay, I would have to roll my eyes at that, but how would one prove it?

Well, whatever the truth of it is, from what I hear The Last of Us is a pretty dynamite game. People may be mistakenly attributing the character to Ellen Page, but it doesn't seem to be doing her image any harm. If anything, it's putting the actress on the map for those of us who couldn't quite remember who she is. I sure know her face now, I can tell you that.

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