Nona Gaprindashvili has brought a defamation lawsuit against Netflix over its allegedly defamatory portrayal of her in “The Queen’s Gambit.” She accuses Netflix of “belittling” her achievements as the first woman in chess history to be named a grandmaster. The suit focuses on this short sequence...
“The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that’s not unique in Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men. My guess is Laev was expecting an easy win, and not at all the 27-move thrashing Beth Harmon just gave him.”
Note the camera focuses on an actor who looks like, and is obviously portraying, Gaprindashvili. The trouble is Gaprindashvili had played dozens of men by the time this scene is set in 1968. That year, for example, she placed third in an international tournament defeating seven out of nine opponents. All of them were male.
The suit contends...Quote: Gaprindashvili lawsuit
Netflix brazenly and deliberately lied about Gaprindashvili’s achievements for the cheap and cynical purpose of ‘heightening the drama’ by making it appear that its fictional hero had managed to do what no other woman, including Gaprindashvili, had done.
Thus, in a story that was supposed to inspire women by showing a young woman competing with men at the highest levels of world chess, Netflix humiliated the one real woman trail blazer who had actually faced and defeated men on the world stage in the same era.
The suit also takes issue with the show inferring she is Russian...Quote:
Piling on additional insult to injury, Netflix described Gaprindashvili as Russian, despite knowing that she was Georgian, and that Georgians had suffered under Russian domination when part of the Soviet Union, and had been bullied and invaded by Russia thereafter.
Netflix seems surprised...Quote: Netflix
Netflix has only the utmost respect for Ms. Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career, but we believe this claim has no merit and will vigorously defend the case.
Does Gaprindashvili have a case? Probably not. She was certainly ill treated by the script, but she's also a public figure (the suit is being filed in California). My guess is that, like the chess players in the show, she doesn't have much money and doesn't like Hollywood making millions while slapping her in the face.
She's asking for $5,000,000. I doubt Netflix wants to establish such a precedent, but they could probably settle out of court for a lot less.
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In an update, a federal judge has denied a Netflix request to dismiss Nona Gaprindashvili’s $5 million defamation lawsuit.
Quote: U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips
"Netflix does not cite, and the Court is not aware, of any cases precluding defamation claims for the portrayal of real persons in otherwise fictional works. The fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present."
So, to the shock of many, there will be a trial. While it's unlikely Gaprindashvili would win, the ramifications of a Netflix loss would be staggering. How many Hollywood movies have you seen that play fast and loose with history? Now imagine all those historical figures (or their estates) suing the productions for inaccuracies. Talk about a rainmaker.
Not surprisingly, Gaprindashvili has requested a jury trial (which would allow her lawyers to play on juror sympathy). Netflix has no comment on the ruling but the chances that the streamer will now resign the game, so to speak, and settle out of court to just make it all go away have increased dramatically. Such a settlement, however, will no longer be cheap.