On July 27th 2016 the Youtube film analysis channel Screen Prism published a video called “The Shining: Who is the man in the bear costume?” The video, which was credited to a writer named Jeff Saporito and which had since racked up over half a million views, offered a theory that the appearance of the bear suited guy in the mysterious bear scene of The Shining was a metaphor that lead character Jack Torrance had sexually abused his own son. But both the theory and the detailed arguments given in the video to support that theory were lifted straight from my own study of The Shining published in 2008, which is still viewable online today. Specifically the video plagiarized chapter 16 of my article, titled Danny’s Ordeal.
Two other online sources, who since featured the Screen Prism Shining video on their sites, offered their opinion that the video was basically a regurgitation of my work. Jon Fusco of the movie site No Film School said “The video leans heavily on cinephile Rob Ager’s analysis of the scene” and Jeffrey Potts of 52weeksofhorror stated the video was “Based heavily on Rob Ager’s analysis”. Those guys knew I was the source.
At the time Screen Prism posted their video the channel had only been running for a couple of months and they’d produced six previous videos, five of which still today have less than 10k views each. The other video has now racked up 167k views, but the video which plagiarized my work, and has now been taken down due to my complaint to the owner of the site, had racked up over half a million views. So basically the channel’s first viral video was the very one that plagiarized my work and was almost certainly the one that built up the bedrock of their subscriber base, which has now reached 162k subscribers. It took them another 15 videos before they managed to create a video that acquired over 200k views and still today after 109 video released on the Screen Prism channel, their Shining video which plagiarized my work is still one of their top 10 most viewed items.
Screen Prism is a funded channel with a team of writers and editors producing slick corporate quality content, while my channel and site are a one man operation. I do everything from the researching and writing, to the site design, to the video narration and editing. The popularity of my work is driven by positive word of mouth and media coverage of my work, which I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire plenty of over the years. So to have a well-funded team rip off my work, pass it off as their own to the tune of half a million views … well as you can imagine, I wasn’t impressed at all.
Now rather than just fly off the handle and make a public accusation, I first contacted the credited writer of the video, Jeff Saporito, and asked him about the issue. He in turn claimed that a number of writers worked on the video and that he only provided the first draft based on an idea they wanted him to write about and agreed to provide the voice narration. And he was paid for the work. Frankly I didn’t believe his story and still don’t. His name is on the article, he narrates the video and he didn’t provide the name of any other writer involved in the project. It seemed to me that he was trying to pass the buck.
So I contacted Debra Minoff, owner of the entire Screen Prism site, being that Jeff Saporito said that she funded the project herself. Debra initially responded to my allegation by claiming that the video content was based on a number of sources, including my own work. I had to ask several times for these sources to be provided and it was only when I informed her I would publish my plagiarism allegation that she provided those sources.
Debra had claimed that academic professors were among the sources and I asked several times who those professors were, but when the list of citations was eventually provided no professors’ names were mentioned. She also provided a number of additional sources, but when I checked up on them all but one of those sources only talked about the missing back story of the bear suited guy scene that was in Stephen King’s novel of The Shining. They did not offer any sexual abuse interpretation of the scene. The one source that Debra provided that did include such an interpretation, itself cited my work as its source. It stated. “My central insight here has already been argued elsewhere, by Rob Ager of collativelearning.com.”
In other words all of the sources provided were red herrings. My work was the source. When I wrote back to Debra and pointed out these discrepancies, she responded by telling me she took the Screen Prism Shining video down. She also stated that Jeff Saporito had not told their staff that I was the source of the video idea, but if that was the case then why had she been trying to claim in her previous emails that the video was based on other sources such as university professors?
Now I must say here both Jeff Saporito and Debra Minoff were very polite in their correspondence and so was I. I approached them on the assumption that there might actually have been some other sources for their video and invited them to provide information to that effect, but I was given conflicting responses and no credible alternative sources.
So I’m left wondering who decided to plagiarize my work. Did Jeff Saporito approach Screen Prism with the video idea, having read it on my website, and pass off the interpretation as his own so he could get paid and take credit for it? Or did Debra Minoff or another member of staff at Screen Prism read my work, then approach Jeff and ask him to write about the issue and not tell him that my work was the key source?
I can’t prove which way it happened and I don’t think I’ll get to find out because I don’t think either party have been honest with me about the issue. Jeff claimed someone else rewrote his first draft, but if his draft didn’t copy my work then what was his initial draft about? Yet at the same time Debra Minoff gave me a series of red herring sources to make out that the video wasn’t plagiarism then said that Jeff hadn’t told her I was his key source. So why the red herrings?
Now the reason I’ve posted my allegation publicly is two-fold. Firstly, hundreds of thousands of people watched the Screen Prism Shining video and most of them still today will think that the interpretation offered in that video was the brainchild of Jeff Saporito at Screen Prism. So I’m posting this to set the record straight. If any of those people go looking for the Screen Prism video again, which they won’t find because it’s been taken down, they’ll instead find this article you’re reading (or my video version equivalent) which has the same title as the Screen Prism video plus corrective info.
The second reason I’ve posted publicly about this is to deter others from plagiarizing my work. Now I really don’t mind if someone else publishes reworded regurgitations of my publications if they cite me as being their source and if they bring something new to the table. For example Forrest Wickman of Slate took a short video I did years ago about animal rights themes in the movie A Texas Chainsaw Massacre and used it as a springboard for his own article. He cited me and included a link to my work, but he also went and hunted down some additional production information that supported the same interpretation of the film. And that’s great.
So if you’re a publisher and you want to reproduce some of my work then at the very least cite me as your source, and if you can expand my ideas to include new research or concepts then great. And if you’re not sure about it, just email and ask me. I can be contacted at newcreations10 at yahoo dot co dot uk.
I’ll probably follow this article up with my own short video about my interpretation of the bear scene in The Shining as well so if you’re not subscribed to me on Youtube and want to see it then hit that sub button. You can follow me on my FaceBook account, Twitter account and contribute to me on Patreon too. And if you want the really hardcore breakdown of the abuse themes in The Shining, then head to my site where you can download my 1hr 43 min video Jack Torrance: the Abusive Father. It’s really in depth and I’ve had a lot of ppl tell me it’s one of my best videos.