LOS ANGELES (CN) – An actress featured in a controversial “mock rape” ad for Belvedere Vodka claims in Superior Court that Moet Hennessy used her image without permission.
Alicyn Packard sued Moet Hennessy USA, which sells and advertises Belvedere Vodka. Packard claims millions of people have seen the ad, which “jokes about rape,” on Facebook and Twitter.
The ad, included in the 10-page complaint, features a photo of a frightened woman being grabbed and restrained by a grinning man behind her. The ad copy states: “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.”
The ad caused outrage when it was posted online on March 23.
Packard says in her complaint: “The phrase ‘Goes Down’ appears to be a double-entendre for rape, oral or other nonconsensual sexual acts. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that many persons who commented on the ad, including nearly every news organization, considered it to derogate the seriousness of rape and condone, if not promote, the violent act, by suggesting that unlike the man in the advertisement, who will have to force the woman in the advertisement to have sex with him, Belvedere Vodka ‘goes down smoothly.'”
Packard claims the image was grabbed from a comedy shortshe appears in with her friend, Chris Strickland. She says neither she nor Strickland gave anyone permission to use their images.
The complaint states: “There was an immediate, overwhelming backlash to the advertisement. Some of the comments on Facebook in the hours following the advertisement included: ‘I cannot even express how offensive and wrong your ad is. Rape jokes are not funny.’ ‘Too late to apologize … damage is done. Wow – have you alienated a huge force of women.’ ‘It is too late to take back the insulting image that will live forever on the web. I will never buy your product. You need to fire someone. Rape is not entertainment.’ ‘I now know what brand of vodka to avoid. By the way, rape is not OK nor is it funny.’ ‘The thought that multiple “professionals” saw this shameful portrayal of sexual assault as an acceptable situation to exploit in selling your product calls into question the judgment of so many in your organization.'”
Packard says that though Moet Hennessy pulled the ad, it “will never be completely removed from the memory banks of the Internet,” and that the “controversy surrounding the advertisement was immediately picked up by new organizations around the world.”
She adds: “This portrayal of plaintiff and Mr. Strickland in a rape scene was viewed by millions of persons worldwide, including plaintiff’s friends and family, and persons in the same entertainment industry within which plaintiff works, seeks to make a living, and seeks to maintain her reputation and image.”
Packard says news coverage of the ad was “scathing,” and that the ad gave “the false impression that plaintiff had participated in and approved of the advertisement.”
Belvedere president Charles Gibb condemned the ad and apologized, on the company website. Gibbs said the ad was “completely inappropriate and contrary to the values of the company.” He said the company has made “a generous donation” to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which the statement describes as “America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.”
But Packard says in her complaint: “While defendants have apologized to nearly everyone else, and admitted the offensiveness of the advertisement, they have yet to apologize to plaintiff, whose image 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 represented by Jeffrey Gersh with Gersh Derby of Encino.
She seeks compensatory damages for violation of California Civil Code § 3344, common law misappropriation of likeness, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Belvedere declined to comment.
Moet Hennessy did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.