Black Mirror went in a bold new direction with the recently-released Bandersnatch. The one-off installment was a choose-your-own-adventure experience that allowed viewers to determine what characters would or would not do, with results ranging from throwing tea to murder and dismemberment. Unfortunately for Netflix, not everybody is happy with its adult version of the choose-your-own-adventure style of storytelling. Publishing company Chooseco LLC is suing Netflix over Bandersnatch.
Chooseco is the Vermont-based published that releases the Choose Your Own Adventure children's book series, in which young readers choose the direction of their stories, flipping pages back and forth to see where they end up as the protagonist in their own tale. As any Choose Your Own Adventure fans probably remember from their childhood, the books did not include drug use or decapitation at any point, and that is part of the issue that Chooseco takes with Bandersnatch.
Viewers who have watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch in the weeks since it released at the end of December 2018 know that the streaming special goes to some very dark places, and there are bodies dropped even in the happiest of the many endings. According to Chooseco, the content of Bandersnatch is inappropriate for young readers of the book series and will sully the brand.
Shannon Gilligan, widow of author R.A. Montgomery and current leader of Chooseco, released a statement that Choose Your Own Adventure's association with Bandersnatch -- which actually mentions Choose Your Own Adventure early on before all of the violence really gets into gear -- will likely "cause significant damage, impacting our book sales and affecting our ability to work with licensing partners in the future," according to Variety.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Netflix sought to license Choose Your Own Adventure in recent years, but a deal never resulted from negotiations, and Fox has since optioned the rights for a film series, based on the books and offering an interactive experience. The suit alleges that the streaming giant intentionally exploited the public awareness of Choose Your Own Adventure to attract attention and viewership to Bandersnatch.
265 million copies of Choose Your Own Adventure books have apparently been sold, and Chooseco argues that at least $25 million in damages are owed. That is a massive number, yet less than The Satanic Temple sought from the streamer when it filed a suit over Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. That suit was eventually settled between Netflix and The Satanic Temple, although details about the payday for The Satanic Temple were kept confidential. Could Netflix come to a settlement with Chooseco, as it did with The Satanic Temple?
It's worth noting that Bandersnatch -- which is so complicated that even the director can't access some of the footage -- is not actually Netflix's first foray into a choose-your-own-adventure style of storytelling. The streamer also premiered two animated options: Puss In Book: Trapped In An Epic Tale and Minecraft: Story Mode. Chooseco didn't take issue with either of these, but these also didn't feature graphic murder and adult language, so it's easy to understand why the publisher didn't sue over them.
We'll have to wait and see what comes of the lawsuit. Not everybody has been a fan of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and its exhaustive supply of endings, but you can give it a shot yourself on Netflix now along with all the other shows that have premiered in 2019 already.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).