As if the debate over breast milk ice cream sold by Icecreamists, a British establishment, couldn’t get more heated, Lady Gaga is threatening to sue its makers for associating her with the product. The ice cream, which Icecreamists voluntarily stopped serving until it can be tested for viruses like hepatitis, is named “Baby Gaga.” It is also served by waitresses wearing flamboyant, Lady Gaga-esque outfits.
Lady Gaga’s lawyers have given the owners of Icecreamists until Wednesday to change the product’s name. In a cease and desist letter, they accused Icecreamists of “taking unfair advantage of, and riding on the coattails of” Lady Gaga’s trademarks in a manner that is “deliberately provocative and, to many people, nausea-inducing.”
In spite, or perhaps because of the controversy, the ice cream sold out within a few days, even though at around 14 British pounds (over $20), the treat isn’t cheap. It was made with milk voluntarily expressed by mothers who responded to an online ad.
While the store has defended the safety checks, saying that it isn’t a ban, just an attempt to ensure that the products won’t pose a danger to consumers, it’s not clear whether they’ll change the name. It does seem strange that Lady Gaga is trying to take the moral high ground on this issue. The charge of being “deliberately provocative” seems particularly off-base, since Lady Gaga’s entire image is based on her ability to shock her audiences. Matt O’Connor, the store’s owner, doesn’t seem fazed. In fact, he’s casting the suit in terms of a “David and Goliath”-type struggle:
“”The world’s biggest superstar has taken umbrage with the world’s smallest ice-cream parlour,” he said in a statement. “For Lady Gaga to accuse us of stealing her image is laughable when you consider how much she has borrowed from popular culture to create her look and music. As for her assertion that our product is distasteful, perhaps she should reflect on her blood-spurting performance at the MTV Music Awards, or the fact she wears clothes fabricated from the flesh of dead animals. We have applied to register the trademark Baby Gaga and are confident we’ll secure this.”
Either way, it seems like the only way O’Connor will lose is if the product is deemed unsafe – if he doesn’t secure the trademark, he’ll still have garnered notoriety that isn’t attached to the name, and if he does, he’ll have the double success of having created a controversial product and won a lawsuit against Lady Gaga. The whole conflict seems quite petty to me, especially because I don’t have a problem with the notion of breast milk ice cream, as long as it’s safe to eat and the milk was expressed voluntarily by consenting women. The more important question is whether the ice cream was made ethically – not if O’Connor is stepping on Lady Gaga’s toes.
And somehow, I don’t think Lady Gaga’s reputation is going to be damaged by a vague association with this product – except, perhaps, if it turns out to be more controversial than she is.
Photo from Flickr.