Emily the Rip-Off

Emily the Strange [en.wikipedia.org] is fictional character whose introverted and disdainful personality has made her something of a countercultural icon (and a great way to sell marketable products to the trendy). Her franchise has churned out a lot of merchandise (clothes, toys, books, etc.)

But the character itself is almost an exact copy of another (less desperately nonconformist) character, Rosamond, from the children’s book series “Nate the Great”. Emily the Strange, according to the wikipedia page, was “created” in 1991 to promote the Cosmic Debris clothing line. The Nate the Great series was first published in 1978 and continue on into the 80’s.

Emily the Strange is a young, slim girl with long, straight, black hair and wears a short black dress. She has four cats (named Mystery, Miles, Sabbath, and Nee-Chee).

Rosamond (who predates Emily by a decade) is a young, slim girl with long, straight, black hair and wears a short dress. She has four cats (named Super Hex, Big Hex, Plain Hex, and Little Hex).

Emily’s cats now have distinguishing features, but originally they differed only in their sizes (exactly like Rosamond’s cats).

There is a better analysis of this on youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com, including this image from Nate the Great Goes Undercover and an early Emily sticker from 1991:

Or it could be a (rather large) coincidence. Nate the Great didn’t invent the idea of the weirdo girl with cats and long, dark hair. But it’s the number of coincidences that make it suspect. This is why Emily seems so clearly derived from Nate the Great, rather than from (for example) the Sadako/Samara character in The Ring or Wednesday Adams from the Adams Family.

I claim that Emily the Strange is most likely a rip-off of the Rosamond character from the Nate the Great books. And while the Emily the Strange persona has undergone its own creative changes since inception, the appearance, the cats, and the aura of “strangeness” are more than just imitation or influence. It is the worst sort of brain-dead copy & paste job. (And a rather profitable one, at that.)

(Updated 12/3/08 in response to comments and attention this post has received: I don’t mean to say that the Nate the Great creators have a viable legal argument against Emily the Strange. I do wish to say that Emily the Strange is not an original character, nor a creation merely based on a genre or archetype. I claim it is simple plagiarism.)

(Also, Laughing Squid has picked up this story.)

Pictures of Emily:

Pictures of Rosamond:

Pictures of general Emily the Strange merchandise:

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