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Rushdie Judgment: Did 'Heroes' crib?

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92933__heroes_lAs I type these words, the thumbs of Iran’s ruling clerics hover menacingly over the big, red Fatwa buttons on their TiVo controllers. Because today, they have one more reason not to watch NBC’s Heroes: It may well have cribbed from the work of Salman ”Roll Me a Fatwa” Rushdie.

Eight years before Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses — and was famously condemned to death by the late Ayatollah Khomeini — he published Midnight’s Children, a magic-realist history of postcolonial India. I’ve not read it, but Broadcasting & Cable quotes a passage describing the characters,

”every one of whom was, through some freak of biology, or perhaps owing to some preternatural power of the moment… endowed with features, talents or faculties which can only be described as miraculous… powers of transmutation, flight, prophecy and wizardry.”

One Midnight character can bend time, another can step into mirrors. (The character descriptions sound a darnsight more sober here.) There’s even a doctor named ”Suresh,” who delivers these savants into the world — much like the hero-fostering Dr. Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy, pictured) on the show.addCredit(“Heroes: Mitch Haaseth”)

Creator Tim Kring hotly denies these accusations, then hotly denies reading books at all. Bit of a pyrrhic victory there, Tim, but I believe you. It’s L.A., where books not stamped ”Grisham” are mostly used to prop up dead or inebriated actors until shooting has wrapped.

We’ve been here before: A prime-time television programming is accused of ”borrowing” from contemporary literature, setting off a crackling debate in the highest turret of the ivory tower, where academia’s DirecTV dish is mounted. I speak, of course, of Two and a Half Men, and its uncanny resemblance to Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. But let’s not pick that old scab.

You’re on notice, Heroes. If the ayatollahs don’t get you, the lawyers most certainly will. And if I see even one spittoon, I’m dropping a dime.

Sadly, Rushdie himself cannot weigh in. What happened to him was tragic, if also just a little bit hilarious.

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