#MeToo in the Anime Industry: A Breakdown of Vic Mignogna's Lawsuit Against Funimation - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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#MeToo in the Anime Industry: A Breakdown of Vic Mignogna’s Lawsuit Against Funimation

#MeToo in the Anime Industry: A Breakdown of Vic Mignogna’s Lawsuit Against Funimation

For American anime fans, the name most commonly associated with #MeToo is that of Vic Mignogna, one of many voice actors to appear in English voiceovers, or “dubs,” of Japanese anime.1 Mignogna is one of the most famous English voice dub actors of all time, starring in many English versions of popular Japanese anime, including the TV series “Fullmetal Alchemist” and the “Dragon Ball” franchise.2

Mignogna had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior towards fans for years3, but after #MeToo took off, these accusations finally began to take effect. Following the rise of the movement, fans took to Twitter to publicize instances of harassment at Mignogna’s hands.4 After fellow voice actor Monica Rial tweeted that Mignogna had sexually assaulted her5, Mignogna’s career quickly underwent the same fate as those of Harvey Weinstein and John Lasseter. He was first fired by Rooster Teeth Productions6, then Funimation7 (his primary employer), after the studio conducted an internal investigation into his conduct.8

Mignogna refused to go silently, filing a complaint against Rial, her fiancé Ron Toye, Funimation, and voice actress Jamie Marchi in the Tarrant County Court of Texas.9 He claimed that Rial’s, Marchi’s, and Toye’s condemning tweets about him were false and defamatory, and that they were conspiring with Funimation and with each other to defame him.10 The proceedings that followed did not bode well for Mignogna. He and his attorney, Ty Beard, drew criticism after Beard filed Mignogna’s response to the defendants’ motions to dismiss 15 minutes after the deadline.11 During a hearing on the motions to dismiss, Beard gave a statement that was described as “almost incoherent”12, and Judge John Chupp told Beard he thought he did not have sufficient evidence.13 Mignogna himself did not even attend the hearing.14 The botched proceeding resulted in Judge Chupp dismissing almost all of Mignogna’s claims, save for the claims of defamation and civil conspiracy against Rial and Toye and of defamation against Funimation.15

At this point in time, Judge Chupp was facing issues of his own: threats of violence from Mignogna’s fans.16 One e-mail to him read, “You are the cause of school shootings, you are the cause of suicides, you are the cause of injustice and hate and violence…When people start uprising I hope your court is the first thing targeted.”17 Another tweet read, “Shooting the defendants is endgame. Chupp’s becoming a clear example as to why ‘God’s judgment’ should be reintroduced.”18

Judge Chupp issued a court-ordered mediation, telling the parties that if they did not reach a settlement agreement by October 3, he would rule on all remaining motions the following day.19 Sure enough, the mediations failed, and Judge Chupp granted the defendants’ remaining motions to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA),20 “the purpose [of which] is to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, [and] associate freely…”21 Under the TCPA, the defendants’ online accusations and disparaging comments about Mignogna were protected free speech, and Mignogna’s remaining complaints were dismissed.

As of October 25, Mignogna has reportedly filed an appeal of Judge Chupp’s decision.22 Despite the niche nature of the American anime industry, the Vic Mignogna case will surely be an important one to follow for those who wish to see the reverberations of the #MeToo movement in the media and entertainment industry—and of those accused who try to fight against it.

  1. See Justin Sevakis, Answerman: How Are English Dub Voice Actors Cast?, Anime News Network (Sept. 11, 2015), https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2015-09-11/.92806. [https://perma.cc/N37G-B3EG]

  2. See Vic Mignogna, IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0586003 (last visited Oct. 20, 2019).[https://perma.cc/Z47X-DWYM]

  3. See, e.g., Sharon Grisby, Anime Voice Actor Vic Mignogna Loses Big as Judge Drops Final Claims that Dallas-Area Studio and Colleagues Defamed Him, Dallas Morning News (Oct. 4, 2019), https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/10/04/anime-voice-actor-vic-mignogna-loses-big-judge-drops-final-claims-dallas-area-studio-colleagues-defamed[https://perma.cc/2ZSC-PKU3]; Mignogna Dep. 100, 160, June 26, 2019.

  4. See Allegra Frank, Rooster Teeth Cuts Ties with Anime Voice Actor Vic Mignogna Amid Harassment Reports, Polygon (Feb. 5, 2019), https://www.polygon.com/2019/2/5/18212141/vic-mignogna-fired-rooster-teeth-rwby-sexual-harassment.[https://perma.cc/86NX-L85F]

  5. See Spencer Baculi, Update: Monica Rial Recalls Alleged Assault, Questions Vic Mignogna’s “Delivery” During Defamation Lawsuit Deposition, Bounding Into Comics (July 17, 2019), https://boundingintocomics.com/2019/07/17/dragon-ball-super-voice-actor-monica-rials-initial-story-remains-consistent.[https://perma.cc/W6TJ-Z8TL]

  6. See Frank, supra note 4.

  7. See About Us, Funimation, https://www.funimation.com/about-us (last visited Oct. 25, 2019).[https://perma.cc/U6DS-UW4T]

  8. See Megan Peters, Funimation Cuts Ties with Vic Mignogna Following Harassment Allegations, Comic Book (Feb. 23, 2019), https://comicbook.com/anime/2019/02/11/vic-mignogna-funimation-fired-anime-recast.[https://perma.cc/3UCD-WJ74]

  9. See Complaint at 1, Mignogna v. Funimation Productions, Inc., No. 141-307474-19 (Tex. County Ct. filed Apr. 18, 2019).

  10. See id. at 4-7, 10-12.

  11. See, e.g., Spencer Baculi, Dragon Ball Super VA Vic Mignogna Responds to Motion to Dismiss, Defendants File New Documents As Dismissal Hearing Draws Near in Defamation Lawsuit, Bounding Into Comics (Sept. 6, 2019), https://boundingintocomics.com/2019/09/06/dragon-ball-super-va-vic-mignogna-responds-to-motion-to-dismiss-defendants-file-new-documents-as-dismissal-hearing-draws-near-in-defamation-lawsuit.[https://perma.cc/BZ8X-U5SW]

  12. Anthony Gramuglia, The Vic Mignogna Lawsuit Failed, But Fan Rage Made It Worse, CBR (Sept. 15, 2019), https://www.cbr.com/vic-mignogna-lawsuit-failed-fan-rage.[https://perma.cc/P82T-LKZK]

  13. Id.

  14. See Gramuglia, supra note 14.

  15. See Brian Cronin, Judge Delivers Rulings in Vic Mignogna’s Funimation Lawsuit, CBR (Sept. 7, 2019), https://www.cbr.com/dragon-ball-funimation-vic-mignognas-lawsuit-judge-ruling-jackie-marchi.[https://perma.cc/JT6W-YBKY]

  16. See Sharon Grisby, Latest in Anime’s #MeToo Movement: Tarrant County Judge Orders Mediation and Shares Threats of Violence in Vic Mignogna Lawsuit, Dallas Morning News (Sept. 17, 2019), https://www.dallasnews.com/news/2019/09/17/latest-in-anime-s-metoo-moment-tarrant-county-judge-orders-mediation-and-shares-threats-of-violence-in-vic-mignogna-lawsuit.[https://perma.cc/4B3S-JKKA]

  17. E-mail from mawwp mop, Title Unknown, to Tarrant County Court (Sept. 6, 2019, 12:45 PM CST) (on file with author).

  18. reaVer (@GoLDReaVeR), Twitter (Sept. 6, 2019, 6:56 PM) (on file with author).

  19. See Grisby, supra note 19.

  20. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 27.001-010.

  21. Order Granting Motion to Dismiss at 2, Mignogna v. Funimation Productions, Inc., No. 141-307474-19 (Tex. County Ct. Oct. 4, 2019).

  22. See HeroHei (@_Hero_Hei_), Twitter (Oct. 24, 2019, 2:51 PM), https://twitter.com/_Hero_Hei_/status/1187486853999448064.[https://perma.cc/YA7K-J7NW]

Rachel Morgan

Rachel Morgan is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member on the Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal. She is also the social chair of the Fordham Artist Representation Society and a member of the Fordham Media and Entertainment Law Society. She holds two B.A. degrees from Dickinson College, one in History and one in Italian Studies.