The Australian teen suing over mullet memes

JNoodles / Facebook Image copyright JNoodles / Facebook

Memes are everywhere, they can be funny, creative, very random and sometimes a bit mean. So if you end up being memefied, and you're not happy about it, can you sue? One Australian teenager is giving it a go.

A photograph of Ali Ziggi Mosslmani, known as "Ziggy", taken at his friend Paul Behman's 18th birthday party, went viral last year after being posted on Facebook by a hired photographer.

The reason? People couldn't get enough of his hair. The dancing teenager was sporting an impressive mullet - shaved on the sides and long at the back - a style more associated with the 70s and 80s than with millennials like Ziggy.

To date the photo has generated more than 10,000 reactions and 11,000 comments on Facebook. There have also been many memes.

But in a strange twist, far from laughing off his new found fame, Ziggy is now suing Sydney's Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Australian Radio Network for defamation, claiming that the widespread coverage of the memes portrayed him as "hideously ugly" and subjected him to ridicule.

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Surprisingly, one fan of the memes is Paul Behman, Ziggy's friend, and the birthday boy that fateful evening. Behman told BBC Trending his favourite meme is "pin the mullet" - where a blindfolded man is shown attempting to place Ziggy's mullet back on a poster of his head, a cheeky twist on the well-known "pin the tail on the donkey".

"The memes are funny, but I am his friend so I can't really upset him," Behman added.

Image copyright JNoodles / Facebook
Image caption Birthday boy Paul Behman at the fateful party that launched dozens of mullet memes

"The photograph was taken at my birthday party in July 2015. This was definitely really unexpected. Within 20 minutes the photo went viral. I feel the attention is funny," he explained.

Despite enjoying the memes, Behman says he supports Ziggy's right to sue, adding that "if he can successfully sue the media, then why not!"

So are Ziggy and his lawyers likely to be successful?

Well, in a preliminary judgement District Court Judge Judith Gibson dismissed claims that he had been portrayed as ugly, instead saying "his haircut has been criticised as ridiculous"

"This photograph needs to be seen in context with the six photoshopped pictures of the plaintiff showing him on Mount Rushmore, on a dollar bill, as 'pin the tail on the donkey' and as a horse, none of which suggest physical ugliness on the part of the plaintiff, let alone 'hideous ugliness', said Judge Gibson.

Gibson added that Ziggy's defence "seems to be designed to claim as many imputations as possible while simultaneously avoiding a defence of honest opinion or justification."

The case is due to go to trial on 17 November.

Image copyright JNoodles / Facebook
Image caption Another photo of Ziggy taken at the birthday party

Photographer Jeremy Nool, who posted the photo, doesn't know Ziggy personally, but told BBC Trending of the furore "It was so crazy and unbelievable, I was truly in disbelief."

But given Ziggy's response, does Nool feel at all guilty?

"In a way I do feel slightly guilty due to all the hate acquired from the respondents, but then again, it was just the perfect shot at the right time and in the post editing stage it was just the 'money shot' compared to all other photos in the album."

"All attendees were fully aware that I was the photographer," Nool added.

Image copyright JNoodles / Facebook
Image caption Jeremy Nool has since collated his favourite memes in a gallery on his Facebook page

Ziggy's friend Paul Behman told BBC Trending that Ziggy isn't actually concerned what strangers think of him. "Ziggy doesn't really get angry at people he doesn't know making fun of his haircut but gets upset when people he knows make fun of it."

And despite the drama, Ziggy probably won't be changing his hairdo any time soon. "He has had this hairstyle for over four years. I think he will keep his hairstyle." said Behman.

BBC Trending has approached Ziggy for comment.

Blog by Alex Dackevych

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