Joe Lavin

March 2, 2004

Identity Theft

When you have a common name like Joe, you get used to hearing it bandied about a lot. There are the not-so-flattering expressions like "just another Joe" or "Joe Six-pack." There are famous products like "GI Joe" and "Bazooka Joe." There are countless bars and restaurants that love to use my name; within a few miles of my apartment, you'll find Joe Sent Me and Not Your Average Joe's.

And, unfortunately, there is also reality television. None of this actually bothered me much until this past year when reality television suddenly hijacked my name. The formula is simple. If you have a reality TV show in development, just tack the name Joe onto the title, and you've got yourself a hit. Already, in the last year, we have had Joe Millionaire, Average Joe, and Joe Schmo. I'm sure more are on the way.

Let's review briefly. Joe Millionaire was about a man (incidentally not named Joe) who lied to women about how much money he had in order to win them over. Joe Schmo was about a buffoon who didn't realize that all the other contestants on the show were actually actors hired to make him look as ridiculous as possible. He's not named Joe either. Average Joe was about a bunch of misfits foisted upon a beautiful model. The model thought she had signed up for a normal dating show and instead wound up with a bunch of Joes. For a change, this one has actually featured a Joe, though the other 31 contestants so far have had other names.

Why such fascination with my name? It's not as if Joe Millionaire was already a well-known expression. Average Joe may be one, but why not just call the show Average Guy instead? Of course, then all the men named Guy would get angry. Considering that most of the Guys I've heard of are hockey players, maybe us Joes are slightly less intimidating. As for Joe Schmo, thanks a lot. That particularly odious expression was starting to disappear. Thanks so much for reviving it. Perhaps for your next edition, you can just call it Joe Palooka.

Coincidentally, Joe Schmo is on Spike TV, which used to be TNN. Last summer, their rebranding was delayed for several weeks when director Spike Lee tried to prevent them from using the name Spike with a lawsuit. His argument was that it reflected poorly upon him. He eventually dropped the lawsuit, but I wonder if I could use the same logic and sue the people behind these shows for defamation. Then, after I win millions of dollars from the lawsuit, I'll start calling myself Joe Millionaire just to annoy them further.

It's one thing when non-Joes use the name in an annoying fashion. I've come to expect that. It's quite another when a fellow Joe starts taking advantage of his name in this way. Take Joe Lieberman, for example. Here is a man who actually said in a presidential debate that he was starting to pick up some "Joe-mentum." I'm not entirely sure what "Joe-mentum" is, but considering his dismal performance in the primaries, it must have a slightly different meaning than momentum.

This was not an isolated case. Back in November, he declared that it would be a "Joe-vember to remember." (Um, it wasn't.) His campaign vehicle was the "Winneba-Joe." One morning appearance at a New Hampshire diner was dubbed "a cup of Joe with Joe." His web site even asked volunteers to "create some Mo-Joe," which is just wrong. Nobody, not even Hadassah, wants to think about Joe Lieberman's mojo.

Finally, here's one last plea on behalf of the Joes of the world. We all know what you're about to say. We've heard the Jimi Hendrix song too. The very next person who greets me by saying "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?" will be very glad indeed that I don't have one.

©2004 Joe Lavin

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