Netflix will have to face a lawsuit against them for defamation filed by Georgian chess player Nona Gaprindashvili. The suit centers around what Gaprindashvili claims is an inaccurate description of her very real career in the fictional miniseries The Queen’s Gambit starring Anya Taylor-Joy.
Following the filing of the suit in September, Netflix sought dismissal hinging on the fact that The Queen’s Gambit follows a purely fictional character. However, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that they are still liable for the things said in the series about real chess players.
“Netflix does not cite, and the Court is not aware, of any cases precluding defamation claims for the portrayal of real persons in otherwise fictional works,” Phillips writes, per Variety. “The fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present.”
Not only that, but Gaprindashvili potentially has solid reasoning on her hands, considering the context of the line in the episode, which is used to uplift the status of Taylor-Joy’s character Beth Harmon. In the suit, the chess legend claims the defamation lies in a line which says she had “never faced men.” Gaprindashvili calls this “grossly sexist and belittling,” as she had faced 58 men by 1968.
“An average viewer easily could interpret the Line, as Plaintiff contends, as ‘disparaging the accomplishments of Plaintiff’ and ‘carr[ying] the stigma that women bear a badge of inferiority’ that fictional American woman Harmon, but not Plaintiff, could overcome,” the judge continues. “At the very least, the line is dismissive of the accomplishments central to Plaintiff’s reputation.”
“In context, therefore, Netflix ‘creat[ed] the impression that [it] was asserting objective facts,’” Phillips concludes. “Plaintiff sufficiently pleads falsity because the Line is ‘reasonably susceptible of an interpretation which implies a provably false assertion of fact.’”
The streamer has yet to respond to the refusal, but in the dismissal document, its lawyer’s wrote, “The Series’ reference to Plaintiff was intended to recognize her, not disparage her.”