Why the Merchandising Scene in 'Spaceballs' Is Even Funnier Than You Remember
Anyone who's seen "Spaceballs," the cult classic Mel Brooks "Star Wars" parody, knows that it's all about merchandising!
Here's something you might not know, however: The irony of that whole scene is that Brooks made an agreement with George Lucas that he could spoof his precious "Star Wars" franchise, but he couldn't step on his merchandising toes. Lucas signed a fair use agreement with Brooks that let him make characters based on those in "Star Wars," and Brooks agreed that he wouldn't release any "Spaceballs" merchandise to compete with Star Wars' spot in the marketplace.
What's even funnier is that, according to Legends Revealed, the action figures that Rick Moranis' character, Dark Helmet, plays with are the only known Spaceballs merchandise ever created in an official capacity.
Under First Amendment law, parody gets pretty much a free pass at just about anything. That's why political cartoons and shows like South Park basically have free rein to make fun of whatever public figures they feel like. Brooks probably could've gotten away with tweaking names and costumes just enough to make it obvious that it's a parody of "Star Wars," but the legal route he took is a bit more sportsmanlike.
And, the decision to not create merch tie-ins with a movie that spends its third act preaching the importance of movie merchandising is a level of irony and satire that only comedic giants like Mel Brooks are capable of. Still, it's too bad we never got an official Spaceballs: The T-shirt.