Basing the looks of fictional people on real people has a long and storied history in the arts. In the modern day it isn't unusual at all to see characters in comic books clearly molded on actors, and there are plenty of characters in books who, if we drew them based on their description, would bear a remarkable likeness to famous folks. Hell, Aladdin in Aladdin was based on Tom Cruise.
But where is the line between inspiration and grand theft face? It may have been crossed in the video game Last of Us, the latest entry in the 'I swear to god video games are as artistic as books and movies and here's a game about shooting fungus zombies to prove it' sweepstakes. It's the story of a man and a girl in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (guess which character you play. If you said 'the girl' you've clearly never played a video game before, or have only played the six video games where there are female protagonists) and the girl has a very familiar look. She looks quite a bit like Ellen Page, actress. So much so that Page herself took note of it in a Reddit AMA:
"I guess I should be flattered that they ripped off my likeness, but I am actually acting in a video game called Beyond: Two Souls, so it was not appreciated."
The character looked even more like Page a few months ago, when initial designs were being spread. Check this out:
That's original character design, and it's clearly just Ellen Page. That's Ellen Page.
The new design is at the top of the article, and you can see it's been modified... but it's still pretty much Ellen Page.
Is there a metaphor in here for video games in general? The way that they often ape elements of other media? The way that the games that get held up as the 'best ever' sometimes just feel like movies or TV shows with button mashing added?
It seems really unconscionable that developer Naughty Dog would use Page's likeness in that way. How did those initial designs get to the public in the first place? How did the redesign fail to really get away from Page's face? They're probably lucky that Page doesn't seem litigious about it, despite the fact that her upcoming appearance in another game - where she's mocapped and they're using her face - makes this a potentially legal matter.
Maybe what this is really about is our remix culture, where people feel like everything is up for grabs to be used in their own way - even other people's faces.