Do we buy True Detective showrunner's explanation for why there are AI posters in the background?

True Detective: Night Country showrunner Issa López explains that the AI-generated posters in the latest episode were only made to make FUN of AI. Okay...
True Detective: Night Country
True Detective: Night Country /

Generative AI has been in the news a lot over the past year and change. Will programs like ChatGPT and Midjourney take work away from human writers and artists in Hollywood? We've already seen studios use generative AI in TV shows, like with the opening credits of the Marvel series Secret Invasion:

Generally speaking, Hollywood creatives seem to have closed ranks around the idea that AI not encroach upon the work of human artists; that was a big point of contention in both the writers and actors strikes from last year. But it's still snuck, and not always as obviously as in the Secret Invasion opening credits. For instance, while watching the latest episode of True Detective: Night Country on HBO, some fans noticed what appear to be AI-generated posters on the wall of a character that Officer Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) is interviewing about a murder case:

After this got some traction, Night Country showrunner Issa López entered the fray, admitting that the posters were AI-generated...but the point is to make fun of generative AI and the people who use it, not to cut corners and avoid paying human artists. "The idea is that it's so sad up there that some kid with AI made the posters for a loser Metal festival for boomers," she wrote. "It was discussed. Ad nauseam."

This didn't convince everyone, but López kept at it. For instance, someone pointed out that the other poster appears to be for a K-pop group, which has nothing to do with metal. "There was a line in the scene about his daughter liking K pop-- but it just dragged the scene down, so I cut it," López wrote.

But then...if the internal explanation is that some kid used AI to make a poster for a "loser Metal festival for boomers," who made the AI-generated poster for the K-pop group? "Chat GPT came as we were shooting," López later added. "So, we were-- feeling not kind towards AI." And to protest the emergence of generative AI you decided to use it on your show...?

I don't want to call López a liar -- this is her explanation and she's sticking to it -- but I think her justifications are kind of self-evidently flimsy. Some accepted her explanations. Others not so much:

  • @RunDaltonRun: "I hope you realize that this sounds like a really bad retroactive excuse, rather than just admitting that you used AI because you were too cheap to pay a real artist."
  • @KoalaJohnson: "Sorry, just not buying that excuse at all. It's actually pretty insulting to everyone's intelligence. You weren't trying to make a statement. You got caught doing the very thing you claim you're commenting on."
  • @FrankStalworth: "That's silly"

I've been enjoying True Detective: Night Country so far, and I hope there aren't more awkward encounters like this, for López's sake if nothing else. If the show takes a turn that viewers don't like, and if she's as engaged on Twitter as much as she is now, she will get inundated with all-caps tirades, whatever the sterling quality of her explanations. López kind of reminds me of The Witcher showrunner Lauren Hissrich, who was very active on Twitter in the early days of that show, mixing it up with fans, responding to queries, etc. Then the narrative started to turn and people decided they didn't enjoy The Witcher; things got especially hostile once star Henry Cavill left at the end of season 3. Hissrich doesn't post so much on there anymore.

Maybe the rest of Night Country will be fantastic and López won't need to think about pulling back from social media, but it can't hurt to take precautions. The Game of Thrones showrunners perfected this technique years ago:

Next. showrunners. Game of Thrones showrunners mostly unplugged from the hate for season 8. dark

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