‘Avengers’ Director Faces Criticism Over AI-Generated “Sexual Fantasy” Comments

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Chris Evans and Joe Russo

Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

A Russo brother’s comments on the advent of AI-generated movies and TV have prompted a wave of intense criticism.

avengers cast laughing behind the scenes
Credit: Russo Brothers/ Twitter

Related: ‘Avengers’ Directors The Russo Brothers Snap Away Any Hope of Marvel Return

The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of Marvel Studios, helmed by Kevin Feige, has changed the game for the superhero movie genre — and the film industry in general. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has become massive in recent years, with the MCU’s dramatic ending to Marvel Studios’ Phase Three, Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019) directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, collectively known as the Russo Brothers, concluding the popular Infinity Saga.

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War
Credit: Marvel Studios

The Avengers franchise, which began with Joss Whedon’s 2012 film, The Avengers, featuring an all-star cast including Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Chris Hemsworth (Thor Odinson), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk), Tom Hiddleston (Loki Laufeyson/Loki Odinson), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), marked the start of a new era. This movie all but transformed the film industry by establishing a new standard for integrating multiple films, into the same “cinematic universe.”

Avengers Assemble in The Avengers, (left to right) Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hulk
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Marvel Called Out for Not Letting Their Directors Do Their Jobs

Now the one of the much-lauded Russo Bros is stirring up a fair bit of controversy online with his comments regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its use in the generation of entertainment in the near future.

Joe Russo’s comments about AI, and why it’s getting flak

Pepper Potts, Valkyrie, Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel, Mantis, Shuri in 'Avengers: Engame'
Credit: Marvel Studios

The following discussion includes language and topics that may be unsuitable for younger readers.

The general public have a bone to pick with Joe Russo’s comments in a recent Collider interview, specifically his statements about the use of AI to “engineer storytelling” in movies — specifically “rom-coms” using deepfaked actresses’ images — in what is heavily implied to be wish fulfillment of a sexual or romantic fantasy.

YouTuber and commentator Jenny Nicholson brought up a point about the famed director immediately jumping to commenting that AI would be used to “deepfake porn of real women”, calling the creator out for actually taking a “shortcut” straight to that topic, “like it was a good thing”:

I feel like if I’d thought about the darker implications of this tech for a minute I would have eventually arrived at deepfake porn of real women but he actually took a shortcut to that and said it like it was a good thing, like that was the original pitch

The tweet in question blew up with approximately 11.3K likes (at the time of writing), and saw a barrage of similarly uncomfortable users in the replies.

Many criticized Russo’s choice of naming famed old Hollywood star and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, with user @DaniNMills tweeting:

I am literally begging Hollywood to leave Marilyn Monroe alone

And Remington Spoor commented in agreement, via a sarcastic jibe at Russo as a “sweaty industry dude”:

So excited to have Marilyn victimized by sweaty industry dudes once again but from beyond the grave

Meanwhile, user Nick Ostrem calls Russo out for his problematic train of thought, saying that Russo likely “had to pick a dead lady” as picking someone alive “would have made it feel worse” to the average reader:

He had to pick a dead lady because if he had said someone who is alive it would have made it feel even worse, although that’s inevitably the end point here

It’s all about consent (specifically, the lack thereof) from Russo, that worries individuals like Yasmin:

using a dead woman who could never possibly consent as his example too

Others like @MackJ critiqued the fact that Russo’s “ideal use case” for procedurally generated AI entertainment is a “photo-realistic fantasy wish fulfillment machine” — something mentally dangerous:

Joe Russo’s ideal use-case for AI is a constantly evolving photo-realistic fantasy wish fulfillment machine. Yeah that seems good, can’t see any way it could be dangerous to anyone’s mental health.

(continued) Joe Russo’s idea is basically every episode of Star Trek about someone losing their mind on the Holodeck.

While even more like @Meddle98 are using this as an opportunity to disparage the Russo Brothers’ quality of direction and filmmaking prowess:

“AI can make movies as good as the russo brothers” is a pretty funny self own

Overall, it appears that Joe Russo’s comments just aren’t going down well with a general populace mostly afraid and unsure about the frightening possibilities of AI — particularly in almost universally consumed areas such as entertainment.

Creators themselves are definitely worried as well, and generally unexcited for such a nightmarish potential reality — where creativity is stolen from real humans and subsequently copy-paste regurgitated. Executive producer Rekola weighs in:

As an executive producer who believes in creativity, this sounds like a nightmare

Will movies and entertainment really lose their human quality? Is it okay for AI to be used in creating romantic wish fulfillment fantasies? Perhaps the only way to find out is to wait a few years. And potentially fight back against our dystopian, blandly generated ChatGPT robo-apocalypse overlords.

What do you think about the criticism Joe Russo is facing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Right now Marvel fans can enjoy other MCU favorites such as Chris Hemsworth (Thor Odinson) in Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), as well as Disney+ Originals Moon Knight (2022) and Ms. Marvel (2022), led by Marvel newcomers Oscar Isaac (Marc Spector/Moon Knight) and Iman Vellani (Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel) respectively. Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wraps things up with Tatiana Maslany as the eponymous She-Hulk: Attorney at Law that debuted August 18, 2022, and Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa send-off Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, currently streaming on Disney+.

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