Joan is Awful a Next-Level Look at AI-Generated Content in the Self-Surveilling Society

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

Black Mirror: Joan is Awful

A few days ago I watched a debate between Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump. They were crude, foul-mouthed, and insulted the viewers of the debate by name.

It was on Twitch, and it was all done through the power of AI speech generator, voice imitation, deep fake imagery, and iterative content responsiveness to input from comments in the chat. And it was all in real-time.

That's funny. Because the two men in question are public figures, each prone to ridicule, and as such the content was protected under parody laws.

Now imagine that the charcter on the screen is you -- or an idealized version of you, using a deep fake actor -- taking input from all the listening and video devices that surround you all day, devices you bought voluntarily with your own money, and modifying that input to make things just a little bit more dramatic. And imagine there's nothing you can do about it because it's all completely legal.

That's the situation Joan (Annie Murphy, most of the time) finds herself in "Joan is Awful," the lead-in episode of the lastest season of Black Mirror on Netflix. Joan's banal existence, self doubts, and minor peccadillos come back to haunt her when she returns home that night to chill in front of the television with her boyfriend. The show they select from the streaming service is "Joan is Awful," in which a character who looks much like Joan is portrayed by Salma Hayek, and who goes through all the events of Joan's day with a little bit more drama -- right down to coming home to her boyfriend to watch "Joan is Awful" starring Cate Blanchett!

Within 24 hours, the debut of "Joan is Awful" has destroyed Joan's career and social life. Feeling helpless, Joan investigates into how this is all possible, uncovering some uncomfortable truths about the world we live in and the rights we blindly sign away and leading her to act out in appalling fashion.

The show takes a few minutes to get rolling, but once you reach the hook you'll be mesmerized right through to the end. This is some real "20 seconds into the future" science fiction.

5.0 / 5.0