Annie Murphy as Joan Tait in Black Mirror episode "Joan is Awful."

Can Someone Please Tell the AMPTP That ‘Black Mirror’ Is Not Supposed To Be Aspirational

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) needs a reminder that Black Mirror isn’t supposed to be aspirational. The AMPTP offered actors an artificial intelligence (A.I.) proposal that was seemingly taken straight from an episode of the speculative dystopian series. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) officially called for a strike at a press conference on July 13 after negotiations with the AMPTP fell through. During the conference, SAG-AFTRA revealed what the AMPTP’s “ground-breaking” A.I. proposal was, and the results were disturbing.

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The horrifying proposal stipulates that studios should be able to scan background actors in exchange for one day of pay, then use that actor’s likeness in any project in the future without pay or permission. Twitter users immediately clocked this pitch as nearly identical to Black Mirror‘s season 6, episode 1, “Joan is Awful.” The episode follows a woman named Joan (Annie Murphy) who realizes she accidentally gave a streaming company the rights to her personal data by agreeing to their terms and conditions. The platform Streamberry (a spot-on spoof of Netflix) then creates a series about Joan’s life starring an A.I.-generated version of Salma Hayek as Joan, thus using the personal data and likeness of two women without consent or compensation.

Now, the AMPTP is trying to make the events of this episode come true and introduce a reality where actors could be wholly replaced by CGI creations.

AMPTP needs an inspiration that’s not fictional dystopias

Like all Black Mirror episodes, “Joan is Awful” is filled with warnings about what can happen when technology is misused. It is supposed to be a worst-case scenario of streaming and CGI getting completely out of hand. This makes it all the more shocking that the AMPTP is actually trying to make “Joan is Awful” a reality. Under their proposal, studios could “own” the likeness of an actor for eternity. If they manage to trick their performers into agreeing to this (with a terms and conditions contract that no one reads), it is entirely possible that actors could one day watch an entire movie starring a CGI version of themselves without their knowledge or consent. And some studios are doing exactly that.

We’re still not sure where the AMPTP got the word “ground-breaking” to describe its proposal because all Twitter got from that proposal was “Joan is Awful.”

The proposal is especially embarrassing after Disney CEO Bob Iger publicly whined about the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America (WGA) strikers having “unrealistic” expectations. So, SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikers are unrealistic for asking to be paid, but the AMPTP can just take its proposals from the latest episode of Black Mirror and run with them? Let’s also not forget that Netflix, the platform that produces and distributes Black Mirror, is also a member of the AMPTP. It honestly feels like they produced this episode and then decided, “Hey, that sounds like a good idea!”

Studios are desperate to make strikers out to be the villains. But they are the ones proposing ideas that parallel depictions of fictional, nightmarish scenarios for society. The AMPTP is going to find itself hard-pressed to find sympathy when it clearly wants Hollywood to be as oppressive and controlling as the dystopian world in “Joan is Awful.”

(featured image: Netflix)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.