AI-Generated Photo of Pope Francis Rocking a Balenciaga Jacket Has The Internet In Stitches
Imagining Pope Francis in fashion-label attire almost feels like committing a sin and the guilt of even having the thought keeps killing you. But AI (Artificial Intelligence) is devoid of these emotions so over the weekend, millions of people witnessed the holy father in a Balenciaga jacket. Pope Francis's images in a long, white, trendy-looking puffer coat with his traditional pectoral cross and white zucchetto cap surfaced online and what happened next was predictable. The internet went wild over the images of the otherwise holy-looking priest who appeared to be coming straight out of a fashion show.
The boys in Brooklyn could only hope for this level of drip pic.twitter.com/MiqkcLQ8Bd— Nikita S (@singareddynm) March 25, 2023
Is it possible for a religious leader to step out in rather unorthodox attire and make a show of himself? When the 86-year-old donned an oversized puffer jacket, the internet took it as a word of God. They applauded his new-improved fashion sense. A tweet by @singareddynm read, "The boys in Brooklyn could only hope for this level of drip." The tweet was posted on March 25, 2023, and has since garnered over 20 million views and 200k likes. The truth, however, was the images were fake. Yes, and once again, it was the power of AI that turned the impossible possible. The other images that followed captured Francis in sleek white gloves and pristine white sneakers, very unlike Pope and nonetheless, fake.
The alleged AI artist who dared to turn Francis into a fashion model was identified as Pablo Xavier, a 31-year-old construction worker from the Chicago area, Buzzfeed news reported on March 27, 2023. The artist refused to share his surname and revealed that he was "tripping on shrooms" while toying with Midjourney, an AI-powered tool that can generate realistic fake images. He said, "It just dawned on me: I should do the Pope. Then it was just coming like water: 'The Pope in Balenciaga puffy coat, Moncler, walking the streets of Rome, Paris,' stuff like that." A meme creator stumbled upon his AI designs and since then they spread like wildfire. The meme-maker shared the pictures in the AI Art Universe Facebook Group and then on Reddit. But the images blew up once they reached Twitter.
I think Balenciaga pope might be the first real mass-level AI misinformation case. Kinda cool to watch tbh. https://t.co/hPoJeXwA1z— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) March 26, 2023
Xavier claimed he clearly didn't want the pictures to blow up like that and admitted, "it's scary that people are so gullible to believe the pictures to be real." "I feel like sh-t," he lamented. "It's crazy." The AI-generated images fooled even an avid Twitter user and supermodel, Chrissy Teigen, 37 who tweeted, "I thought the Pope's puffer jacket was real and didn't give it a second thought. No way am I surviving the future of technology."
I thought the pope’s puffer jacket was real and didnt give it a second thought. no way am I surviving the future of technology— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) March 26, 2023
Finneas, 25, Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, insisted on her Instagram story that "the pope's puffer jacket is real if you want it to be." Real or fake, the AI images took the internet by storm.
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Arvind Narayanan, a professor of computer science at Princeton University who studies AI, told Washington Post, "The meme likely went viral because of the uncertainty about whether it was real or fake." He added, "It goes without saying that we can never again assume an image is authentic because it looks realistic."
You probably saw on the news A.I. generations of Pope Francis wearing a white cozy jacket. I’d love to see your generations inspired by it.— Kris Kashtanova (@icreatelife) March 28, 2023
Here’s a prompt by the original creator Guerrero Art (Pablo Xavier):
Catholic Pope Francis wearing Balenciaga puffy jacket in drill rap… pic.twitter.com/5WA2UTYG7b