Two years after the hashtag #StarringJohnCho took over social media, a 24-year-old producer, writer, comedian, programmer and filmmaker is on a mission.
Indian American Avi Bagla has converted a controversial piece of technology for a “positive use.” Deepfakes has primarily been used to put the faces of Hollywood celebrities on top of porn stars in their NR rated movies.
Bagla is using it to insert John Cho into Hollywood hits that so often don’t include Asian Americans in lead roles.
“I had been thinking about deepfakes for a while and then the topic of Asian American representation in Hollywood came up in a conversation with a friend and it clicked – what if I used deepfakes to literally make movies star John Cho, in the vein of #StarringJohnCho,” said Bagla to AsAmNews. “The rest is history.”
He’s aware of the controversy over deepfakes and the danger such technology poses. But he prefers to look at the positive possibilities.
“This tool came out originally as a terrible thing – there was a Vice article about deepfakes (linked here) – the creator specifically designed this for artificial porn. It’s relatively widespread at this point. I saw this as a tool being misused that I could somehow use for good – in my case, it was to highlight the issues of representation in movies. I don’t think I would have done this project had the code base not existed (partially out of ignorance, and partially out of a desire not to make the tool available for illicit purposes).