Obama as Ice Spice and Ron DeSantis as Barbie from the cursed deepfakes trend.

Cursed Deepfakes

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Related Explainer: What Is A 'Cursed Deepfake' And How Are They Made? The Humorous New AI-Powered Trend Explained

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About

Cursed Deepfakes refer to AI-generated deepfake edits in which a celebrity's face and voice are spliced onto another celebrity's body or into a piece of footage from a film, music video or television show, usually for comedic effect. The deepfakes are considered "cursed" by many because the juxtaposition of one celebrity's voice and face onto another celebrity's body is unsettling to some. Although similar content had existed earlier, in the fall of 2023, TikToks featuring such cursed deepfakes became increasingly prominent on the platform as a trend developed.

Origin

Faceswapping and deepfake technology has existed in some form since the late 2010s and has been frequently used in memes. For example, in 2020, YouTuber Jesse Richards posted a series of clips from The Office episodes in which every character had the face and voice of Kevin Malone. One post on Reddit's /r/dundermifflin, posted on May 5th, 2020 (seen below), achieved almost 28,000 upvotes in four years.[3] The work of Jesse Richards was also featured in reporting by Mashable after one of their deepfake videos went viral.[4]



By 2023, the increased public availability of sophisticated AI programs for modifying videos and sound allowed for more intricate and convincing memes. In May 2023, right-wing meme account @C3PMemes posted deepfake videos of American politicians such as Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis on X and on YouTube. For example, a May 20th, 2023, video posted to YouTube (seen below) depicted Biden's head and voice on the body of influencer im_linux advertising Bud Light, receiving over 181,000 views in the course of six months (shown below).[1]



@C3PMeme also posted other deepfakes, such as the one seen below which depicts Ron DeSantis as Michael Scott in an exchange in The Office in which Scott wears a woman's suit on accident. The video (seen below), which was reposted by conservative aggregation account Patriot Takes, earned over 8,200 likes in six months, spawning a series of videos spoofing DeSantis as various characters in The Office.[2]


Spread

In September of 2023, the TikTok account allhailthelagorithm began posting a series of memes that spliced the faces and voices of politicians onto the bodies of celebrities. Frequently, the deepfakes use a male politician on the body of a young female pop star. For example, in the meme (seen below, left) posted on October 21st, 2023, received over 145,000 likes and 1.4 million views in the course of a month and depicted Ron DeSantis as the musician Grimes. [5]

TikToker allhailthealgorithm also made several edits showing Barack Obama's face and voice on the body of Ice Spice, like the video (seen below, right) in which Obama / Ice Spice defined "munch" and received over 16,000 likes and 160,000 views in a month.[6]


https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7292533116978187566
https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7290253679285013806

Other accounts, such as feiobeats on TikTok used similar techniques to create memes, which showed rapper/singer Danny Brown's voice and face over an Ice Spice music video (seen below). The Danny Brown / Ice Spice meme was posted on August 20th, 2023, and received over 18,000 likes and over 140,000 views in three months.[7] Danny Brown himself later shared the video on Instagram. Tonally and technologically, these memes seem to have more in common with the AI music trend than with the earlier The Office-inspired AI deepfake memes.


https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7269522656242748714

allhailthealgorithm told Know Your Meme through DM on TikTok that a major inspiration for the cursed deepfakes was the AI music parody trend, which usually involved an AI-generated track inserting some new voice into a song accompanied by static images of the celebrities involved.

According to allhailthealgorithm, they thought to combine the different types of AI technology to make videos that manipulated both the audio and the moving image. Describing how the videos are made, allhailthealgorithm also told Know Your Meme:

The workflow isn't too complicated on its face: I train an AI model for the voice, generally using a podcast recording I find online, using the program RVC. Then for the audio I generally use an AI program to strip away the background noise, sometimes dubbing in my own vocals or using vocal separation to deal with overlapping voices, which confuse the AI. When I have the clean audio I run it through RVC and it maps the timbre of, say, Obama's voice onto the audio I give it. At the same time, I use a face swapping program called Roop, now rebranded to FaceFusion iirc, to swap the face. Then I combine everything in Premiere and AfterEffects!

The hardest part is actually finding the right video -- I have tons of drafts that never make it out because the AI needs a clear look at the face in order to make the swap. Like for the recent video of SZA, I tried for so long to get good video of more of the song but since she usually sings while holding a mic in front of her face, the results looked glitchy. That's why the Genius interviews and such work so well -- they're well lit and give you a good head-on shot of the artists's face the whole time. Plus sometimes I'll get halfway through making a video and just decide it's not funny, though sometimes I'll put one out expecting it to flop and it'll pop off instead!

Various Examples


https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7284694988762582318
https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7297738165622672682
https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7288175778880146720
https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/7279855985785654570


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