'Deepfake' Queen does TikTok dance during Channel 4's Christmas Address, royalists not amused: 'How dare they'
A graphically designed 'deepfake' version of the monarch will deliver Channel's alternative Christmas message and also offer 'a stark warning about misinformation and fake news'
Channel 4 is known to provide a humorous alternative to the Queen's annual Christmas Day address to the nation. This year, however, the network is offering a blatant mockery of the Queen -- including jibes aimed at her son Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and British PM Boris Johnson. According to the Daily Mail, a graphically designed "deepfake" version of the monarch will deliver Channel's alternative Christmas message and also offer "a stark warning about misinformation and fake news."
The digitally-created Queen, played by actress Debra Stephenson, will appear to give her two cents on the bombshell departure of Harry and Meghan from the royal family, as well as the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew and his links to late pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein. The artificial rendition, created by visual effects studio Framestore, will reportedly also be performing a TikTok dance routine.
Deepfake of the Queen— Jahangir Youssif (@JahangirYoussif) December 23, 2020
This year's Christmas message will be delivered by a deepfake of the Queen.
Channel 4 said the intention was to give a "stark warning" about fake news in the digital age. pic.twitter.com/x9bvS6mylf
"One thing that has sustained many of us is our families, which is why I was so saddened by the departure of Harry and Meghan," a spoof Elizabeth II says during the four-minute broadcast. "There are few things more hurtful than someone telling you they prefer the company of Canadians. But at least I still have my beloved Andrew close by, it seems unlikely he'll be heading to North America anytime soon."
"2020 has also been a year of heroes, such as our brave NHS workers, many of whom were forced to take incredible risks - like treating Boris Johnson - knowing at any time, as a result, they too could become pregnant," she adds, surrounded by pictures of her family members.
Deepfake technology has gained popularity in recent years and has often been used to create convincing but manufactured footage of high-profile personalities. Former US President Barack Obama has been the subject of several deepfake videos.
Directed by William Bartlett, the artificial rendition saw Stephenson, 48, read a script written by James Kettle. The end of the message shows th digital output flickering and later disappearing to unveil the green screen that was used to recreate the interior of Buckingham Palace and revealing that it was Stephenson playing the monarch.
"I have an intense fascination with deepfake technology. For years I have studied people to impersonate them for TV, but now I can truly become them," Stephenson told Channel 4. "As an actress it is thrilling but it is also terrifying if you consider how this could be used in other contexts."
For years, Channel 4's alternative Christmas message has provided much comic relief as a parody of the BBCs's broadcast of the Queen's official annual televised message to the nation. Previously, the alternative wishes have been delivered by Doreen and Neville Lawrence, John Bercow, and Quentin Crisp.
While the Palace is yet to respond, many royalists expressed outrage at the video, calling it a “disrespectful” way to treat the Queen. “How dare they,” tweeted Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
However, Ian Katz, director of programs at Channel 4, defended the video, saying in this age of fake news and disinformation, the video is "a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes."
"Deepfake technology is the frightening new frontier in the battle between misinformation and truth," said Ian Katz, director of programs at Channel 4. "This year's Alternative Christmas Address - seemingly delivered by one of the most familiar and trusted figures in the nation - is a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes."
"This was a great project to be asked to direct," Director Bartlett chimed in. "Deepfake is an interesting spin-off from the recent advances made in machine learning and AI and, while it is a powerful new technique for image-makers everywhere, it is also a tool that can be used to misrepresent and deceive."
"With Channel 4, we wanted to create a sequence that is hopefully entertaining enough that it will be seen by a lot of people and thereby spreads the very real message that images cannot always be trusted," he added.