In his twilight years, a baggy Paul McCartney has cheated time by summoning his young self from the recesses of the public’s memory and thrusting him back on the world stage. A nimble, de-aged deepfake McCartney appears in a new music video for a Beck collaboration, dancing through the halls of a hotel, getting some looks from “chicks” (likely deepfaked figments of Paul McCartney’s witchery). Asking whether this is okay in 2021 is moot because it’s happening, and nobody likes the alternative facelift, and the shape-shifting Kardashian-Jenners have already bamboozled us for years. Instead, the burning question before us, right at this second as this video disseminates, and we reach a consensus about how to feel: is this cool? A hard pass could devastate the celebrity self-deepfake industry for decades to come.
View the video here:
And now formulate a judgment. Here are some points to consider:
Point: This is definitely not groovy. A mercenary carefully constructing a digital skin suit in order to perform for the internet—probably the 1968 equivalent of a cover band filling in for Tom Jones in Vegas.
Counterpoint: Every single person who views this video will immediately google a recent photo of Paul McCartney, who bears a strong resemblance to my grandmother, and can you really blame the guy?
Point: Young Paul McCartney did not consent to old Paul McCartney capitalizing on young Paul McCartney’s coolness with a sanitized boy band likeness. Or, in the words of Remington Scott, chief executive of Hyperreal, the video’s coproducers: “The technology to de-age talent and have them perform in creative environments like this is now fully realised, even with one of the most recognised faces in the world.”
Counterpoint: I’ve been using the same email avatar for ten years, and I’m getting away with it.
Point: This is what happens when old Paul McCartney leans into his age: a torture chamber Christmas carol broadcast throughout all supermarkets and television stations in every Euro-Christian nation. If he’s holding a gun to our heads, I’ll take this.
Counterpoint: You’re probably jealous. You probably read about the advancement in age-reversing gene therapy and thought you’d go in on that.
Point: Paul McCartney was never the cool Beatle. That person was George.
Counterpoint: One day, your supple flesh is so desirable that you’re running from shrieking hordes of salivating teens who would tear you from limb to limb and suck every drop of your mouthwatering blood, and the next, you’re hitching your wagon to Beck. Might as well spring for the damn software.