Content Farm is a show that you need to see to believe.
This sketch comedy is strung together by a story of social media instability that warns of a future where what’s authentic, what’s real and what’s AI is thrown into the messy melting pot that is the internet. The show follows an A.I named Jessica who was completely created through an online deepfake of a person, and her being is completely artificial. We follow Jessica as she studies the internet and social media with its wacky personalities and ideas. The show fully embraces the cringe and insanity of its wacky internet videos and the presence of A.I in many of them has you questioning what is real, what is a deep fake and is a digitally developed.
As Jessica starts to understand this alternate webspace that’s not too far from our own, she starts to use her knowledge for profit. We start to see her various attempts to monetize her ability to create deepfakes and the lack of control around it. This allows the creators Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton to take the viewer on the journey of a content creator and all the struggles and weirdness that might come with it. Of course, the fact that we’re dealing with an A.I content creator makes the whole journey unsettling but we still laugh as this A.I emulates the mistakes and bumbling’s that any aspiring influencer would go through.
Hutton and Gillis utilize their budget well by rooting themselves in the world of low quality and low budget social media series. There seems to be a clear purpose for moments when the presence of green screen or uncinematic shots are there and it helps the show to avoid becoming overproduced. The only idea that likely could have used a higher budget is a Love Island parody, where the men played by women have to pick their ideal woman who may or may not be a deepfake. (However, even then, the look made sense to keep the series campy for consistency.) It would be very cool to see an almost exact recreation of the locations and people seen in Love Island with this same concept of some of them being deepfakes but hopefully this show grants them the traction to make larger scale ideas like that come to life. They do well with what they have and it’s a show that CBC Gem should be glad to have on their platform.
The A.I deepfake Judith is really well done and, while a close look may reveal that she is indeed a deepfake, there is no real attempt to hide that we’re watching a robot. This is especially the case in moments that we see her being programmed and trained by a character named Tamsin, The Discriminator, a character played by Lauren Gillis who really is made to stand for the greedy rich white men who might use this new technology for monetary gain. Gillis and Hutton play so many different small characters and it really adds to the déjà vu and loopy cycle one can go through when scrolling through the internet and navigating the innovations in social technology. The campy and scrappy method of having themselves play so many characters with different uses of deepfake and ridiculous hair and makeup pieces help make the show humorous while they still play characters whose implication on the world have to be taken seriously, like the rich white man in charge.
While other films and shows that cover such broad and changing social topics, Content Farm never attempts to give a solution to the rise of A.I on the horizon. Nevertheless, it also serves its purpose to expose viewers to the reality that this time may not be very far away and, in fact, already a part of our world. Powerful companies and the people behind them using social media, computers and A.I to manipulate people into giving them more of their money is not a new idea and I hope it’s one that the viewer is able to understand.
Personally, this show really opened my eyes to where A.I can go and the fact that we may not be able to tell who on the Internet is actually a person or a computer. This series makes the traditional Turing test themes of sci-fi films of the past that depict futures we’ll never see somehow seem all the more real. There’s already been a lot of discourse over how people can be authentic and real on the internet but now we’ll have to tell whose actually human. In a world where its harder and harder to tell if someone is showing their true self on the internet (they probably aren’t), A.I can almost fit right in. After all, like those creators, they are made to sell something. With our world becoming more and more online, more of ourselves seems to be available on the internet, most often through social media, and that’s the first place where technology will come to learn about humans.
Content Farm is available on CBC Gem on Friday, March 31st, 2023.