More From The Marilyn Files

When I started noodling with midjourney, I used Ronald Reagan and Marilyn Monroe as prompts, because I figured there were lots of pictures of them.

So, I have a huge collection of renderings of famous people doing silly things or in bad situations. It’s fun to let me mind wander and then challenge the AI to come up with something. It’s also frustrating because the programmers who developed the AI have a really simplistic model for preventing “bad” images from being created: they block certain key words.

Bloody fucking hell. For example it also stops “bikini” and “bathing suit” – so much for renderings of bikini atoll being poisoned by nuclear fallout. It’s ridiculously simplistic. Naturally, I wanted to get some more sexier renderings of Marilyn of the Fifty Fingers, but it now checks your prompt images for “NSFW” content. So, something that was a scene in a major motion picture, such as Sue Lyon as Lolita in the film by Stanley Kubrick, cannot be used as a prompt for Ronald Reagan portraits. It’s all fucking sad, because the Bad People who want to make fake images are willing to go to the trouble to download their own copy of the model and run it on their own GPU after editing the stupid python script that searches for “bad” key words. Bloody hell.

By the way, this is what Midjourney came up with when I substituted “messy” for “bloody”:

Midjourney AI and mjr: “margaret thatcher defending herself against zombies in the house of parliament, messy dramatic”

Notice how the AI correctly rendered Thatcher’s layered shark teeth. Some politicians have evolved with layers of teeth so that if they lose one they can continue chomping at the public teat.

Midjourney AI and mjr: Margaret thatcher defending herself against zombies in the house of parliament

I do like how the AI somehow reached down into the soul of the dataset and rendered the innate viciousness of Thatcher. When she’s done killing those zombies, she’s going to cut their entitlements to the bone and put them out on the streets with beggars’ cups, for sure.

See how my mind wanders? Now, of course I am thinking “I gotta do Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan fighting back to back against a horde of thatcherite zombies who want to cut their entitlements.” etc.

Since I’m rambling, let me also mention that the AI’s “no erotica filter” exists, it does not (exactly) have a “no violence filter” – this is emblematic of American media: you can have all the violence you can handle but naked male buttocks? Worried parents (I do not believe this for a second) will be up in arms at the idea of their children seeing such a horror. Is it possible to connect American media’s violence, and its imperial violence? Or perhaps mass shootings? Would it be possible that American incels might grow up with a more balanced appreciation of sexuality if it wasn’t treated like something nasty and secret that the CIA developed?

Midjourney AI and mjr: Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan fighting back to back to escape a horde of zombies

The issue has to do with titillation, literally. We see an image and it makes us give ourselves a little shot of serotonin, dopamine, or adrenaline (depending) and then we realize we can mash that button again and again. Obviously, I’m simplifying but that’s pretty much the mechanism in a nutshell. Meanwhile, periodically, you’ll get some dipshit fundamentalist erotophobe saying “there’s too much sex in rap videos” while they masturbate to John Wick endlessly shooting non-player characters in balletic, overproduced, glory. I enjoyed the John Wick series but, really, America’s got a problem if it’s making movies about how some guy kills hundreds of bystanders and helpless security drones because some other guy killed his dog and (in a nod to capitalist excess) stole his gas guzzling product placement-mobile. Desensitize, much?

Midjourney AI and mjr: “canova’s marilyn”

For reasons of brain fart, I also got on two other riffs: Warhammer armor and skateboards. I spent a while feeding pictures of Tony Hawk and Richelieu into Midjourney to get Richelieu in his cardinal’s robes doing a kick turn. Louis XIV going down the stairs at Versailles was next. And, of course, there was Marilyn in Warhammer armor (you’ve seen that) and on a skateboard:

Midjourney AI and mjr: “marilyn monroe on a skateboard in the style of peter lindbergh”

It got the Peter Lindbergh lighting but not the cultural baggage, which is that Lindbergh often includes lighting gear in his images, to produce a sort of photo-recursion.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “marilyn monroe in an elegant cream satin gown is skateboarding down the street in los angeles”

[As I type this, midjourney is crunching away at margaret thatcher in warhammer armor]

Midjourney AI and mjr: “Marilyn Monroe, age 60”

Still elegant. I have to admit, I was fetched.

So naturally, I asked it to wind the clock back the other way. What the AI came back with really intrigued me. By the way, you can’t say “beautiful and sexy” but “beautiful and coquettish” works. Stupid programmers. You can’t ask for “Marilyn Monroe in lingerie” but “Marilyn Monroe in an elegant cream satin peignoir” may still work until they add “elegant” to the Bad Words List.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “Marilyn Monroe age 14, beautiful elegant and coquettish. black and white in the style of hurrell”

Interesting, right? It rendered a pre-plastic surgery version of Marilyn. But it also rendered a post-plastic version with the hands of time wound back.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “Marilyn Monroe age 14, beautiful elegant and coquettish black and white in the style of hurrell”

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Midjourney AI and mjr: “cardinal richelieu skateboarding in a half-pipe in the courtyard of his chateau”

Somehow the AI thought that when I said “Margaret Thatcher” I wanted Queen Margaret:

Midjourney AI and mjr: “Margaret thatcher in warhammer powered armor”

If any of you want to send me a few images from your AI arting, please email me and I’ll feature you as a guest AI-driver!

Now I have to get back to my attempt to produce “Marilyn Monroe sitting on Voltaire’s lap…”

OK one final comment on John Wick then I’ll shut up: this guy is supposed to be the supreme super duper assassin – the scariest scary guy to ever scare anyone. So why does he wade in to every situation like he’s playing Doom, instead of just killing his one target with a sublimely elegant attack from a distance? The best ninja plants his knife where years later his foe will walk onto it. John Wick is an exercise in American collateral damage and I sometimes wonder whether that is deliberate.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “Margaret thatcher skateboarding in the house of parliament”

Look at the painting of Josh Hawley running in the background!


  1. says

    While I’ve seen Midjourney produce some certainly NSFW images before, it takes a lot of work. It’s funny though when it flags an image it creates as a problem. Stable Diffusion didn’t have the same restrictions and from what I’ve seen it’s mostly huge boobs now and as someone who enjoys Midjourney’s Daily Theme room (or whatever they call it in Discord) I’m just happy that it’s not overrun with guys making fapping material. Considering how many prompts I’ve seen of people using the names of real people, I’m also glad it’s not easy to make a photorealistic nude image of a celebrity.

    I also suspect the difficulty the AI has with appendages is deliberate in order to avoid becoming all feet, all the time.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Have you tried, say, “sanguinary”?

    Would an AI abused with a thesaurus actually feel pain?

  3. Tethys says

    I often wonder about those who complain about videos which contain too much sex. Nobody is forcing them to watch the videos, yet somehow their eyeballs got offended? Also, like every other abusive addict, criminal sex offenders think they are perfectly normal, and everybody (even dogs and infants) are secretly obsessed with very violent/rapist/ foul sexual thoughts.

    I haven’t seen all of the John Wick films, though I enjoy watching Keanu Reeves in general. I don’t remember anyone but bad guys being killed in the first two. He even gave one assassin the professional courtesy of not quite killing him, as he had fought well and honorably.

    It wasn’t ‘Just a dog’ as was eloquently explained by Vigo. John Wick is Baba Yaga.
    A dark angel of death. He is not human without the dog.

    As for bloody, I wonder how the AI would interpret synonyms such as sanguine?
    Gory in the style of Gorey could yield some unusual results.

  4. drken says

    It’s not all that surprising that you can have Margret Thatcher murdering people, but not wearing a bikini while she’s doing it. That’s pretty much par for the course around here. But, what confuses me the most is how bad it is at rendering a skateboard. It’s not a complicated shape and there are near infinite examples to sample online. Both examples miss pretty big as I’ve never seen a 3 wheel skateboard and I have no idea what the Cardinal is riding or how it would actually work.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    Midjourney AI and mjr: Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan fighting back to back to escape a horde of zombies

    So it can’t get teeth and fingers right … but really, it doesn’t understand “back to back”?

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    @6: and I have no idea what the Cardinal is riding…

    Maybe that’s the halfpipe?
    I rather suspect that it is the artist who had half a pipe.

  7. Ketil Tveiten says

    What is up with everyone’s mouths? The system has evolved from merely too many fingers and needs to multiply other things too?

  8. astringer says

    Thanks Marcus: now I’ll have a 1980’s horror-cross in my head all day: Spitting Image’s “Margaret Thatcher” with an axe + Viz’s “Topless Skateboard Nun”. Aaargh, no no no…

  9. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    I’m impressed that it got enough from just “Canova’s” to find that artist and enough of his work to make that image. Not that I’m embarrassed that an AI knows more art history than I do, or anything. But I saw the prompt and instantly thought, when did Judy Canova do sculpture?

  10. Tethys says

    I am mystified that the AI has so much trouble with teeth and hands, but has great fashion design sense.

    Its other choices are curious. Why does Thatcher #2 have enormous gorilla canines? Why is Edward Stark sitting against the wall? His expression of horror is correct, if anachronistic.

    Skateboarding Marilyn’s dresses are fab and spot on, especially the tulip skirted one with the shrug, though the heels are completely unsuitable for skateboarding.

  11. rrutis1 says

    A work friend was all in a lather a few years ago when the superbowl halftime act had J Lo and Shakira. He complained that his teenage son saw the act and would be scarred (scarred! I say!) from the sexuality. I asked him how bad it could be because it was litterally in the middle of a stand in for gladitorial combat. He made a face and walked away.

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