I can make jokes about this now because Pope Francis is set to be released after a brief hospital stay, and thank G*d, because the saga of the Pope Coat is what I needed this week.
On Saturday, @skyferrori posted a photo of the Pope looking incredibly chic in an oversized, pearlescent white puffer coat with the caption “OKAAYYY.” It spread like wildfire, reaching the curation account PopBase less than three hours later, which, unlike the original poster, noted that the image was made using AI. The photo was so good it fooled many, many people, including celebrities and internet culture reporters, but we also got delightful spinoffs, including Abraham Lincoln in matching drip, and crossover memes referencing The Devil Wears Prada and Seinfeld.
It also led to this story and tweet: “SCOOP: I spoke to the guy behind Balenciaga Pope for @BuzzFeedNews, who was (a) tripping on shrooms when he made the image and (b) thinks it means we should regulate AI.” The Guy in question is 31-year-old construction worker Pablo Xavier, who declined to give his last name to BuzzFeed and said he created the photo using the AI tool Midjourney. Pablo said, “It just dawned on me: I should do the Pope. Then it was just coming like water: ‘The Pope in Balenciaga puffy coat, Moncler, walking the streets of Rome, Paris,’ stuff like that.” Sure, require AI disclosures on photos, but please keep making them because they are incredible (and definitely not a problem for misinformation ahead of a crucial presidential election, whatever do you mean?).
Days later, it keeps going. On Thursday, Twitter darling and photoshop king Darth the red panda invoked the coat when returning from his annual hibernation. Welcome back, Darth, the internet got you this. —Susan Rinkunas