Ronald Weasley from Harry Potter ai military art (l) Harry Potter from Harry Potter ai military art (c) Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter ai military art (r)

h@caton.lab/TikTok Remix by Caterina Cox

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence tweets Harry Potter AI-generated propaganda video

It has several layers of cringe.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on May 24, 2023

AI-generated art is becoming increasingly common amid mounting criticism against it. But Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence added an extra layer of scrutiny to those arguments by sharing an AI-generated video doubling as propaganda that inserted several Harry Potter characters into military uniforms.

The Twitter account for the Ministry of Defence, which usually posts updates about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, shared an AI-generated video created by @caton.lab. Even before hitting play, the video promises to be a lot by featuring a thumbnail image of Daniel Radcliffe’s version of Harry Potter holding a rifle and wearing military gear.

“There are many characters in the world of literature who dream of joining the #UAarmy – the side of good,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence wrote.

For good measure, it also tagged J.K. Rowling’s Twitter handle.

The video features Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and a slideshow of several Harry Potter characters—Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Neville Longbottom, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Arthur Weasley, and the Weasley twins—in uniforms belonging to different parts of Ukraine’s military forces. The other images, like the Harry Potter one, also incorporate the likeness of those characters’ respective actors to varying degrees of success.

The implication that the Ministry of Defence is using is familiar: It’s trying to draw parallels between the fight in Ukraine to Rowling’s series, suggesting that the wizards in Harry Potter would be on Ukraine’s side, not Russia’s. Minus the AI component, it’d probably fit right into an earlier era of political debate where some people used Harry Potter comparisons to real-world politics so often that it became a meme.

But here, it’s cringe for several reasons. People have moved on from using Harry Potter as the main fictional political touchstone. Harry Potter (and the author who wrote it) have become so toxic in online discourse that some people won’t go near it, and it landed even worse when Rowling tried using her characters to illustrate a point of which groups of people she found to be evil villains. Add in people’s discomfort and disdain around AI technology, and you have a recipe for backlash, even from people who generally support Ukraine in the war against Russia.

It’s not even the worst version of this video, either. @Caton.Lab, which previously went viral on TikTok for imagining a Bollywood version of Harry Potter that basically resulted in putting the actors in brownface, created another version of the “Harry Potter characters as Ukrainian soldiers” AI video, set to a rock version of “Hedwig’s Theme.”

You can see the characters blinking (including a rendition of Hermione Granger that wasn’t in the first video) and footage of soldiers using military-grade weapons and marching. And that video starts with a riff on one of Hagrid’s most iconic lines: “You’re in the army, Harry.”


Military Potter and his comrades

♬ оригінальний звук – caton
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*First Published: May 24, 2023, 2:09 pm CDT