Today is a good day to be angry at True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto. Not only have Pizzolatto's comments in a new Hollywood Reporter feature rightly enraged people on Twitter, but he's battling an extensive plagiarism accusation on another front.
In Lacey Rose's Hollywood Reporter feature, Pizzolatto doubles down on his rejection of the criticism surrounding True Detective's portrayal of women. Rose wrote that criticism, like Emily Nussbaum's essay "Cool Story, Bro," "incenses" Pizzolatto.
But the first season, he argues, was conceived as a close point-of-view show, wholly told through the eyes and experiences of the two male characters. "You can either accept that about the show or not, but it's not a phony excuse," he says, unable to hide his frustration. He adds that he consulted his friend Callie Khouri on the matter: "When Callie, who wrote Thelma & Louise, thinks that that's stupid criticism, I'm inclined to take her opinion over someone with a Wi-Fi connection."
This isn't an unfamiliar stance for Pizzolatto. When asked about similar criticisms of the show in a recent Daily Beast interview, Pizzolatto said: "I think it affected me a little bit in my conception of Season 2, but then not at all. I realized I was listening to things I didn’t agree with and taking cues from the wrong places. I just put it out of my mind." Reporter Andrew Romano followed up by asking Pizzolatto what he meant by "taking cues from the wrong places." He said: "I mean that writing towards what I consider an insubstantial criticism isn’t a good way to create."
But just as incensed as the criticism makes Pizzolatto, his easy dismissal of it has the same effect on those reading him. Reducing the New Yorker's television critic—(or for that matter any of the other intelligent people who analyzed the show's complicated relationship to its female characters)—to "someone with a Wi-Fi connection" is a bad look. So is the excuse that one wonderful female writer didn't see a problem with the characterization. Ultimately, his attitude is taking a toll on Pizzolatto's reputation, just as excitement ramps up for season two.
And any remaining respect I had for Nic Pizzolatto just instantly evaporated. Wow.— Jace Lacob (@televisionary) August 6, 2014
Mentioning that one female/LGBTQ/POC friend of yours who was cool with it...NEVER WORKS AS A DEFENSE http://t.co/BxSrgee5uZ— christiana cuellar (@Hi_Christiana) August 6, 2014
Nic Pizzolatto, philbrosopher, refers to Emily Nussbaum as "someone with a Wi-Fi connection." My eyes break from rolling too hard.— Max B. O'Connell (@thefilmtemple) August 6, 2014
The Hollywood Reporter comments come only shortly after Pizzolatto was accused of plagiarism in an extensive post on The Lovecraft eZine, an online magazine dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft. In the post Mike Davis interviews Jon Padgett of Thomas Ligotti Online about the striking similarities between Rust Cohle's ponderous speeches and Ligotti's work in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. The similarities are most definitely there. Now Pizzolatto talked extensively about Ligotti and The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and its influence on the show in an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Michael Calia, who had already highlighted some of the similarities between Rust's ramblings and Ligotti's work. Padgett, however, argues there's a "behind the scenes" story going on as well.
In this case, Pizzolatto has his defenders. Greg Cwik wrote on Criticwire that "contra Davis’ invidious article, plagiarism isn’t such a cut-and-dried matter. This isn’t a freshmen seminar on American Literature, and Pizzolatto isn’t just copy-and-pasting lines off of Wikipedia: It’s art, and art isn’t so straightforward." Meanwhile, Wil Wheaton tweeted: "That’s ludicrous. Cole is clearly influenced by Ligotti, so Pizzolatto had him use Ligotti’s words. Typical Gawker BS link bait."
Either way, True Detective backlash is stronger than ever today, which should put Pizzolatto in an uncomfortable position heading into both the Emmys and the show's highly anticipated second season.
Update 8/7/2014: HBO and Pizzolatto have issued statements denying the accusations of plagiarism. You can read HBO's over at The Playlist. Pizzolatto's is as follows:
Nothing in the television show 'True Detective' was plagiarized. The philosophical thoughts expressed by Rust Cohle do not represent any thought or idea unique to any one author; rather these are the philosophical tenets of a pessimistic, anti-natalist philosophy with an historic tradition including Arthur Schopenauer, Friedrich Nietzche, E.M. Cioran, and various other philosophers, all of whom express these ideas. As an autodidact pessimist, Cohle speaks toward that philosophy with erudition and in his own words. The ideas within this philosophy are certainly not exclusive to any writer.