It never ceases to amaze just where a sense of cultural political correctness may rear it’s indignant head and on one occasion recently it was when I used an online AI ‘text to image’ generator to create some nostalgia.
I remember from my childhood reading Rupert Bear annuals regularly and in the pictures and text stories there were a number of recurring human characters ‘Sam, Captain Binnacle and Rollo the Gypsy boy’.
In the stories, Rollo the Gypsy boy is a likeable character with a good knowledge of the countryside who understands nature and lives with his grandmother in a Gypsy caravan.
So I thought I would endeavour to recreate that Rupert world by asking for an image using the text..
“A Gypsy camp with colourful caravans, in the style of Mary Tourtel”
Mary Tourtel was one of the original artists of the Rupert Series along with Alfred Bestall (who first created the character) and I was eager to see what magic the algorithm was going to come up with. What I got was a reprimand.
“You have used a banned word, Gypsy.”
Well, quite honestly I was shocked. Rupert the Bear had interacted with Rollo the Gypsy boy for most of my childhood and I was determined to understand why the algorithm had rebuffed me, and I soon found out.
Gypsies themselves had complained about the term to any authorities who would listen and announced that they wished to be referred to as the Romani people. The reason being that there are negative connotations associated with the word Gypsy (of illegality and irregularity as well as it’s use as a racial slur) so as with companies which get negative press, a ‘brand name’ change was ordered.
Anyway, I decided to play along and changed my text prompt to..
“a Romani camp with colourful caravans, in the style of Mary Tourtel”
The image above is what resulted which is pleasing enough. I just wonder though, if the term ‘Romani’ like it’s predecessor, is now going to develop a sense of illegality and irregularity as well as use as a racial slur.