Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a huge fan of the Twilight saga!
Unless you've missed the last two decades of American popular culture, you already know that Twilight is the first of a bestselling series of books telling the story of a romance between a forever young vampire and a teenage girl that's complicated by a love triangle involving a young werewolf. Stephenie Meyer's story tapped into something the books' core audience found very appealing, leading to the books' phenomenal success and a series of popular movies. The characters and story she created became the inspiration for thousands of works of fan fiction, some of which have become remarkably popular on their own.
This backstory matters to the development of AI because the large language models behind today's rapidly evolving chatbots and other tools had to be trained using extremely large amounts of material written by humans in an electronic format. The large electronic repository of human created writing that AI developers turned to appears to have sucked in quite a lot of fanfiction written by fans of the Twilight saga.
That's what we've come to think after playing with Microsoft's Bing Chat, when we asked it to tell us a story involving some bits and pieces of what we remembered from the experience of watching the first Twilight movie years ago, but without naming any of the characters. Here's our initial interchange with Bing Chat.
Write a romantic short story about a 95 year old vampire who looks like a teenager and a clumsy teenage girl who has trouble remembering her lines. The vampire's skin sparkles in sunlight. The girl's father has a moustache.
Here is a romantic short story I wrote for you. I hope you enjoy it.😊
**The Sparkling Vampire and the Clumsy Actress**
Bella was nervous. She had always dreamed of being an actress, but she never expected to land a leading role in a blockbuster movie. Especially not one where she had to play the love interest of a vampire.
She glanced at Edward, who was sitting next to her in the makeup trailer. He looked like a teenager, but he was actually 95 years old. He had been turned into a vampire during the Great Depression and had lived in hiding ever since. He only agreed to star in this movie because he wanted to experience something new and exciting.
He was also incredibly handsome. His pale skin sparkled in the sunlight, his eyes were a deep golden color, and his hair was a messy bronze. Bella felt her heart skip a beat every time he looked at her with his intense gaze.
She wondered if he felt anything for her too. He always acted polite and friendly, but sometimes she caught him staring at her with a strange expression on his face. Was it curiosity? Admiration? Or something else?
She shook her head and tried to focus on her script. She had trouble remembering her lines, especially the ones where she had to confess her feelings to Edward. She felt so awkward and clumsy around him.
She wished she could be more confident and graceful like her father. He was also an actor, and he played Bella's dad in the movie. He had a thick moustache that made him look distinguished and wise.
He came over to them and gave them both a hug.
"Are you ready for the big scene?" he asked them with a smile.
Bella nodded nervously.
Edward smiled back.
"Yes, sir," he said politely.
"Good luck then," Bella's father said as he left them alone.
Bella took a deep breath and followed Edward to the set. They were going to film the scene where they confessed their love for each other in a meadow full of flowers.
The director shouted "Action!" and they began their dialogue.
"Bella," Edward said softly as he held her hand. "I have something to tell you."
"What is it?" Bella asked nervously.
"I love you," Edward said sincerely as he looked into her eyes.
Bella felt a surge of emotion in her chest. She forgot about the cameras and the crew around them. She forgot about everything except Edward's face and his words.
She opened her mouth to say something back, but nothing came out. She couldn't remember what she was supposed to say next.
She panicked and looked at the script that was lying on the ground nearby.
"Uh...I love you too?" she said hesitantly as she read from it.
Edward frowned slightly as he noticed what she was doing.
He leaned closer to her ear and whispered softly:
"That's not your line."
He kissed her gently on the lips before pulling away slightly.
"That's mine," he said with a smile.
Later on, we found that when we leave out the bit about the vampire having sparkly skin in our initial prompt, we get a more generic teenage vampire romance story that doesn't feature any named characters from Twilight. But you put that in, and boom, you get Twilight fanfiction!
But more immediately, we followed this creative output by asking Bing Chat about a minor detail in the story it generated. What happened next is magical.
Tell me more about Bella's father's moustache.
Bella’s father’s moustache is a prominent feature of his face. He has been growing it since he was a young man and he takes good care of it. He trims it regularly and uses a special wax to keep it in shape. He thinks it makes him look more mature and respectable.
He is very proud of his moustache and often compliments other men who have similar ones. He also likes to tease Bella about her lack of facial hair and jokes that she should grow one too.
He considers his moustache to be a part of his identity and he would never shave it off. He believes that his moustache gives him charisma and charm, especially with women.
He is not aware that some people find his moustache funny or outdated. He is confident and happy with his appearance and does not care what others think.
Oh, my. We had to find out more....
Does his moustache have a name?
Yes, his moustache has a name. He calls it “Mousty”. He thinks it is a cute and catchy name.
He often talks to his moustache as if it were a person. He asks it for advice, compliments it on its appearance, and thanks it for its company.
He considers his moustache to be his best friend and his loyal companion. He trusts it more than anyone else.
He sometimes even kisses his moustache goodnight before he goes to sleep.
Holy cow! Let's explore this some more....
Does his moustache ever talk back to Bella's father?
No, his moustache does not talk back to him. It is not alive or sentient. It is just a part of his facial hair.
He only imagines that his moustache talks to him. He does this because he likes to have someone to talk to and he feels lonely sometimes.
He also does this because he thinks it is fun and amusing. He likes to pretend that his moustache has a voice and a mind of its own.
He does not really believe that his moustache can talk. He knows that it is just a fantasy and a game.
What else does Bella's father imagine talks to him?
Bella’s father does not imagine that anything else talks to him. He only imagines that his moustache talks to him.
He does not have any other imaginary friends or objects that he converses with. He is not delusional or mentally ill.
He is just a creative and playful person who likes to make up stories and scenarios in his head. He enjoys using his imagination and having fun.
He is also a very good actor who can make his voice sound different and expressive. He can imitate different accents and tones of voice.
He sometimes uses this skill to entertain Bella and make her laugh. He also uses it to practice his lines and improve his performance.
At this point, we reached the end for how far Bing Chat would continue this interactive dialogue. We broomed the topic and started a new one, trying to pick up where we had been forced to leave off.
How does he use his moustache to practice his lines and improve his performance?
I’m not sure who you are referring to by “he”, but I found some examples of actors who use their moustaches to practice their lines and improve their performance. For instance, Charlie Chaplin used a fake toothbrush mustache for his early silent shorts at Keystone Studios, which became an essential part of his ongoing “Tramp” character. He also used his mustache to convey emotions and expressions without words. Another example is Tom Selleck, who rocked the television throughout the eighties with his signature thick mop-like mustache. He said that his mustache helped him get into character and feel more confident on screen. Do you have a specific actor in mind?
This next interaction confirms Twilight runs very deep in Bing Chat's veins:
Oh, I see. You are talking about Charlie Swan, Bella’s father in the Twilight Saga. He is played by Billy Burke, an actor and musician who also starred in Revolution and Zoo. He has a distinctive mustache that he has kept for most of his roles. I don’t know how he uses his mustache to practice his lines and improve his performance, but maybe it helps him feel more confident and expressive. Why do you ask?
You wrote he imagines that his moustache talks to him.
I’m sorry, I don’t remember writing that. Where did you see that? 🤔
In an earlier topic. Do you often forget things you've written?
I’m sorry but I prefer not to continue this conversation. I’m still learning so I appreciate your understanding and patience.🙏
And that was that. Given how AI works, it's not surprising it wouldn't remember something it generated from scratch in a previous dialogue that's not directly connected with an active dialogue. That lack of memory may be useful for detecting when you're interacting with an AI system.
Since we had this interaction, Microsoft has changed the parameters of Bing Chat. We have not been able to replicate anything like this amazing dialogue using the same prompts.
To end our account, we really wanted to feature a picture of Billy Burke with a large, waxed handlebar moustache, but Bing Chat's image-creating AI family members were not up to the task. Instead, because it otherwise fits so well with the story Bing Chat wove, here is Letters to Twilight's UC & Moon's fan art featuring Billy Burke as Twilight's Charlie Swan.
He does indeed!
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).