Davis and Padgett claim key sentences from True Detective are taken directly from Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. The philosophical work, published in 2010, asks some key questions about the human race. Namely, should humans voluntarily end their existence and do we know what it means to be human?
According to Slate, as a key example of plagiarism, Davis and Padgett point to the following lines from character Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey): "I think about the hubris it must take to yank a soul out of nonexistence into this meat... force a life into this thresher." At points throughout The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Ligotti reportedly refers to people being "stolen from nonexistence." He says, "We are meat," and asks, "Why should generations unborn be spared entry into the human thresher?"
Here's where the argument gets a little muddled: Pizzolatto admits to using Ligotti's writings as heavy inspiration for the lines in True Detective. He even told Wall Street Journal writer, Michael Calia, that the premiere episode contained "two lines in particular that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers." It's not like the writer and creator is hiding his inspiration away so he can steal more lines for the second season. From Pizzolatto's perspective, he is using these quotes as a way of paying homage to a piece of literature he admires. He isn't stealing the ideas as his own, but using them to further a character he's creating.
Padgett doesn't seem to agree that Pizzolatto was paying homage to Ligotti by citing his work. Padgett argues that lifting Ligotti's work without permission or attribution "may have or may not have been a consciously malicious decision, but in any case it was neither honorable nor reverential."
And, in fact, Padgett asserts Ligotti isn't the only author to have his idea stolen from Pizzolatto for the show. Padgett says dialogue for the show also comes from William S. Burroughs' Ah Pook Is Here and Other Texts, Albert Einstein's words and Alan Moore's comic books.
Despite the strong accusations, Pizzolatto and HBO have yet to comment. Ligotti, whose work is at the center of the argument, also has yet to give a statement.
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