‘True Detective’ creator, HBO deny the show was plagiarized


“True Detective”: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson. (Lacey Terrell/HBO)

HBO’s crime noir series “True Detective” has won so many critical accolades that it was startling to see an unpleasant story making the rounds, about two weeks before the Emmy Awards: accusations that creator Nic Pizzolatto plagiarized others’ work for his heavily nominated drama series.

On Monday, the Lovecraft eZine posted an interview with Jon Padgett, who runs a Web site dedicated to author Thomas Ligotti. According to the story, Padgett claimed that in “True Detective” scripts, Pizzolatto “appropriated a significant amount of intellectual content and language from ‘The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,’ a nonfiction book by Thomas Ligotti.”

He listed examples from “True Detective” (mainly lines spoken by Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey) and compared them to Ligotti’s book as evidence. Although Pizzolatto has talked in the past about being a fan of Ligotti’s work and how it influenced the series, Padgett says he hasn’t given enough credit.

As the controversy picked up steam, and people argued whether it was truly plagiarism, both HBO and creator Pizzolatto were forced to make statements on Thursday denying the accusations. Here they are in full:

HBO: ‘True Detective’ is a work of exceptional originality and the story, plot, characters and dialogue are that of Nic Pizzolatto.  Philosophical concepts are free for anyone to use, including writers of fiction, and there have been many such examples in the past.  Exploring and engaging with ideas and themes that philosophers and novelists have wrestled with over time is one of the show’s many strengths — we stand by the show, its writing and Nic Pizzolatto entirely.

Nic Pizzolatto:  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 [sic], 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.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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