Did 'True Detective' plagiarize? Creator Nic Pizzolatto, HBO weigh in

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true-detective-season-1-plagiarism-hbo.jpgThere has been a bit of hubbub recently in regards to claims that Nic Pizzolatto plagiarized the work of horror writer Thomas Ligotti in his creation of "True Detective" Season 1.

The argument is that Pizzolatto borrowed many of Ligotti's concepts from his work "Conspiracy Against the Human Race" in building the character of Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and didn't properly acknowledge the author.

Both HBO and Pizzolatto have stepped forward to defend "True Detective," saying that the claims of plagiarism are untrue.

HBO's statement reads: "'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."

For Pizzolatto's part, he says in a statement: "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."

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Feb. 2, Pizzolatto acknowledged the role Ligotti had in the conceptualization of "True Detective." When asked what single work of fiction he would direct audiences to, Pizzolatto answered, "I mean, I'd suggest Lovecraft or Poe, but everybody knows them already. More recently, I'd point people in the direction of Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, John Langan, Simon Strantzas and others."

He added about Ligotti, "I first heard of Ligotti maybe six years ago, when Laird Barron's first collection alerted me to this whole world of new weird fiction that I hadn't known existed. I started looking around for the best contemporary stuff to read, and in any discussion of that kind, the name 'Ligotti' comes up first. .... His nightmare lyricism was enthralling and visionary.

"I read 'The Conspiracy Against the Human Race' and found it incredibly powerful writing. For me as a reader, it was less impactful as philosophy than as one writer's ultimate confessional: an absolute horror story, where the self is the monster," Pizzolatto continued. "In episode one [of 'True Detective'] there are two lines in particular (and it would have been nothing to re-word them) that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers."
Photo/Video credit: HBO