Gimme Something To Watch: Black Mirror
What a time to be alive.
I am currently sitting a little over 2400 km away from my hometown (1491 miles to those who use fake measurements). Whoever is reading this right now is most likely even further away. This level of integration would not be possible if not for the dramatic advances in technology over the last few years. Of course, this is all ridiculously obvious.
But what if technology becomes too much for our own good? What if such improvements are paving the road to our doom?
Sure, these questions may also seem played out in our current age, but British TV show Black Mirror shines by examining them with maturity unfound elsewhere. No, the robots are not rebelling against us, there’s no alien invasion or zombie outbreak. Instead, Black Mirror presents a horrifying shade of modernity in which the responsibility for human suffering is none but ours.
The episodes are not connected by storyline but they all share a common theme. The first season is comprised of three episodes. Episode 1, The National Anthem, sees the United Kingdom Prime Minister woken up in the middle of the night for a disturbing discovery: the Princess has been kidnapped, and the criminal’s only demand is to have, by 4 PM of that same day, a national broadcast of the PM performing an indecent act (warning: this is a big euphemism). Our relationship with social media is the target here.
Following, Fifteen Million Merits displays a dystopian society where humans live in cubicles and their sole ocupation is to ride bikes in exchange for merits, a digital currency used to purchase food, items for a virtual doppelgänger – think Xbox avatar – or even your way out of the rat wheel. Consumerism, reality TV and deeper existential themes like the meaning of work and human activity are imbricated in this epi.
The Entire History of You closes out the first season by focusing on a young couple to show what may happen in a world where humans are able to replay everything they experience. Episode 3 is my personal favorite because it was easily the most relatable, but the series as a whole offers a very different spin on the sci-fi genre, adding a lot of dramatic heft to the mix.
There is a second season with three more episodes out, as well as a 2014 special starring Jon Hamm (of Madmen) fame. I still need to check those out, but judging from the first season alone it is worth doing so. Good news is, Netflix comissioned a third season with 12 episodes to be released some time in the future. The previous episodes can all be found there.
Much like the finest humour, Black Mirror is not designed to blast you with instant gratification. It’s designed to make you think.
I hope you find yourself obsessing about it as much as I did.