Fan reflects on Netflix’s new show
by Maria Byrne
Staff Who Is That Girl I See
Ok so spoiler: Netflix’s Black Mirror is your mom shit-talking the millennial generation while texting you from her iPhone. It’s the guy you met five years ago who still likes your Facebook posts. It’s getting thrilled by the likes on the picture you posted of your fucking latte while being repulsed by its actual taste.
Before I began watching the show for myself, I judged what I heard about it on social media. I speculated it to be just another criticism of our tech-dominated culture, an extremely reductive argument in a Simpsons’ “Old Man Yells At Cloud” fashion. I roll my eyes at these arguments about how social media and technology has further separated us as people. I like to acknowledge the duplicity of listening to someone discuss hate for the internet and social media as they talk to me while periodically typing on their smart phone. But then, as it happened one day when instead of completing my 150-page reading assignment, I broke and actually watched Black Mirror.
The Netflix sci-fi anthology series explores a high-teach all-too-near future where humanity’s greatest electronic innovations and gloomiest primal instincts collide. Created by Charlie Brooker, the show originally premiered on Britain’s Channel 4 in 2011, until it was discontinued after its second season and bought by Netflix. Commissioning twelve episodes for the third season, there are currently all three seasons (thirteen episodes) on Netflix to ideally be inhaled in a twenty-four hour period. Each episode is like a short film with a different cast, different setting, and different reality, with the common theme of examining the results and unexpected consequences of technology in our modern society.
Through the first season, the initial episodes shocked me—particularly the futuristic people of England watching on television their Prime Minister being forced to have full, unsimulated sex with a pig as ransom for the release of a beloved British princess. This episode drew me in, but the further episodes I think more artfully (and perhaps less nauseatingly) create a more unique and far-gone virtual reality. The episode “the Entire History of You” focuses on a jealous husband who is obsessed with information. In this reality, all citizens have a “grain” implanted behind their ear, a device that records everything they see, do, and hear. While the potential problems with this are immediately obvious, the husband is given exactly what he needs – the ability to record and then analyze his wife flirting with another man, rewind them, and watch them again. Immediately I was provoked by how problematic I would become if I had this device implanted into my head – constantly revisiting my strange social interactions or any dismissive conversation I have ever had. On the other hand, a later episode “San Junipero” shows the potential beauty of tech and innovation, allowing the two lesbian protagonists to travel through time to an alternate reality for the sake of maintaining their relationship. Apart from any fake depth, the show creatively and objectively combines the science fiction and dystopian dramas for multi-layered purposes, not necessarily taking any one stance for or against technology, but with the intention of perhaps creating a conversation.
Regardless of the advantages and problems that emerge from advanced technology, Black Mirror evokes a twisted frontier justice – people getting punished for their actions through some strange God-like force that is primarily enacted through technology. Cheaters in relationships get revealed, pedophiles get blackmailed, candidates for political positions become electronic, and in the third season’s sick finale, thousands of people get punished for using a trending, mob-mentality hashtag. Whether Charlie Brooker is trying to make some sort of parallel to WikiLeaks I will save for a different paper, but the justice is both liberating and appalling, while still feeling all too final.
Following the shit storm of a Donald Trump presidency, a show like Black Mirror provides an escape, showing tech’s delights and horrors through a supposedly futuristic lens that is actually at times therapeutic to experience, while still questioning the concept of a whistle blower on a much darker and incriminating plane. At least for a moment, Black Mirror provided me with the same fright from watching horror movies but experienced much closer to home, challenging the way I look at a like-based culture and media as a means of blackmail. Regardless, Black Mirror is the show I have been looking to obsess over this fall, and who knows? Maybe in four years we can follow the show’s lead and elect a malicious but truth-spewing Twitter bot into the White House .