Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Black Mirror's Horrifying Tomorrow

Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, depicts a horrifying version of where our society is moving to in the near future. The show turns the mirror back on society and it speaks to how social media is creating a false reality, how technology can be evil, the future of incarceration and so much more. If there is any problem with Black Mirror, it is that it covers so much and forces the audience to question nearly everything about current and future Western society. Yet, because the show has a completely different plot and different actors for each episode, the message behind each story is easily digested by the audience.

When starting Black Mirror, the first episode, titled “The National Anthem,” does not really capture the tone of the rest of the show. The premiere does not contain the futuristic technology that is expected in almost all of the other episodes and does not really show where our society is going. It does give a good idea of the darkness and creepy horror that is seen throughout the series. Despite its pitfalls, “The National Anthem” is still great and surprisingly applicable to David Cameron’s pig scandal.

The shining episode of season one’s episodes is “The Entire History of You.” Set in a world where almost all of society have been implanted with contact lenses, they can look through their past memories and “remember” every moment of them. The characters see their memories through their own eyes. There are a few individuals who have had their implants illegally removed, whereas one character says that it was just a random decision for her. This shocks all the characters as the implant is both widely accepted and government-required. What problems could be associated with having a truly photographic memory for this semi-futuristic society? 

For one couple, it turns out to be an infinite amount. Liam (Toby Kebbell) constantly goes over a job interview, agonizing over every little detail from the facial expression to the tone of voice. After a house party, he looks back over how his wife looks at him and compares it to how she looks at another man, over thinking every aspect of their interactions. 

This invention of having perfect memory seems like the best thing for humans, but Brooker shows that sometimes progress has its drawbacks. Similar to Facebook and other social media, everything in your life is on display for others to see. We already agonize over mundane details of our lives because of social media, think if everything you do is recorded and saved forever. 

The horrifying reality continues in season two starting with “Be Right Back,” where advancements in technology have both amazing and terrible results. A grieving widow is able to “talk” with her deceased husband through social media. A new technology compiles everything about a person (personality, speech patterns, and mannerisms) through their social media accounts and then creates a voice for them beginning with text messages and moving into actual phone calls. The widow continues on this path to a jaw-dropping end. 

Another episode that viewers will remember is “White Bear.” The confusing story is of an amnesiac woman, Victoria (Lenora Crichlow), living in an apocalyptic near future where everyone looks through their phones, filming her as she tries to flee masked people wielding knives and guns. She finds an unmasked man and woman who help her and attempt to destroy whatever it is that is hypnotising most people. The plot unfolds throughout the episode only to end in a twist. “White Bear” makes the audience question how social media is changing all facets of society. 

Before moving onto season three, the Christmas special, “White Christmas,” was the first episode released directly onto Netflix almost two years after the end of season two, when the show could be found on Britain’s Channel 4. “White Christmas” is my favorite episode of Black Mirror. It forces the viewer to question so many different parts of our daily lives: social media, technology, how we punish criminals and even what reality is (the episode touches on the idea that we are all living in a simulation, an interesting question that Elon Musk believes is probable).

There is so much packed into “White Christmas” that it is hard to even describe what the plot is of the hour and a half episode. The two stories of Matt (Jon Hamm) and Potter (Rafe Spall) are told in flashbacks while they stay in a mysterious snowy hut. Matt’s plot details his hobby: providing real time dating advice to socially inept customers. He tells the story of how one of his sessions goes horribly wrong as a schizophrenic woman takes a liking to Matt’s client. Before Potter tells his story, we see what Matt actually does for a living: he extracts a copy of willing participants’ consciousness so that the copy can control the actual person’s house and daily activities exactly as they would like it. 

From there, we move to Potter’s story, about how his wife “blocks” him by using the contacts to make herself a gray static blur to him. She is pregnant with his child and he becomes obsessed with seeing her, following her for years and never being able to move on. The episode ends after revealing so much as to the reasons why they have been in that snowy hut for five years, a topic left purposefully vague within the episode. After watching “White Christmas,” one begins to question much of how our lives will change in the coming decades. 

Season three is when Netflix officially took over the show, and this six episode season contains some of the best episodes of the entire show. “Nosedive” shows how social media is on a path to control every part of our lives. “Playtest” is a particularly unique episode in which we see the future of virtual reality gaming. It does not really open up many questions of our society or show us the black mirror of society, but is a great episode nonetheless. 

“Shut Up and Dance” again opens up the questions of how we can and should punish criminals, also showing how much power hackers can have over a person. Skipping an episode to “Men Against Fire,” it shows how the government can create an enemy out of nothing. Some of these episodes may sound too vague or dull, but the twist of the story itself is so important to the enjoyment of the show that I cannot reveal more than the most basic of plot details. 

Black Mirroris one of the best shows since its premiere in 2011 because of the incredible writing. It is hard to talk about anything else, such as the editing or cinematography, because the plots themselves are such strong points of every episode. If you watch this show, you will be screaming at your computer when the story all comes together. Black Mirror is the modern Twilight Zone made specifically for Millennials. You have no reason not to tune in.

Rating: A

Black Mirror is available on Netflix. Season four will be released in late 2017.

thescene@theeagleonline.com


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