Black Mirror—Reflecting Our Bleak Future?

Source: IMDB

Source: IMDB

Black Mirror is a thinky British TV series set in a near-future UK. The vibe is like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The main theme is dystopian, but the culprit is really the masses, not so much the government. Basically, the future sucks because people suck. The masses are fickle and prone to mob mentality. When we get better technology, we can’t handle it since it enables us to do bad things in badder ways. Technology progresses so fast that our moral maturity can’t keep up. It’s like giving a toddler a tank to drive when the kid hasn’t even mastered the tricycle. So yeah, we is doomed.

The subtext seems to be that democracy, based on the whims of the masses, is bad. A valid criticism, but the depressing part is that we probably have no better alternative. (Aside from having me as dictator for life, obviously. And having my clones as successors. Because I am all that and a bag of Cheetos, as anyone who knows me will testify.)

My favorite episodes are the first and the third ones in the first season. In National Anthem (the first episode), someone has kidnapped a royalty. The ransom demand asks the Prime Minister to perform an act … um … that will make you cringe, to say the least. It’s also darkly comedic, as cringe-worthy things can be sometimes.

In The Entire History of You (the third episode), people have implants that record their life experiences. Kinda like a DVR of what you see and hear. You can re-watch your past as if it were a TV show, essentially. The good is that you can relive your happy past. But what about the unhappy parts? And the temptation to watch another’s past? This episodes falls under the “be careful what you wish for” category because what you want is not always what’s good for you.

Another thing I like about this show is that it’s pretty edgy—it touches upon or jokes about taboo topics. British media, compared to American media, seem generally more willing to offend.

Black Mirror is available on Netflix, which has seasons one and two (total of six episodes). Season three is in progress.

About the author

donkeh
donkeh

Donkeh lives in a tiny barn in the City of Angels. He recently self-pubbed his debut novel, “Morocco, Maybe.” He is working on a scifi thriller.

9 Comments

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  • Glad this series is getting some love on your side of The Pond!

    Charlie Brooker is a popular purveyor of sour snark in the UK. His regular series SCREEN WIPE (now “Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe”) has been poking the world (and often the international media) with a sharp, poisonous stick for some years now, and he provides a similar service via a regular column one of our papers, The Guardian. Always bitter, always funny.

    He spun the original series out into a couple of sister shows: NEWS WIPE is news media focused, obv., and he also does an end-of-the-year special called “Charlie Brooker’s 201X Wipe”, reminding us what we cried at (with laughter, with disgust, etc.) during that particular year. He was originally a video games journalist, amongst other things, and in 2013 had a great TV documentary called “How Video Games Changed the World” that is well worth a look if you can find it.

    As well as BLACK MIRROR, he’s also branched out with a few other “dramatic” projects. DEAD SET was a mini-series in which the hated, hate-filled Big Brother house was the last safe place in England after the traditional zombie outbreak. NATHAN BARLEY was a cringe-inducing comedy about new media hipsters at a trendy London style magazine (which I remain unable to watch without defenestrating my television). And A TOUCH OF CLOTH is a parody of detective serials in which everyone talks in trope-codes that play off the clichés of the genre (and, often, sink deep into innuendo).

  • Yes! Black Mirror is definitely getting love from me. I too hope that more people here will discover it now that it’s on Netflix. It’s such intelligent entertainment.

    Your said “Charlie Brooker is a popular purveyor of sour snark in the UK.” And I was like, hrm, he sounds like my kind of bloke. Your comments prompted me to look up Brooker on Wikipedia. It says that his style has a consistent “satirical pessimism.” All that makes me like him more because I like that style. One of my favorite shows is South Park, which has a somewhat similar style. I’m too bitter of a person to gravitate toward syrupy stuff. Hurhur.

    It doesn’t look like Brooker’s other stuff is on Netflix (yet). Poo. Oh well, maybe in the near, hopefully not too-dystopian, future.

    • Thanks for the link, Andrew. I read the Mario article. When I read this sentence (“And when he’s finished he can simply jump out of your sphincter like he’s disappearing down one of those green pipes he’s always leaping into.”) – I can’t help but feel that Brooker has great literary taste. I mean, aside from myself, I don’t know anyone else who uses the word sphincter in non-medical writing.

      • I’ll stop going on about this soon (in 5… 4… 3… minutes) but first, a few more links – the Guardian posted yesterday about how the nightmare that is Nathan Barley “hasn’t just survived, he’s metastasised”. You’ll see a link there to the first episode on YouTube (which, if it was in a newspaper, MUST be legitimate, right?) and the others are there too.

        http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/feb/10/nathan-barley-charlie-brooker-east-london-comedy

        NB was co-made by Christopher Morris, and I don’t know how well known he is in the US, but he’s been skewering the media for years. He’s probably most recognisable these days for FOUR LIONS, a funny but sad movie about hapless domestic terrorists in London.

        If you want a blast from Morris’s past, you could try and get your hands on THE DAY TODAY (parody of the BBC evening news that drew complaints from “people” who mistook it for the real thing, presumably very briefly), BRASS EYE (parody of TV current affairs broadcasting that drew complaints from actual celebrities who didn’t notice they were being lured into making fools of themselves), and JAM/BLUE JAM, a surreal sketch show that tightrope-walked over being outright horror of the bleak, emotionally disturbing kind. By which I mean “I loved it”, btw.

        Brass Eye’s “Science” episode also contained an impersonation of Stephen Hawkins that would make Eddie Redmayne wet his knickers.

        Last but not least, and back on Charlie B, you might fancy flicking though “TV Go Home”, a mocked up TV guide. It’s styled after the Radio Times, the BBC’s program listings magazine – and you’ll find Nathan Barley’s first appearance within its pages (text NSFW, probably, but the boss might not notice).

        http://www.tvgohome.com/

        Erm. Okay, I think I’m done flag-waving for CB now.

        You may go about your business. Move along.

        • I’m happy to read all your comments …

          I found this bit in the guardian article to be amusing:

          “I had to stop doing TVGoHome,” Brooker admits, “because the real TV programmes were becoming more stupid than any I could make up.”

          So true.

  • Omg, I remember watching the mini-series and getting SO DISTURBED by them! Especially the one where the PM had to do the deed with a pig!!!! Crap, that haunted me for the rest of the week. Really well-done series, but a wee bit too disturbing for me, I’m afraid.

    • Well, it could be worse. I dunno, like, mebbe it could be with a cow …

      But yeah, the show is not for everyone. I thought the clone episode was especially disturbing, but more in a creepy, as opposed to gross, kinda way.

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