Under Review: “Black Mirror” gives dark but accurate social commentary
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“The British anthology series Black Mirror is more than just a creative concept. It is a wake-up call to our generation.
I found this lesser-known series the same way I always find my favorites: during finals week while scrolling through Tumblr. The hype was all about the Season 3 episode “San Junipero,” which featured a lesbian couple and had a happy ending, a rare outcome for queer female characters in TV. Knowing absolutely nothing about this series going into it, I was very confused when a seemingly real-life show took a turn towards science fiction.
Each episode explores a different possibility of the near future, many featuring some extra piece of technology that slightly alters our world. The show makes hard-hitting commentaries by exaggerating common aspects of modern society such as social media and game shows. Having slightly different creative teams for each episode helps keep the ideas fresh.
Season 3’s opening episode, “Nosedive,” explores a society in which social media is inseparable from identity and a person’s “rating” acts as their defining characteristic. People’s ratings come from their impressions on everyone they interact with. A high score allows access into exclusive circles of high society, while a low score could mean exclusion from job opportunities and certain neighborhoods.
Social media has become much more prevalent in our lives as colleges are starting to check online activity and kids are creating online accounts at an increasingly young age. Although a literal rating system does not exist yet, it is not a stretch to say that our future may become what Black Mirror predicts.
The episodes are so compelling because they deal with universal issues such as loss and the pursuit of perfection. “San Junipero” depicts a world in which grief can be cured by bringing back a deceased loved one. However, the consequences show that people can never re-create perfect memories and that loss cannot really be avoided. Episodes such as Season 2’s “Be Right Back” indulge our fantasies of a Utopian world but then somehow makes us grateful that we don’t live in it.
Millennials are much more used to saving their memories in photos, videos, and posts. Season 1’s “The Entire History of You” takes this idea to a new extreme. In this episode, everyone wears camera contacts that record every instant of their lives for instant playback. However, when people can replay mistakes over and over again, they become consumed with regret and anger.
Black Mirror even takes a stab at politics in a way that relates closely to the 2016 election. In “The Waldo Moment,” a professional comedian vies against a qualified politician for a position as prime minister and somehow wins on popularity and crude jokes, showing what I think we have all already learned: people value a dramatic personality over competence at every level.
As technology continues to advance all around us, shows like Black Mirror remind us to take a step back and focus on the big picture instead of trying to over complicate life with the newest gadgets. Even though some episodes are not always particularly pleasant to watch, these uncomfortable truths are necessary for us to hear.