Nothing screams unsettling and dystopian more than Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s Black Comedy and new resident of Netflixville. But the truth behind it may be even more unsettling…
Many people believe that an episode such as The Entire History of You (S1) has to be set in the future because of the futuristic implants most people have behind their ears which record everything you do, but the culture envisioned around it does not have to be thought up at all- all you have to do is observe people’s habits of recording every moment in society today. The clever addition of vintage cars in this episode also helps provoke this question.
On 14th May 2005, Brooker wrote an article for the Guardian entitled ‘Don’t have nightmares’ in which he commented on the ITV show ‘People’s Court’. In P.C. spectators and viewers could have an influence in a court of small affairs by texting and emailing in. He then went on to sarcastically comment that in the future ‘police can parade the suspects in front of us’ and we can ‘press the red button to slam him in jail…’ He also suggested that viewers could ‘take phone-camera snaps of suspicious passers-by’ and text them into the studio.
Fast forward to 2013, and we are presented with Season 2 of Black Mirror, and more specifically- White Bear. This episode presents us with a near future apocalyptic setting in which people become the mindless slaves of their phones, filming everything whilst the ones who are unaffected from this phonepocolypse become ‘hunters’ and killers. However, in a profound twist at the end- the whole thing was a set up, designed to trick and torment our main protagonist who it transpires is a former killer. And the whole audience are in on it. At the end, spectators line the streets, shouting and ridiculing the killer before her mind is wiped- ready for another day’s entertainment.
Despite the drama of it all, it’s clear to see the inspiration for this story, which could also realistically be considered the cause of the problem it’s self.
In another article called ‘Show us your bum for a ten pence’, Charlie Brooker commented on the adult channels on your television set and expressed his amazement that on some of these channels viewers can text in and get their white-light wonders to perform for them. Having read this full article, it’s clear to see where some of the inspiration for 15 Million Merits (S1) comes from- in which prisoners are made to cycle to earn ‘merits’ which can be used as a virtual currency. In these prisons, pornographic adverts are also displayed without warning, which can incur a charge to the prisoner if skipped. As well as commenting on the influence of companies, we are reminded of the dark nature of ‘Show us your bum for a ten pence’.
After viewing a few examples, it’s clear to see that Black Mirror has some serious grounding in reality. So, should we be worried about the future? About the hideous fictions coming true? Well, luckily, Black Mirror often presents us with a solution to the dark problems…