It was the most wonderful time of the year – not because you got to spend time at home with your relatives (like your racist aunt, who, after having several glasses of wine, transformed into a Fox News anchor with an opinion), but because you had an abundance of time to ignore them by locking yourself in your room and binge shows on Netflix.
The holidays and summer are what I like to call the “down time” of show watching – when all of the shows that I normally watch go on their hiatus – and I have more time to explore new shows or films that peak my interest.
However, out of all of my discoveries, there was one show that left me speechless and terrified – “Black Mirror.”
For those who don’t know, the show is a dystopian anthology miniseries that first aired in the United Kingdom back in 2011. It became available to stream on Netflix last month, and the program is devastatingly brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a television show so critical of Western society – our reality shows, our addiction to screens and avatars, our need to feel “in control” more than ever with advanced technology, corruption at the political and personal levels – all of these poisonous concepts are wrapped up nicely in this cynical but delicious burrito of a show.
Every one-hour episode of the show is different; each one houses its own self-contained story that draws on the dark sides of life and technology. My favorite episode so far – “Fifteen Million Merits” is set in a dystopian world fueled by people exercising on shiny metal bicycle machines – and by working out, they earn worthless points as they’re forced to watch invasive advertising on screens on front of them that feature dirty pornography, fat-shaming propaganda or a reality show that is clearly this society’s version of “American Idol” or “The Voice.”
After working out, you’ll really only see these “workers” in a few other places – the dining hall, the bathroom, or in their own room – but no matter where these people are, they’re surrounded and seemingly strangled by dozens of screens, small or large. There is no escape. Social media, fake avatars, the “American Dream” – these are all sliced deeply into by the show’s razor sharp satire.
I won’t say anymore about this episode in hopes that people are interested. The great thing is that since each episode is different, you can watch them in any order you please.
The third and final episode of “Black Mirror’s” first season, “The Entire History of You,” depicts a world in which most of the world’s people have devices implanted in their heads that allow them replay their memories in their eyes, or they can be thrown up on a screen for everyone else to see. Of course, happy moments can be played over and over again, but by the end of this episode, you’ll feel the agony that comes chained to this ability.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes for me personally was a moment when a married couple was having sex. While it seems like they’re having a great and steamy time, you then realize that they’re both actually individually watching memories of a time they had great sex, while having “sex” – essentially using each other’s bodies as a mere tool for masturbation, and not engaging with each other on a personal level.
The show has garnered much positive criticism, and its twists are quite shocking. I would go so far to say that this show is much like a “Twilight Zone” for the digital age, but even more terrifying and ambitious. I haven’t got around to watching the second season yet (it’s on Netflix as well), but I’m looking very forward to the shockwaves of fear that it has in store, and the dread it brings with how similar it is to the world that we currently reside in.