In the contemporary world of technology, very few series deliver a sense of unease, as Netflix’s Black Mirror does. Parodying the influx of social media, artificial intelligence and the desire for vacuous validation, Charlie Brooker and a team of fantastic writers provide the audience with a prophetic gaze into the not-too-distant future.
As we live, and breathe today, our worlds are crammed full of images of celebrities telling you what it is you want, billboards sub-consciously determining how you think, and the manner in which you live your life. The second episode of the first season ‘Fifteen Million Merits‘ has an obvious opinion on this, to avoid spoiling too much, (Albeit you really ought to have watched Black Mirror by now.) I will refrain from discussing the significant events of the episode.
Bingham “Bing” Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya) lives what he would refer to as a perfectly normal life, within a perpetual, modern block of exercise bikes, television and “merits”. In essence, the more you cycle, the more merits are earned. However when you have finished your session you return to your cell and are faced with belligerent adverts promoting violent pornography and the one chance to succeed, a deliberate mimic of American Idol, or any of the thousands upon thousands of game-show clones, ‘Hot Shots’. Offering the inhabitants of this world the chance to succeed and “free” themselves from a life of perpetual cycling. However as you will find out, it is not so simple, the glorious advertisements are not sincerely representative of the reality.
Or perhaps you would care to look at the first episode of season three? ‘Nosedive‘. In a world grotesquely obsessed with validation, every single choice, every single action is graded and marked by your contemporaries, how far would you go to ensure that you had the highest marks? Facebook, Twitter, Reddit et cetera, et cetera all indulge the use of; to use an all encompassing term, ‘likes’ as a form of validation. You post something people enjoy, they will ‘like’, if you post something people disagree with, people will ‘dislike’ it.
Constantly we live in a society which marks us based on our actions, with emails not free from hacking, nor webcams (See episode three of season three) everything you post online private or public is permanent, and will reverberate ad infinitum. However this is not some 1984-esque horror story imposed upon the masses, this is something which we all agreed to, each person (even those aware of it) subscribe to some form of social media. Why? Because they are forced to, and Black Mirror reiterates this notion.
However, let this not end in tears. Am I implying that social media ought to be destroyed? Not at all. Should it be banned! Heavens no! Social media still exists for one reason, for the majority of people, it works. That is it, social media is the source of prosperity in the world of today.
Black Mirror is important because it offers a warning, and it does so successfully by not being too outlandish, too “far out”. It hits violently close to home, everything in Black Mirror is what you see when you look out your window, or unlock your phone, but slightly different, and slightly worse. Throughout the series, if you ignore the ails of the main characters, you will see millions of people living in harmony. Black Mirror does not want to take your technology away. It wants you to be careful with it. To quote a very wise philosopher: “With great power, comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben.