Black Mirror encourages viewers to consider possible consequences of technology in society
Black Mirror is phenomenal. Period. In fact, among the dozens of other Netflix recommendations that I have received over the years, I can say without a doubt that Black Mirror has been the greatest. This show is not only high-quality entertainment, but its dark, dystopian, techno-horror episodes also feel chillingly and inexplicably real. The magic of Black Mirror lies in its ability to make even the most level-headed individuals feel discomfort.
Black Mirror was originally created in 2011 by Charlie Brooker for the British Channel 4 before it was purchased by Netflix in 2015. The show is made up of four seasons of stand-alone episodes and a Christmas special, each detailing the effects of some socio-technological issue that our world either faces today or might face in the very near future. Black Mirror has thus been described by many as a modern-day Twilight Zone, offering commentary about the increasingly scary planet on which we live.
Black Mirror captures the paranoia and unsettlement instilled in our lives by the corruption, materialism, and surveillance that has grown normal in the twenty-first century. With its bizarre plot twists and generally unhappy endings, viewers are made to find themselves staring at their computer screens, televisions, cell phones, or other technological devices at the conclusion of an episode in complete bewilderment. While the subject matter of the episodes themselves is typically distressing (yes, whatever wild things you have heard about “The National Anthem” are probably true), what really sends a chill down the spines of audiences is the unnatural realism in each of their narratives. Sure, scientists might not be close to developing a “grain” that sits in our brains and records every waking moment of our day, and maybe our virtual reality technology is not quite at the same level as that found in the video games of “Playtest” and “USS Callister” quite yet, but the frightening thing about these stories is that we might soon be living in a world where they do not feel all that fictional. Black Mirror is a warning: if we continue to live engrossed in technology and corruption, our world will soon fall apart as easily as the plots of each episode.
The episodes of Black Mirror are stand-alone in style and plot, though a similar universe is often shared between them. The changes in pace, duration, genre, and cast establish a multitude of different viewing experiences throughout a single season. While every episode creates a sense of disturbance in one way or another, each narrative varies in levels of fright and gore. Whether one is interested in watching stories about corrupt politicians, memory-recording technologies, alternate universes, futuristic warfare, or cyber-stalking, there is at least one episode for every person to appreciate.
Black Mirror has enjoyed massive critical acclaim and worldwide commercial success. Episode four of the show’s third season, titled “San Junipero,” won two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016, including the award for Outstanding Television Movie. “San Junipero” is perhaps the most hopeful and beautiful episode of the entire series, presenting the show’s first same-sex couple whose love literally transcends time. The episode’s two female protagonists, brilliant writing, and uplifting style have certainly contributed to its fame. Likewise, the fourth and newest season of Black Mirror has encouraged this emphasis on strong women in its featuring of female protagonists for each of its six episodes.
While Black Mirror is noteworthy for its forward-moving approach, it is also incredibly written and beautifully shot. The variety of directors that have created episodes for the show have each brought their own creative elements to the table; the fourth season, for instance, includes a fast-paced and entirely black-and-white episode titled “Metalhead,” while “Nosedive” of the third season is ironic, playful, and features a consciously pastel-dominated color scheme. The journey throughout the series is filled with ups and downs, making each episode intriguing to watch.
Black Mirror successfully makes its viewers question the world around them, as well as their actions within it. Its subtle yet obvious treatment of contemporary issues is unparalleled and captivating, each episode’s grotesque allure stemming from fear and awe. If you haven’t been lucky enough to bless your eyes with the absolute treasure that is Black Mirror, I suggest that you take the next twenty-four hours to sit down and binge-watch it. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
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