6 Times Black Mirror Changed the Way We Think About the Future

Thursday, 11 June 2015 - 6:00PM
Black Mirror
Thursday, 11 June 2015 - 6:00PM
6 Times Black Mirror Changed the Way We Think About the Future
< >
When it first became popular in America, I read many articles that claimed Black Mirror is scarier than the majority of horror, suspense, or action movies. Why? Put simply, it's because even in its most outrageous plot lines, Black Mirror never stops being at least a little bit feasible. Each episode features a new plot and cast, and with each new entry into the series, some of our wildest dreams and worst nightmares are brought to life. It is widely recognized that technology is progressing at a remarkable pace, and with that comes the inevitable discussion of ethics. The series' name doubles as a reference to the numerous screens that our devices have and also as a blank canvas for the creators and writers to make predictions on what the future could hold based on where we are as a global society now. The brilliant and clever writing also begins the ethical conversation that accompanies any technological achievement. Here are a few times Black Mirror challenged our perception on what the future The

Terrorism and Technology

With the ever-present threat of terrorism, Black Mirror's first episode is especially horrifying. 'The National Anthem' sees beloved member of the British Royal Family, Princess Susannah, kidnapped by a group of ruthless terrorists. In order to bring her back safely, the kidnappers demand the Prime Minister go on national television and have sexual intercourse with a live pig. Of course the government is using every option to try to find her first, but the kidnappers' technology and forward planning proves to outsmart the government's brightest minds. The disturbing nature of the kidnappers' demands may seem pretty outlandish, but when one thinks about it, is such an event really that impossible? The bizarre demand may never happen, but if computer savvy people can hack into government databases from their bedrooms, the mind boggles at the thought of what a more malicious person may be capable of. In this age of data breaches and technological terrorism, the plot of Black Mirror's first episode has never hit closer to home. 

Slaves to Media

'15 Million Merits' is probably my favorite episode to date. In this day and age, almost everyone has an online presence through some form of technology or social media, but what if our lives were completely overrun by it? That is exactly what this episode addresses. It depicts a dreary society whose largest workforce consists of drone-like employees who spin on stationary bikes all day to generate energy in exchange for virtual points. As the workers go about their lives, they are bombarded with an inescapable stream of company messages, propaganda, and mind-numbing TV shows. Their only hope of moving beyond this bleak existence is to try out on a TV show that feels as though The Hunger Games and American Idol had a love child. There are many eerie points made here. Are we currently on track for our virtual lives to overthrow our interpersonal ones? Do we want to live in a homogenized world in which technology has consumed every facet of our existence? This episode may be Sci-Fi at heart, but it still feels worryingly plausible.

The Future of Overshare


There is exciting talk that 'The Entire History of You' is going to be turned into a full-length film, and if you've seen the episode you'll have instantly recognized its big screen potential. 'The Entire History of You' can hit anyone on a very personal level. Here, almost everyone has a microchip implanted behind their ear that records their experiences in a memory bank, which can then be played back either in the person's eyes or outwardly for others to see as well. On the face of it this could be exciting, because who wouldn't want to relive some of the best days of their lives? Conversely, what about having the ability to relive those darker times? The events of 'The Entire History of You' draw strong parallels to society's obsession with recording every moment of their lives on social media. By doing so, are we missing out on actually experiencing the experience in person as it happens? With this collective habit only expanding, could this episode depict the logical next step? Let's face it, it's no more ridiculous than those damned selfie sticks that are plaguing every public place of worth.

Losing Our Grip on Reality


'Be Right Back' is an that episode really tugs at the heartstrings, especially for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. After a woman loses her boyfriend, she tries out a new product that recreates the person you lost with a synthetic body and a personality made up by their online presence. This creation may look and act like the person you are missing, but deep down you know it's not real. There aren't products like this available right now, but there are plenty of ways technology is currently changing what we consider reality. With every new development in artificial intelligence, the line between what is human and what is technological, become increasingly blurred. How will society continue to let technology alter reality?

Voter Apathy Gone Mad

Given the crucial role media figures play in our political systems now, 'The Waldo Moment' is yet another example of Black Mirror providing an outlandish concept that actually doesn't seem too out of reach. This episode is about a popular animated comedian called Waldo who starts to comment on political issues as a joke, but after the electorate finds his ravings entertaining enough to consider voting for him, Waldo and his human controller find themselves in the middle of a vicious political campaign. When one thinks of the way we cherish the plethora of entertainment personalities today, it isn't too hard to imagining something this adoration seeing a gradual merger of pop culture and politics. Of course, there have been cases of entertainers and celebrities running for public office before (Arnold Schwarzenegger anybody?), the main difference in this depiction though, is that the famous personality is a foul-mouthed animated character, and not a universally known actor. Watching the masses rally around the four-lettered rants of Waldo doesn't only feel plausible, it also feels indicative of the continual dumbing down of modern day politics. Could we become so fed up with the way our governments are being run that this becomes a possibility, or even the norm?

When Technology Becomes Reality


There are numerous points we could make about 'White Christmas', but it's the notion of 'blocking' that's at the heart of what this episode is trying to say. Jon Hamm stars in a trio of mind-bending stories that were put together for what will probably go down as one of the bleakest Christmas television specials in history. White Christmas explores what would happen if society's wanton use of social media 'blocking' carried over into our physical lives. Considering we are all familiar with removing unwanted persons from our social feeds, the idea of blocking someone in real life still seems beyond odd. Black Mirror shrewdly paints the process of blocking as something akin to a virtual restraining order, which when you think about it in social media terms, is quite apt. But when this process is extended into real-life through the experiences of John Hamm's character, Joe, it becomes a far more disturbing prospect. Maybe it's John Hamm's brilliant performance, or maybe its just a damn clever episode, but White Christmas absolutely changed the way we view our lives and interactions both on and off of social media.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi TV Shows
Black Mirror