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5 Ways Watching Black Mirror Will Change Your Perspective
Before it even hit Netflix, Black Mirror was netting up to 2 million viewers per episode airing in the UK. One of the most unsettling elements of every episode is just how possible each of the dystopian storylines feels. Watching Black Mirror can feel like watching what might happen tomorrow or what is happening in a parallel universe today.
What makes the storytelling on Black Mirror so strong is that it often takes our darkest urges to the extreme. From the first episode “The National Anthem” we saw a public stark-raving mad for public humiliation. No matter how graphic or vile, the viewers of a public display hit a new low collectively, which made everyone feel okay.
If you’re watching Black Mirror and wondering what vision of the world you’re seeing, it’s because you’re seeing the world in a new way. Here are 5 things the show changes your perspective.
1. Rating and Ranking Is Messed Up
In several episodes, characters are reliant on rating and ranking systems to know what to do and who to trust. Whether it’s the parental content controls of “Arkangel” or the expanded social networking of “Nosedive”, the feeling is unsettling.
In an episode like “Nosedive”, we’re presented with a world where each person walks around with a Yelp-style review being constantly updated. Every interaction, public or private, is up for being ranked. People practice their smiles and niceties day and night to make sure they’re acting perfectly.
In this world, non-conformists are ranked lower than conformists who always say the right thing. Behind each smile is a layer of angst that’s palpable and makes interactions tense. There’s always something that someone isn’t saying but that you feel they want to say.
This reflects the feeling of being on Instagram and seeing happy couples projecting the perfection of their lives and relationships to the world. Everyone is flawed and every relationship must be tended with honesty and fairness. What is often projected to the world is insincere.
“Nosedive” feels unsettling because we watch and wonder, what is my limit? Where would I break down? This is one of the most important questions to ask when watching Black Mirror.
2. Those Dogs Aren’t Cute
For avid watchers of Desus and Mero, Boston Dynamics has been releasing some pretty frightening footage which the guys are less than happy about. Their latest creations can open doors for each other, roll down stairs, turn on a dime and jump 4 feet into the air.
Just a few years ago, competitions for robots were showing that stairs were going to be a problem for a long while.
That time has apparently passed. The abilities that these “dogs” have is evolving quickly.
In the Black Mirror episode, “Metalhead” these dogs have taken over the country, run rampant by their directive to attack any threats. The episode is devoid of much of a story but keeps you on the edge of your seat. While the main character tries to escape and outsmart the dogs, they aren’t to be easily outdone.
The pace of this episode is relentless and leaves you with the feeling that maybe we should be a little more skeptical of what this technology can do. We should be careful when these things are given lethal weapons or military direction.
3. Your Feelings Are Real, The Cloud Isn’t
When watching Black Mirror, it’s easy to have strong emotions. Episodes like “Be Right Back” are moving and poignant and leave us conflicted all along the way. Because so much of our emotional life, baby photos, and memories, are already in the cloud, it’s easy to imagine how our emotions could be manipulated.
“San Junipero” is by far one of the best episodes of Black Mirror. It’s that rare mix of dystopian science fiction that has true emotional depth. You land in the world filled with some kind of nostalgia, but it takes awhile to figure it out. After a while, you forget about that confusion and are drawn into the characters.
There’s none of the hidden gore or lurking around the corner that many episodes have. It’s just an emotional story of how to love when our experiences take the next logical step and become completely virtualized. It’s the end result of a fully realized technology addiction.
If you find yourself feeling addicted to anything, technological or otherwise, and need help with any step from detox to rehab, seeking help is essential
4. Live Experiences Are Premiumized
Live experiences are already at a higher premium than any other kind of art. Downloading an album has become easy or free in many cases, but live ticket prices have gone up.
You realize just how much times have changed in the last decade or so while watching Black Mirror.
People are addicted to their phones and so the times they actually interact with one another can be odd. They even give an episode like “Hang The DJ” a special resonance. As modern dating is so dependent on our digital personas, the main characters entrust their entire life to an app.
In “White Bear”, viewers get to experience a theme park of one person’s horror. As they fill the space, they hold cameras up to record their experience. No one in the space and time.
While the conditions for the storyline of “White Bear” storyline are frightening, the interactions of the people with their phone cameras becomes a dark comedy.
5. Contact Matters
In several episodes, it feels like characters struggle to touch one another. Even in just a casual and social way, with the way technology mediates experience and creates a virtual reality, no one touches anymore.
In “Fifteen Million Merits”, characters don’t get to interact. They talk with their heads down and have unrequited crushes. The most extreme contact they can have is to share a joke.
This underscoring of the distance that screens can put between us should remind us to look at one another when we get the time to be together.
Watching Black Mirror is Reflective
All puns aside, this show allows us to look at this moment in time with a critical eye. As technology speeds up, our need to engage with it does as well. Technology brings us needed efficiency and becomes a fact of life, keeping us from being able to reflect.
Even if watching Black Mirror has kept you skeptical, keep your eye on the newest gadgets hitting the market in 2018 to see what could inspire the next season.