The Shallow Reflection of Black Mirror

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I don’t know why I keep watching Black Mirror. It’s a well-produced show with unique story ideas that attracts ace talent for some fantastic performances. But nearly every episode has been a wholly unpleasant viewing experience.

Black Mirror is an episodic anthology series that, in the vein of shows like the Twilight Zone, tells a different story each episode, each taking place in a slightly different version of the near future. It explores repercussions of technologies that we’re not far from developing today and what effect they may have on our relationships, our culture and the way we experience ourselves and the world. In particular, it’s preoccupied with the evolution of social media, and the dark turns it can take us on.

Let me say first, I am all about the integration of humanity and technology in stories. I’ve been into cyberpunk since before I knew what it was called. I love robots, artificial intelligence, people who aren’t really people, cybernetics, cyborgs, if your show’s got it, I’ll watch it. But with all of Black Mirror’s speculative abilities, it says very little about man and technology. It’s mostly about man and how awful we can be, and when we’re given the opportunity through technology, we’ll become, well, even more awful.

Jealousy. Longing. Isolation. These are the recurring themes that run through Black Mirror, and I find myself reminded of the patronizing think pieces about “selfies” and “the Me Generation” that have been printed in the past couple of years. Implants that allow you to record your entire life, software where you can block someone in the real world, a pickup artist coach who literally watches his student’s attempt to get a date through his own eyes – all of these are exaggerations of social media and our culture today. And like the claims that Facebook is isolating us from each other, and Instagram is allowing us to portray a false version of ourselves, Black Mirror seems to insist that the furthering of these technologies will only drive us further apart, and into a hole of ethical decay.

(Spoilers ahead)

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