I am not one for being scared. I am in fact, a fraidy-cat. I don’t like scary movies, and through some sort of super-human interest in the stories being told (and less in the gruesome horror), I watched shows like The Walking Dead and Hannibal, but either in daylight, or with someone by my side. I do like suspense, and a bit of mystery. So while there may be the occasional jump-scare or horrific looking thing in Black Mirror, it’s focus on how we as humans are using technology for good or for bad, and the horrible ways it can turn on us is a much better starting point for the kind of show that I’d be interested in watching. And it doesn’t hurt that the Boy is really interested in the show too, and so we watch it together.
What is Black Mirror? You’ve probably heard about it being new on Netflix – but what is it? It’s a British anthology show that began airing in 2011 in the UK. It features actors you probably recognize in one-off roles that are sort of short stories in the manner of The Twilight Zone. The stories are not necessarily scary in a traditional sort of Halloween way, but scarier in that they all deal with how technology is creeping into our lives, and how it could be used for good or for horrifying. As an example, the very first episode deals with the kidnapping of a popular Royal family member, and how the perpetrators make a demand that the Prime Minister have sex with a pig on UK television in order to have her returned. Following episodes become even more technology entrenched and relevant to life today – especially an episode titled “The Waldo Moment” that centers around a cartoon celebrity running for political office and winning. There’s a reason why people were tweeting at the creator of Black Mirror last week and asking if this was real life, or another episode of the show.
The show went off the air in 2013 in the UK, had a Christmas special at the end of 2014, and in 2015 it was announced that Netflix would be bringing the show back for another run of episodes. 6 episodes debuted in October, and we’ll get another 6 episodes sometime in 2017.
How do you know if you’ll like the show? It’s hard to say. If you’re interested in technology, the way current events seep into our lives, how we as human beings treat one another, or in near-future science-fiction and technology speculation, you’ll be intrigued. If you like well-written stories that keep you on your toes, and get you to think about the world in a new way, this is a show for you. The most recent run dealt with how social media and “likes” are taking over our lives, with augmented reality games, internet trolls, end of life and nostalgia, the future of war, online hate and the bee crisis.
It’s hard to pick a favorite because the topics and styles of the episodes vary so wildly, but the Boy and I watched the final episode – “Hated in the Nation” – over the weekend, and we were entranced. The episode covers a wide variety of current topics, blends them together in a seamless way, is frightening for the near future technology and the way it could be turned on us, and a story with characters (and actors) that we enjoyed watching and are hopeful could show up again in the future. The other standout this season was probably “San Junipero”, which is an oddly hopeful episode that seems out of place in the other bleak explorations of our relationships with technology, but was a welcome break mid-season.
Is anyone else out there as obsessed with Black Mirror as we are? Aren’t you glad that Netflix has all the episodes now and that you don’t need to go digging through various Vimeo mirrors to find “White Christmas” streaming somewhere on the internet? Any recommendations for similar shows which explore the developing intermingling of humanity and technology?
Details: Black Mirror, 13 episodes total, streaming on Netflix.