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Let’s Get Reel: Black Mirror

Paige Hamilton ’17, Movie Columnist

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We’ve all posted that one thing on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, when as we pressed ‘post’, a little voice in the back of our head said, “this is great, everyone’s gonna think you are so funny/cool/attractive.” We’ve all filmed someone acting silly simply because that same little voice whispered, “this gives you some leverage.” It happens. We might not think about it consciously but it does. Every action we take using social media is calculated and it is permanent. The Netflix anthology, Black Mirror, is a collection of episodes exploring the potentially detrimental consequences of this as technology continues to invade our daily lives.

Rod Sterling’s, The Twilight Zone, made its audiences questions the stability of their existence in vignettes where ours and the supernatural world collided.  Producer Charlie Brooker proposes that our world is not separate from that of the supernatural–rather it is its predecessor. His show, Black Mirror, suggests that in the near future, technology will interfere with our lives just as drastically and harmfully as the magical forces in The Twilight Zone.

Black Mirror first aired in 2011 and is now well into its third season. Each episode stands alone and the only continuity between them are the themes of technology, morality, and humanity. I didn’t know what the show was about going into the first episode but many friends had recommended it to me. A dedicated Star Trek fan and psycho-thriller fanatic, I was intrigued by their reviews of the show as being frightening and futuristic. I was expecting to watch an episode that opened with a quiet, long shot of outer space, followed by a story about a protagonist who gets lost in a corn field, only to find themselves in a surrealist alternative universe. This made me unprepared for the shock of “The National Anthem”: episode one of Black Mirror.  The story revolved around a situation remarkably similar to one that actually took place, involving accusations against a former British Prime Minister. A grotesque tail unfolds that defies all the moral boundaries we are used to, however, given that its based on reality, it still manages to feel eerily possible.

This is how Black Mirror finds its success: by drawing the audience into a scene or endearing them to a character that is faced with an ethical dilemma, carrying the weight of theirs and other’s lives. How do these innocent people get caught-up in such perilous situations? Technology. Mediating, interfering, and overpowering through mechanical devices marketed as a means to make life easier, technology is ultimately the villain. A faceless, conscious-less entity, machinery makes for the perfect antagonist to a psycho-thriller since there is no one to blame for the disasters it creates other than the humans operating it.

If you are in search of a thought-provoking, drama-thriller, Black Mirror should be on the top of your list. While some episode might drain your faith in humanity, others might inspire your to call a loved one or delete your social media for a while. The range of emotions and subject matter is broad. Well written and beautifully performed, each episode will pull you deeper into the fantastic world of the near future. My only warning before watching is to remember that the episodes don’t distort reality, they mirror it.

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The student news site of Dickinson College.
Let’s Get Reel: Black Mirror