In January Black Mirror returns for its third series on the online streaming site Netflix. Each episode of the show tells a different story with a new set of characters. The theme of the show is to hold a mirror up to modern society and show the darkness that’s hidden just beneath the surface due to our obsession with technology. With all the episodes of the show including the latest series currently available on Netflix we look at what makes this show so unique.
If you want to create noise around your first episode then Black Mirror is a perfect example of attention grabbing. The first episode of the show titled The National Anthem centered around a British Prime Minister making the choice of whether to have sex with a pig on live TV or let a member of the Royal Family die. While the shock value was an important part of the episode the story was really asking us the audience whether we would watch such an act. Speaking to the Telegraph Charlie Brooker, creator of the show, stated that the show was inspired by the US TV series the Twilight Show which in turn drew on the fear of McCarthyism during the Cold War. Brooker said, “today the obsession is technology. It’s all-pervading it seems.”
The first two series of the show were set in the UK and dealt with the concept that we are all under constant surveillance and how technology will bring out the worst in humanity. In the third episode of series 1 the characters have a video recorder implanted into their brain giving everyone a video recording of every moment of their lives leading to an obsession of suspicious and jealously. A wry comment on how we are already on constant video through smartphone technology.
The Waldo Moment in series two shows how the public, fed up with the current political establishment, is willing to vote a rude blue cartoon character into parliament called Waldo. Owen Harris the director of an episode in series 3 pointed out to The Hollywood Reporter that Black Mirror had predicted the rise of Donald Trump who channeled public anger in the same way that the cartoon Waldo does. The genius of Black Mirror is that all the stories, no matter how shocking or fantastical, reflect the world we live in today.
Speaking to television and film review site Den of Geek, Brooker spoke of how technology isn’t the villain it just amplifies human weakness. One episode in the latest series deals with how the star rating system seen on apps such as Uber is applied to human interaction. As humans try to be the perfect Jekyll all they are hiding is a much bigger Hyde.
The notion of Jekyll and Hyde has fascinated culture since Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the novella in 1886. The story is often adapted for modern times and its themes can be used across all mediums including some more unusual entertainment platforms. The Iron Warrior reported that the story was adapted for the stage as a musical in 1990 and included two original female characters. The theme of the dual nature of humanity has also been used to entice players to online gaming with leading portal Betfair Casino using the characters in their game Jekyll & Hyde. Like Black Mirror, Betfair are playing on the fact that human desire is a Jekyll and Hyde concept that can make players take risks.
While much of Black Mirror focuses on the Hyde nature of technology there are moments that demonstrate that human compassion and kindness can shine through. Black Mirror is essential viewing for people who want an intelligent reflection of our society and what could happen in the near future.