I had come across the show “Black Mirror ,” on Netflix before but had never stopped to watch it until my brother recommended it to me. He knows my preference for shows in the vein of “The Twilight Zone.” I love shows that take our reality and twist it a little bit (I write much like this). Any show that has a twisted story line that makes you think as the show progresses will grab my attention. And “Black Mirror ,” was no exception to that rule.
“Black Mirror,” is a British show. There are two seasons, each with three episodes on Netflix, so it didn’t take me all that long to catch up on the show. Each episode is its own standalone story, but there is a hint that the episodes could well take place in the same universe. Each episode explores the consequences of the advancement of technology. Every episode focus on a different type of technology; whether it is Youtube and video sharing or the ability to access every memory you have ever had. The idea of the show is to explore how fast and far we have come, how far we still have to go and what some of the results of our efforts maybe. None of the episodes end with a happily-ever-after, smiles and hugs. We get to see the consequences of the technological world around us and it is scary and at times depressing.
The show doesn’t take place in a future that is far form our world today, like “Star Trek.” The advancements they show are not only possible but they are possible in our life times, I believe. I am 26 and I can remember a time when going on the computer was a privilege in our house. I had to not only wait my turn but also had to wait for dial-up to get online. Now I have a smart phone where I can literally access the world from my car, house and workplace. I have young cousins who have never known a time without not only a computer but a smartphone. Technology is on a fast track and it is not going to slow down anytime soon. So many of these advancements seem not only possible to me but probable.
With this fast paced advancement it is easy for us not to have time to be able to contemplate what these new discoveries could mean for us. I will give a quick look at my two favorite episodes. (Major Spoilers for these episodes ahead). The first is called “White Bear.” A young woman, Victoria, wakes up distressed and hurt in a small bedroom. She stumbles out of the house desperately searching for someone to tell her what is going on. All she sees are people holding cell phones and taping her. No one will talk with her.
She gets chased by a masked man and runs into two rebels. The woman takes Victoria under wing and attempts to save her. She tells her that somehow cellphones got hacked with a brainwashing type message. Anyone who has seen it just stands around watching. While those unaffected are hunted and killed. As Victoria runs she keeps having flashbacks to a time with a young girl who she thinks is her daughter. She works with the woman to try and shut down the signal that is causing the issue. Just as they seem about to fail they are revealed to be in front of an audience. The whole thing was a show.
It turns out that Victoria is a murderess and helped her fiancé kill the young girl she kept seeing before. They reveal all to her as she (still with no real memory) begs for mercy and is taken through a street of people throwing things at her and shouting her demise. They set up the room again, strap her down, wipe her memory and the whole thing begins once again. The whole thing is taking place inside of what appears to be a kind-of amusement park. The visitors even get to participate in the psychological torture of Victoria and most likely other criminals.
This is a interesting episode because it is something I can very well see taking place in our life time. Whenever a murderer or a violent criminal is caught there are always people shouting for them to get the same treatment which they showed to their victims. We as a people want extreme justice. And for many life in prison or even the death penalty are not enough. But is this really acceptable? To completely wipe all memories of the person’s life to the point that not only do they not remember their crime but they don’t even know who they are at all? Then have them believe they are running for their lives and trying to save a loved one only to discover the horrible deed they have done? And to have this done over and over again until they aren’t even psychologically able to function anymore? (I’m assuming this would be the ultimate end) And also to have the public take part? It is torture and it makes you think of how acceptable this type of thing could be. Many will say it makes sense while others will reply with torturing a torturer is just creating a cycle that will solve nothing. This show wants you to think and this episode definitely does that. What is your opinion?
The other episode that really stuck with me was “Be Right Back.” It is the story of a grieving widow and what she will do to get back the man she loved. Martha’s husband, Ash, goes out one night and dies in an accident. Martha is devastated and can barely function anymore. She is desperate to talk to her husband one more time.
A friend tells her about a company where they take a program that reads all social media and internet interactions and creates a form of a person from the information. Martha’s husband was heavily involved with social media and the internet so she decides to try it. “Ash,” replies much like her Ash would, saying some of the same phrases and talking about the same topics. Though it never tries to hide the fact that it is a computer program.
Eventually the computer and phone are not enough. She takes it a step farther and has his consciousness downloaded into a type of robot. He looks exactly like her late husband and seems appears life like. But it doesn’t take her long to realize that this is not her husband. No matter how much he did online this version can’t be him. There are things that he does, says that this robot can’t replicate. She realizes that she is falling apart even more with this new addition then she was without him. She becomes scared and upset and even tries to make him jump off a cliff. But he cries and she can’t get past seeming him as alive in some way. In the end she stores him in the attic, where she allows their daughter (who she learned she was pregnant at, right after Ash died) to see him once in a while.
Again this is a technology I can see having two polarizing opinions. For those who have been devastated by the lost of a loved one, the idea of being able to see them, talk to them and touch them again seems extremely appealing. But they are not completely that person you lost. They may sound the same and look the same but they do not have the lost loved one’s true personality. No matter how open you maybe on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you are not showing the world every aspect of you. My mom lost my biological father right before I was born. She has alway said that she would love to see and talk with him one more time. But I doubt she would choose the path. I think she would understand that while this person may look the same as my father did it can never completely capture his true personality and soul.
This episode explored the idea of technology creating life in a way or more accurately substituting a form of life. Is what this program creates actually life? Some people would see this as perfectly acceptable. While many others would find it twisted and a bit disturbing; I put myself very much in the second camp. What about you? If you had the opportunity to bring back a loved one in some form would you? Even if it wasn’t completely them?
“BlackMirror,”is not only entertaining but it makes you think about the world around us. Technology will continue to develop at a lightening speed and we are going to be offered many different options. Will we have time to stop and think about what the implications are of this new advancement? “Black Mirror,” gives us a glimpse into our possible future. It gives us an opportunity to think and prepare for some tough decisions we all may have to make one day.