Please note: I spoil the crap out of Season 3, episode 1. If you have not watched this episode and do not want spoilers, come back to this after you’ve watched it in full. I wrote this originally as a Creative Writing assignment, and intended to make a review, but it unfortunately turned out to be a heavy spoilerific review.
“Black Mirror” is one of those Netflix shows that strikes a chord with its audience on many levels. What is Black Mirror’s audience? People who love horror, technology, gritty stories and standalone stories that in many ways mirror reality will love Black Mirror. Jenna Wortham, in a New York Times article at the beginning of last year, sums up “Black Mirror” in one fluid sentence. “Each episode of “Black Mirror”— named for the way our screens look while powered down— paints a different nightmarescape of a future gone technologically awry.” (Wortham, 2015) The first episode she cites for instance would probably not be my first choice to use if I were the one writing this article. I do, however, like her description of the episode entitled “Hotshot”. “Another imagines a post-peak-oil future, wherein people generate energy, and currency by pedaling on stationary bikes, and the only escape from the drudgery is reality-show fame.” (Wortham, 2015) “Hotshot” was the episode that really started to make me think about the reality of, say, App Store purchases on a smartphone or digital downloadable content in video games. In that society, the Exercise Bikes are like working. The characters peddle their ass off in the hopes to get these “Merits” that can be spent on mostly necessities. As with a good majority of in-app purchases on any app store, these purchases can often spend a day’s work of Merits. For example, some toothpaste dispensed from a dispenser for the Main Character to brush his teeth cost over 100,000 Merits. The biggest expense in this society is a ticket to be a Contestant on “Hotshot” a show within the episode making jabs at American Idol/The Ex Factor.
Another episode that just came out last month when “Black Mirror” became a hit for Netflix exclusively is “Nose Dive.” In this future, people are rated on a scale of 1-5. Similar to rating a restaurant on Yelp , the rating determines everything, including criminal status. The 4.0-5.0s are the high, upper-class elites. They get the best housing, first-class flights and tend to have elitist friends. As we all know from our own society, people can be pretty nasty. When these characters are forced to show their social profile in this episode, where every action will cause a sore or dip in ratings, behavior is more about a number, not about love, feelings or anything else that drives us to behave. Society norms in this episode entirely rely on rating.
The main character learns this cruel system first hand, as her journey rating wise starts at a fine 5. When she gets to the wedding she was supposed to be a bridesmaid at, her rating drops to a 2. She just brushed by someone drinking a cup of coffee, spilling it. That person chose to give her one star. Her rating went down a bit, which made her unable to board a first-class flight since her rating was below the requirement for it. Then, she talked back to and cursed out the clerk at the airport. Security, as punishment, knocked her rating down by one whole point, making it a three or so. She was denied access to the wedding by her former friend, the bride, who’s still sitting at a 5.0 rating. When all was said and done and she made her speech; the others at the wedding scoffed at her rating. Everyone at the wedding gave her one star, essentially telling her that she was no longer welcomed there, and her rating plummeted to 1.0 which meant jail.
Lastly, “Black Mirror” is a dark, at times twisted show that really makes one think about the possible price of having access to technology in this digital age. With “Black Mirror,” it examines the technology we use and gives us a startling look at how bad it may become in the wrong hands, or even as it develops over time.
Wortham, Jenna. “‘Black Mirror’ and the Horrors and Delights of Technology.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Jan. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.