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Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ a hypocritical hit

Jan 24 • Arts & Leisure • 2903

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OLIVIA BURGER
a&l editor

It is uncommon to find a television series with no definite cast, setting or even reality become a success — and receive critical acclaim in the process.
With no plot to build on and no familiar faces appearing episode to episode, anthology series are typically hard-pressed to find a consistent viewer following.
“Black Mirror,” a British science fiction anthology television series, is a rare exception.
The series, created by Charlie Brooker, is a dark, satirical drama that focuses on themes surrounding new technologies.
Episodes are typically set in the near future or in an alternate reality, and follow the stories of humans who are manipulated by their reliance or participation with technology.
Often times, the episodes will have a twisted ending, involving some sort of ironic theme.
The show first premiered on the British Channel 4 in 2011 and ran for two seasons releasing six total episodes titled “The National Anthem,” “Fifteen Million Merits,” “The Entire History of You,” “Be Right Back,” “White Bear” and “The Waldo Moment.”
In 2014 an additional holiday special episode called “White Christmas” was released a year after the second season finished airing.
A third season of “Black Mirror” was commissioned by Netflix in September 2015. The season was said to be made of 12 episodes, but it was then decided that the seasons would be divided into two series of six episodes each.
The six episodes of season three were released on Oct. 21, 2016, and the episodes were titled “Nosedive,” “Playtest,” “Shut Up and Dance,” “San Junipero,” “Men Against Fire” and “Hated in Nation.”
Since “Black Mirror” is an anthology series, it does not particularly matter which season a viewer wishes to start with.
Netflix, wanting the shows it produced to be more popular, has the layout of the series begin with season three and end with season one.
Netflix might also have “Black Mirror” arranged this way because of the oddity and the vulgarity of the first episode of the series from the first season, titled “The National Anthem.”
In “The National Anthem,” the British prime minister, played by Michael Callow, faces a dilemma when a beloved princess from the royal family is kidnapped. The prime minister is forced into doing a horrible sexual act on live television in order for the princess’s life to be saved.
This episode is a terrible introduction to the series as it hardly exhibits any type of technology manipulation in the plot, which is a staple for every episode.
The crude storyline and explicit images of the episode also do enough damage to scare away any viewer who is at all skeptical of the series.
Granted, almost every “Black Mirror” episode contains explicit language, nudity and gory scenes, but “The National Anthem” is by far the worst, and as the introductory episode, this hurts the series.
Perhaps a better introductory episode for the series would’ve been “The Entire History of You,” an episode that showcases the destructive consequences that derive from a device called a “grain” that records and rewinds everything a person sees and hears.
With the “grain,” people are able to rewind every dinner party conversation, failed job interview and domestic argument. They can pick apart the words of others and relive any particular moment, good or bad.
This episode is particularly interesting because it explores the consequences of creating a device that can rewind. This device is extremely similar to one that Sony is already developing with its patented recording smart contact lenses.
While almost every “Black Mirror” episode ends in tragedy and foreshadows human demise due to electronics and technology, there are a couple episodes that end in an ironic happiness.
“Nosedive,” the first episode of the third season, stars American film actress Bryce Dallas Howard as an eager social climbing woman, obsessed with her popularity rating. Due to technologies on phones and in smart contact lenses, everyone in this reality rates a person overall on a five-star scale.
In the end of the episode, we find Howard’s character has gone crazy after failing to gain approval from elites and reaching a shockingly low rating.
Alone and rated a zero, the character is last seen laughing uncontrollably and screaming profanities in prison, but with a smile on her face.
Another episode with a semi-positive ending, perhaps my favorite, is “San Junipero.”
The plot follows two young lovers in the vibrant beach town of San Junipero in 1987.
We later find out that the two girls we have been following are actually old women living in the past through a simulated reality system.
While perhaps not ethical, the virtual reality worlds prove that sometimes you can live in the past and experience what it feels like to be young and wild again.
“Black Mirror” is the perfect drama for a generation that has grown up with no reservations on the reliance of modern-day technology.
With each episode you’ll find yourself invested in a plot you’d never imagine on your own, but one that is eerily possible.
As a series that makes the audience think about the advancing world around them, “Black Mirror” is the ideal mixture of science and drama with just enough scandal thrown into the mix to make each episode engaging.
After just one or two episodes you’ll soon find yourself sucked into a series that after hours of binge watching will make you question the repercussions of those hours you just spent – and that’s the magic of “Black Mirror.”

 

OLIVIA BURGER

burger028@knights.gannon.edu

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