Black Mirror

5th Jan 2012

If you’ve not seen it already, we’d highly recommend you take a look at Black Mirror, a series of three dark tales for our time. Written by Charlie Brooker, who wrote among other things Newswipe, Screenwipe, Dead Set and a (usually hilarious) column in the Guardian, Black Mirror highlights some uneasy truths (or potential truths) about current technological and cultural trends. Actually, ‘uneasy’ doesn’t quite do it justice – the ideas and metaphors in Black Mirror are occasionally disgusting and almost always frightening, especially because of how close to home they seem to hit. It’s not always comfortable viewing, but as an honest harbinger of how things might go wrong – and in some cases, already are – there’s not much in current popular culture to touch it.


Black Mirror - The National Anthem

The National Anthem

The National Anthem sees the country’s Prime Minister being held to ransom through social media and the press – the pressure of juggernauts YouTube, Twitter and the rolling news media forces the PM to carry out an obscene act on live television; failure to do so will result in the murder of a member of the royal family. It’s an effective, if blunt, demonstration of mob rule and the power and influence that the internet and social media can yield in today’s world, even over those who might appear immune from such things.


Black Mirror - 15 Million Merits

15 Million Merits

Set in an Orwellian near-future, 15 Million Merits is a satire on the nature of reality TV and shows such as X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Required to “cycle” to earn a living (a fairly bald metaphor for the Rat Race), citizens are frequently tempted by the possibility of a new life through a talent show called Hot Shot. After giving over a significant sum of money (merits) for a ticket, performers can sing or dance for a chance to be a star and to escape “the bike”. It’s not a hugely original premise, but the use of lots of ideas from the modern world as we know it (everything from each person having an avatar they can purchase virtual clothes for to notifications that people who liked apples also liked bananas(!)) bring the classic 1984/Brave New World story right into the 21st century.


Black Mirror - The Entire History of You

The Entire History of You

The premise behind The Entire History of You is that one’s memories are stored – permanently – in a small implant behind the ear.  Using a small handset and a screen, memories can be scrolled through, catalogued and rewatched in glorious HD. Experiences can be relived and shared, without the hassle and inaccuracies involved in recounting the story from (imperfect) memory. This all seems great, except when the lead character starts to doubt his wife’s fidelity and descends into a pit of obsession, rerunning recorded memories to find the slightest piece of evidence to support his suspicions. It’s not pretty viewing, and although the memory-archiving technology seems unlikely ever to be created for precisely the reasons the story highlights, the metaphor works when applied to the modern tendency to store our lives online – in unchanging, perfectly accurate digital representations (think of the perfectly-preserved Facebook timeline, stretching back… and back… and back…).

All three episodes are available on 4OD, although only for a couple of weeks.

Posted by Laurence in Stuff | 3 Comments »

3 Comments on “Black Mirror”

  1. Rich
    5:28 pm on January 6th, 2012

    I managed to watch the first 2 episodes and they were amazing. The National Anthem is genius. The Black Mirror DVD is out later in the month for anyone that missed it.

  2. Laurence’s news | 39steps design agency Edinburgh
    1:57 pm on January 10th, 2012

    […] Team39 News Team39 News previous: « Black Mirror […]

  3. Laurence
    4:47 pm on January 10th, 2012

    Thanks Rich, it’s good to know it hasn’t been relegated to the murky world of Youtube and illegal downloads!

Leave a Reply


Privacy policy

At 39steps, we respect the privacy needs of our valued customers and members. This Privacy Policy outlines what specific information is gathered on the 39steps site and how that information is used. Maintaining the privacy of your information is of paramount importance to us as it helps foster confidence, goodwill and stronger relationships with you, our customers. If, at any time, you have questions or concerns about our privacy practices, please feel free contact us at

Information collection and use

39steps explicitly asks when we need information that personally identifies you ("Personal Information"). Your personal information is used to create your personal access to our email marketing product, and to contact you in the course of using this product. Financial information that is collected is used to verify, identity and to bill either you or your company for products and services, as applicable. Demographic and profile data collected by 39steps may be used to tailor this web site or any requested email communications, and to display information that is more relevant to you. 39steps also compiles demographic and product use information, but in the aggregate only, and may make that aggregate information publicly available. Under no circumstances will 39steps make any personal information about an individual user available to anyone.

Your email address is used to only send you information that you have requested. As part of your use of our email marketing software, 39steps allows you to elect to receive, or not receive, certain information from 39steps. 39steps adheres strictly to permission-based email policy. Except as mentioned above, 39steps will not send you unsolicited email information, commercial offers or advertisements. 39steps will not sell, rent, or loan our contact lists or our customer's contact lists (including customer data) to any outside firms nor will 39steps use customer contact lists for our own marketing purposes. All emails that you have requested will have an option to unsubscribe. Unsubscribe requests are fulfilled within minutes and no further communications will be sent to users who have stated that they do not wish to receive the specified information.