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.
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.
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.
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.