Black Mirror

3 out of 5

Directed by: Various (created by Charlie Brooker)

Covers season 1.

Fuckin’ smart kids.  Drafting revolutions with their “commercialism is ruining the nation” paps, painting pictures of horrible humanity.  Hey – we don’t disagree, but I got news for ya’s – this ain’t nothin’ new.

Charlie Brooker is one of those new school smart guys who grew up with tech and knows what’s what but, as you can tell by watching his ‘Mind Wipe,’ though ready with an informed snipe at day-to-day goings-on, there’s really not too much differentiating average-joe’s E gossip from tech-joe’s nitpicks except, I dunno, less winking when they’re being sarcastic.  This is not to put Brooker down – his approach of challenging smart kids on their opinions is worthwhile and required, and while ‘Black Mirror’ might hide nothing new under its sheen, it’s a show I’m glad to have as an almost humorless juxtaposition to the shrug mentality we take toward the issues proposed.  There will always be this struggle between the non-caring and the caring, the popular opinion and the flexibility of truth, but I think it’s an especially precarious slope in our culture of super awareness, so pushing the concepts to ridiculous extremes as in ‘Mirror’ is a must.  Y’know, for holding up a Black Mirror.  HEY!

Which is perhaps why the best episode from season 1 is the most disturbingly ridiculous – wherein the PM’s daughter is kidnapped and a youtube video released stating the kidnapper’s demands – that the PM must go on live television and sex-up a pig to insure her release.  The episode plays rather obviously on our obsession with reality and humiliation as entertainment, as well as the fault of public opinion and sensationalism in escalating events (as the kidnapping itself seems to stem only from the desire to show an event and nothing more – no money, no anything else).  It’s bleak, bleak stuff, incredibly acted and believably predicted as the PM’s office deals with things first and foremost on a P.R. level, then on a personal level, then allowing us to watch as the Prime Minister must deal with the weight of his potential decisions.

Episodes 2 and 3 jump into an unspecified future, playing off the dangers of where our obsessions may lead – the ability to record and scrutinize memories for hints and allegations, and our ongoing obsession with fame that can only lead to ruin or personal emptiness (which, is, uh, ruin).  Both of these are nice in that they don’t sway from how these things ruin us, and for every somewhat pompous moment plugging away at how horrible humanity is, the script will reroute to remind that even our awareness of our flaws is a horrible aspect of our humanity.  Womp!  But again, this is really nothing new.  It might be pitched with a technological awareness, and given a bit more heft than the sci-fi pulps of old because this is real technology that we have extrapolated to an unfortunately real feeling future (the ‘live for fame’ world is especially frighteningly realized), but the warnings are the same.  The show is shot mostly brilliantly – great sets, the commentary delivered through the script and not so much by lingering on telling shots of reactions or anything, though the 50-60 minutes runtime is honestly too much space for most of these, giving room to subplots that really don’t matter except to fluff it up to an hour long set.

So perhaps I’m spoiled, but sci-fi (the genre in which this show is rooted) is intended to make you think.  And since each episode starts with its pitch right up front, you can tell where it’s leading, mostly, and so there’s not much to think about if your brain is already adapted to such thoughts.  But the smart kids will like it because it’s presented smartly and looks smart, and I’d encourage budding intelligents growing up in this era to give it a watch, as it might be their introduction to this kind of bleak warning system.  I’m glad Black Mirror exists, and I hope it continues to paint its bleak pictures.  Not because it’s anything new, but because it’s a necessary point of view.

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