Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

The Ominous Future

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror constructs a compelling narrative about contemporary dystopia while delving into the future of technology, often mirroring the deficiencies in our discussions surrounding it. The portrayal of a looming ominous future appears increasingly plausible. However, the series may diverge from the overt moralistic tone of Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone. The lessons within the episodes are perhaps less contradictory than they initially appear.

Nevertheless, the show accrues much of its emotional weight by centering its stories around specific individuals. Through this approach, the series functions as a sort of cognitive tutorial guide, conveying messages such as “never become the protagonist of the story.” While Black Mirror might invite the audience to view Brooker’s vision of the future with suspicion, it also encourages an examination of the kind of ordinary reception that characterizes people in each episode.

The series provides trendy yet polished entertainment and is very much a part of the contemporary “golden age of television.” It risks becoming another show that can be streamed onto the screen, akin to a black mirror. In the modern era, it is intertwined with the same cultural industry as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. It seems to critique society, even as it delivers its disturbing content. Despite its unsettling nature, the subtle message allows the audience to unconsciously distance themselves or remain uncertain.

The Culture Shock

Black Mirror has become a salve for our contemporary dystopian technological trajectory and society. However, it’s also a ready-made target for critics dissecting the times. It’s a balm that ultimately achieves nothing more than serving as a cultural shock absorber, allowing the audience to weather the next shockwave. The series demands that viewers break free from the allure of their own black mirror, even as it entices them to delve into more episodes. This isn’t to suggest that the series lacks value, but it doesn’t carry the same revolutionary rhetoric as some may be inclined to celebrate.

The discomfort experienced by audiences while watching the series swiftly transforms into a form of catharsis, enabling them to continue along the path that the future unfolds. The series offers its own antidote while also inviting a fair share of poison. In each episode, technology saturates the narrative, mirroring the characteristics of humans attempting to comprehend the significance of specific devices. Examples include The National Anthem, The Waldo Moment, Hated in the Nation, and Smithereens, where the prominent technology is social media platforms, something familiar to contemporary audiences.

Episodes such as The Entire History of You, Be Right Back, San Junipero, and Striking Vipers illustrate how the series introduces different and novel technologies, like implantable devices that record all human memories, merging them into a singular reality. Such technology can result in temporary amnesia. Brooker’s stories in Black Mirror primarily revolve around individual narratives, exploring themes like personal grief and the impact of such technology.

The Inhabitants of Black Mirror

It’s easy to overlook the questions or interpretations that arise when watching Black Mirror. Each episode extracts something from the individual, and such a focus can diminish the series’ entertainment value. However, it’s crucial to encourage people to pose critical questions. The world portrayed in each episode doesn’t merely happen; rather, it evolves as a result of layers of choices and decisions that ultimately shape the characters’ lives within each episode.

While the extent of questioning may vary, The National Anthem, the first episode of the first season, serves as a prime example. This episode narrates the tale of a bewildered prime minister struggling to comprehend the threats uploaded to YouTube, alongside the shifting public opinions expressed on platforms like Twitter. His desperation and the peculiar actions he must undertake illustrate the new landscape of politics shaped by social media. In many respects, it’s tempting to view an episode like San Junipero as a welcome respite from the relentless cult of innovation and distraction.

However, the mere presence of such a cautionary tale doesn’t guarantee that the device itself won’t eventually dominate the market. The inhabitants of the world depicted in Black Mirror find themselves in a high-tech dystopia, firmly entrenched in the currents of technology.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Audiences can regard episodes of Black Mirror as simple warnings, effectively conveying the message: “Never become a character in the series.” After all, the world depicted in The Entire History of You appears to be inhabited by individuals who, unlike the obsessive protagonist, can use the “grain” productively.

Similarly, many viewers point to Be Right Back and suggest that cloning can be tremendously beneficial, as long as it isn’t used to replicate a recently deceased loved one. Criticisms of Hated in the Nation may prompt social media audiences to contemplate the proliferation of free expression and how the platform can fuel new protest movements.

However, in the narrative of Black Mirror, characters seldom appear as active agents in terms of technology, even when they interact with or “choose” specific devices. Instead, all of the characters play the role of consumers, whether discussing video games, amusement parks, political campaigns, or social media. These individuals find their psychology gradually eroded day by day.

The Cultural Products

It’s not that the series needs to prominently display a company logo on every “grain.” Nor is it about a stationary bike or describing the individuals behind such a device as Brooker portrays them, as giggling corporate monsters. However, it would be beneficial to at least provide images or information about the people responsible for such a device, especially since these devices play a crucial role in each episode.

Black Mirror overlooks the fact that behind such technology, there are other very human stories, focusing instead on small-scale human narratives. What the series risks is reinforcing the concept of technological determinism, which often pervades discussions about technology. This perspective suggests that people have no choice but to accept what technology companies offer, and resistance is futile.

However, this sentiment is not entirely accurate. In a specific case, the Metaverse presents a new reality that people cannot easily escape. Unfortunately, one of the most effective ways to convince individuals that they are powerless to resist is by “hitting” them with cultural products that convey their powerlessness. It reinforces the idea that assimilation is part of the simulation itself.

Eden

In addition to literature enthusiasts adorning their bookshelves with dystopian tales of the future, the term “dystopia” has become highly prominent in today’s world of pop culture. It has become so prevalent that it inevitably finds its way to various cinema screens. The cinematic portrayal of apocalyptic visions of the future seems boundless.

For many, the inclination to use the term “dystopia” when discussing the futures depicted in Black Mirror may appear somewhat misleading. While episodes like Fifteen Million Merits portray a distant dystopian future, using the term in the same manner for many other installments can be seen as highly allegorical. Such an approach oversimplifies the series, as it fails to consider that the technology portrayed in both the present and future is not entirely dystopian. It also overlooks the intricate orchestration of episodes that reflect contemporary realities.

Philosophers, professors, and scholars alike can argue that the current state of the world falls far from an ideal one. They can scrutinize platforms with sharp critiques, genuinely believing that our current trajectory is moving in a negative direction.

Allegory

On the other hand, some people may hold these beliefs but still resist the temptation to categorize postmodern society as an allegory of dystopia. The series demonstrates how dystopia can manifest as a personal hell in a broad sense. However, Black Mirror also posits that a faltering utopia is not inherently a dystopia in itself.

Prominent critics of the series may point out its clear Western focus. For instance, Tesla does not yet exist in all parts of the world. Additionally, not everyone can afford, attain, or belong to the social class that can own a Tesla. However, it’s undeniable that smartphones are used by the entire global community. In essence, the erosion of utopia can still constitute an outright dystopia for many others.

Furthermore, the series doesn’t concern itself with who assembles such devices. Thus, the threat of dystopia arises from humanity’s continued failure to harness its remarkable technological innovation in the pursuit of creating a modern Eden.

The False Utopian Era

Black Mirror presents a stark juxtaposition between what humanity can achieve and what they actually do. It showcases tools that have the potential to enhance democratic participation but are instead used for trivial purposes, such as featuring cartoon bears as stunt performers. Similarly, mechanisms that aid in preserving the past can paradoxically undermine the present by perpetually replaying moments of human disgrace. Even the means that enable human connection can render it impossible to let go, ultimately contributing to the creation of commodities driven by consumerism.

In its tragic narratives, the series underscores that among the commodities continually churned out by companies are those that elevate the reckless embrace of technology to the level of television series celebrated and critically watched by audiences. While the series may paint a somber, disheartening, and shocking picture, it’s worth noting that there are significant distinctions between the worlds of people living amidst a relentless embrace of dystopian technology acceptance.

The Acceptance

This doesn’t mean that technology acceptance should always be careless, even though changing societal acceptance may necessitate altering individual attitudes toward it. Black Mirror emphasizes its stark message by highlighting attitudes that consistently perpetuate dystopia and not focusing on contemporary resistance.

In Fifteen Million Merits, the series features characters who engage in daring acts of rebellion. These actions are immediately utilized by the protagonist to bolster their power against the antagonistic forces. Consequently, the episode perpetuates a recurring “too late” loop. In essence, the series does not advocate placing all of one’s hopes in utopian ideals or having faith in hopes unrelated to reality.

Creating a dystopia, whether on a large, medium, or small scale, is effortless when it comes to social order. However, it’s important to recognize that this false utopian dream promises a world where technology will solve all of humanity’s problems. The series began by prompting the audience to consider: What are the next steps to be taken?

The New Status Quo

In The Entire History of You, the characters are enjoying a dinner party. Eventually, the discussion shifts to the advantages and disadvantages of memory-recording implants. Various perspectives are expressed, ranging from an individual who cannot fathom using such implants to a woman who has experienced violence and managed to adapt. Consequently, the episode centers around an individual’s obsession with an inability to cope with the world where everyone can remember everything. The dinner party scene illustrates that within the same world, there are many people who can effectively manage these memory-recording implants.

The Waldo Moment revolves around a failed comedian who provides the voice for a cartoon bear. He struggles to comprehend why people are attracted to the protagonist’s animated character. However, this doesn’t deter many from rallying behind the animated bear.

White Bear is perhaps the most disturbing episode, with the protagonist unable to comprehend why people are following and recording her on their smartphones while a masked assailant pursues her. Nevertheless, those recording her actively participate in the disturbing events.

Furthermore, Black Mirror highlights that in the contemporary dystopia, many individuals are content with the new status quo.

The Black Mirror

Despite the numerous criticisms, it is easy to recall the value that Black Mirror has demonstrated in the context of contemporary dystopia. Consequently, the series transcends being merely a show that people sit down to watch; it becomes an integral part of a culture that prompts individuals to pose questions that extend beyond the series itself. Furthermore, it serves as a platform where people can freely discuss their anxieties and fears concerning technology without fear of being labeled “guinea pigs” simply for daring to express such concerns.

By accentuating unanswered questions, the series encourages audiences to ponder inquiries that many artists seldom raise about technology in today’s world. Such reflections hold value only if the series compels the audience to reconsider their relationship with the black mirror, which on the surface reflects their present lives, but may very well mirror their future.

Ultimately, if the series were a comedy, the punchline would revolve around the act of watching, creating, and actively participating. In the end, humans often squander their time endlessly gazing at black screens.

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