In a world far (but not that far) ahead of our time, this shining starlet in the heaven that is Netflix Originals bluntly examines how technology changes our lives forever in a right-on-the-money, at times disturbing kind of way.
Today’s news of “Alexa”, “Siri” and “Cortana” which are designed to make your life easier by regulating your heating at home, playing your favourite music and ordering your favourite chocolate when you are out, are only the start of a future that “Black Mirror” depicts as a wide variety of visionary scenarios on how our society is going to be observed, manipulated and defined by technology.
It’s sophisticated in that none of the scenarios are shown to be either black (all technology is bad) or white (all technology is great). It makes the viewer truly think about how dependent we are on tech-stuff already and leaves you sitting in silence for a couple of minutes reflecting upon whether you really need an implanted memory chip that plays back your finest and worst moments before your inner eye.
“Black Mirror” was created in 2011 by visionary Charlie Brooker and is already on season 4, with 19 episodes aired so far. It’s stuffed with esteemed British actors young and old, who apparently recognised the potential early on, so in each episode you watch you will see at least one friendly face.
All episodes are designed as self-contained and independent microcosms that feature different characters, different scenarios and different problems and all end with a sobering but final conclusion. They leave you with a sense of unease, wondering if technology might actually be more like a drug to us now than we realise.
The series is a very darkly humourous and detailed case study of the alarming way in which our modern media is developing and about to take over our lives. Not in an iRobot-starring-Will-Smith-in-Converse kind of way, but in a subtle, brilliantly staged revolution that will end up in a messy dictatorship to which modern society will have to bow.
“Black Mirror” is quite simply genius. A very rare achievement that influences you, sneaks up on you and leaves you bewildered and baffled and a tiny bit scared of what’s waiting for us in just a couple of decades.
To illustrate this phenomenon we give you an example of a very special episode and the twist it has to it: “San Junipero”, Season 3, Episode 4
We start in a small town with an eighties vibe to it, follow around a young red-haired woman “Yorkie” who goes into a club even though she looks a bit like she is more of a homeschool kind of girl. She is found by the extroverted Kelly, with heels and lipstick, who drags Yorkie into a wonderfully innocent party night with dancing, a bit of drinking and a very brief kiss on the lips. It goes on to these two ladies finding each other night by night, connecting, bonding… We don’t want to spoil too much but the time setting seems weird from the beginning and we soon start to question where this town is, what these people do when they aren’t hanging out in a club and why the hell Kelly’s hair is so damn fabulous each night.
The answer is easy and yet not easy. Both women are actually old, very old indeed, and about to die in a hospice. “San Junipero” is a virtual world which elderly people enter in order to feel young and alive again. “Black Mirror”’s very own take on World of Warcraft, some might think, and suspiciously like a virtual chat room in which you are your younger self and experience everything as if it was real.
“San Junipero” plays with themes like homosexuality, consciousness without a body, a digital afterlife and redefining what it means to be human.
It’s a very special episode as it ends with a proper happy ending, one of very few in the Black Mirror multiverse. Not that the others leave you with a bad ending but it’s just not the same as the fuzzy feeling that “San Junipero” gives you. It makes you imagine what you would do with your young lovely self as soon as you got to an age where your everyday life was defined by pills and talk about knitting scarves.
So, if you want to start this series off in an easy-going way, then take this episode.
Ironically, we thought the very first episode of season one was by far the most disturbing one, so you might want to work up to it.
But we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Katja Plaß & Kim Weidemann