The Appeal of Black Mirror

One distopian view of what society could become

I’m finding I have a thing for British TV shows—Skins, Misfits, Dr. Who, Sherlock….  I’m not sure if it’s just the different culture, or different standards, but these sorts of shows just seem better than most American shows. Perhaps it’s because they’re targeting a narrower audience.  Or, maybe it’s because they often have far fewer episodes per season. Shorter seasons require tighter writing, ensure that only the best ideas are being filmed, and allow more time for the production of each episode.

Regardless, my latest British addiction is Black Mirror. This show focuses on the negative effects of technology on people and culture. It is an anthology show—like The Twilight Zone, every episode is in a different universe and has different characters.  Only one of the episodes could actually happen with the technology today, but much of the technology is just an extension of the gadgets people are developing now, such as Google Glass.

Black Mirror’s ideas are compelling. The social commentary is brilliant. My favorite episode, the second episode of the first season, is what Brave New World would be if Huxley had written it today.

But for all that, the impact of the technology on the characters is what really makes the show work. One general theme is that, regardless of the technology, human nature is constant. Advanced technology simply magnifies our capability to demonstrate our best and worst traits—and, since fiction thrives on conflict, that means mostly the worst traits.

As such, the show is bleak. It’s certainly not for kids, and is not necessarily the sort of show you’d want to binge watch. (On the other hand, with only 7 episodes, maybe that isn’t an issue.)

Thus, there’s a lot in this show that I liked. But, the thing that most impressed me was my own reaction to it. Every single episode made me think. Not for just a few minutes afterwards, but for hours and often days later. No other TV show has ever had that sort of impact on me with every episode. So, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys thoughtful speculative fiction.

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