Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BLACK MIRROR: Handle with Care

I'm a big fan of 70s-80s sci fi dystopia films because they show a world of space age outfits, modular furniture, free love, gigantic computers--which is reassuring as none of that happened --maybe humanity will triumph over itself after all! But then a show like BLACK MIRROR comes along and sneak attacks me right in the screen-screen-screen criss-crossed world I "live" in (computer at work, cell phone while traveling, TV at home). The world suddenly vanishes behind me, as worlds will once you cross into new ones. Since we don't need to go out anymore, the 'out' ceases to exist. The entire planet becomes indoors; a vast maze of living and work cubicles powered by exercise bikes; full-wall screens instead of windows. Surround sound, surround screens, and everyone shouting and everything paid for by 'merits' we can follow onscreen as they rise and fall with every step (each squeeze of toothpaste a merit,  as does each FF past a commercial). In this crazy world even closing your eyes to an ad costs merits and if we don't have them a shrill noise permeates your 'room' until we open our eyes again, so the commercial can resume. And that's just one grim future outlined on this crazy BBC IV TV show.

In other words, as far as nightmare dystopian parables, BLACK MIRROR is twenty years ahead of its closest neighbors and that it's on Netflix streaming is just too perfect as far as metatextuality. Watch and be warned, though: This show questions the very presence of media in your life in ways I know I, personally, wasn't quite ready for. The show has left a burnished patina of dread to my life; the usual amniotic safety of the widescreen HD image is no longer so reassuring. There's no magic at work, no hallucinations, no monsters in BLACK MIRROR - just sci fi-tinged but believable parables about where we're headed with the light speed advancements in digital media and advertising saturation, and maybe it's already too late to change. Maybe all those contracts we clicked 'I accept' on have quietly stripped us of 'real' self, like watching a commercial for the swinging pendulum from the couch-strapped pit, as thousands of avatars cheer from nearby screens, or the razor coming at your eye in a Dali or Fulci film right as you find yourself having left the last few scraps of 'reality' behind and entered the no-exit image, trapped in a nightmare feedback loop. It's a feeling I had forgotten about, safe in my mediated womb, a feeling I know only from the few times I took way way too much acid back in the 80s. But this show's got my womb all cased out and they're not afraid to cut right in with the cesarian scalpel.

The Channel 4 
If you're new to the series, I'd suggest what I was recommended: Don't start with the first episode of the first season, it's a bit disturbing, disgusting, and ultimately pointless. Save it for last, for one final sucker punch on your way out. Start with the last episode of the first season (there's only three episodes per season, ah the BBC) "The Entire History of You," then move through season 2 in order. ("White Bear" is my favorite), and then the second and then first episode of the first season. I can't tell you much more as they're all best approached cold, as "they" say. The really devastating, unbelievably on-point one is episode two, "Fifteen Million Merits." It still haunts me.

And the most terrifying part: it's all coming true faster than we can stop it. Just pressing this link here to see them on the Channel 4 (or on Netflix for a mere 8 merits a month) implicates you in the problem... I... think you should... wait. No I don't. Never mind and have a lovely day... Run! 

1 comment:

  1. I watched the first episode first, and it was like watching South Park in an episode where they admitted that they took themselves seriously. Kind of satire, kind of heartbreak... I haven't seen the others yet, but will soon.


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