If you weren't watching the new HD remaster of The Wire over the holidays, you may have been tuning in to Black Mirror on Netflix. Charlie Brooker's dystopian sci-fi series was broadcast in Britain beginning in 2011 but only recently became available in the US on Netflix. Emily Nussbaum reviews the show for the New Yorker's latest issue.
Still, for all the show's inventive storytelling, its true provocation is its righteous outrage, which shares something with Mike White's whistle-blower series "Enlightened," although it's overlaid with a dark filter. Like "Enlightened," "Black Mirror" is about love in the time of global corporate hegemony. It's a bleak fairy tale that doubles as an exposé. An anthology series, it consists of six one-hour episodes spanning two seasons (plus a Christmas special), each with a new story and a different cast. In various future settings, Brooker's characters gaze into handhelds or at TV-walled cells, using torqued versions of modern devices. In one episode, a couple has sex while stupefied by virtual visions of earlier, better sex. In another, a woman builds a replica of her husband from his photos and posts on social media. In a third, workers watch streaming schlock and are docked points if they shut their eyes. Some plots deal with political terrorism (or performance art-on this show, there's little difference) and the criminal-justice system; there are warped versions of reality TV. Though the episodes vary in tone, several have a Brechtian aggression: the viral video "Too Many Cooks" would fit right in. But, in even the most perverse installments, there's a delicacy, a humane concern at how easily our private desires can be mined in the pursuit of profit. The worlds can be cartoonish, but the characters are not.
Like Nussbaum, I also watched the show "through occult means"1 and it's fun hearing from friends who are catching up on it. Too bad the show couldn't have found a way over here earlier.
Update: From Josh Dzieza at The Verge, I can't stop comparing everything to Black Mirror:
A friend recently told me that his favorite thing about the show Black Mirror is that he finally has a term for a certain type of technological anxiety. It's a type of anxiety that seemed everywhere this year. The Sony hack could have been an episode of Black Mirror, as could Gamergate. In the same way that we refer to Blade Runner as shorthand for gritty dystopian cityscapes, Gattaca for worries about corporate use of genetic information, and Terminator for ominously powerful AI, Black Mirror has become shorthand for a certain type of contemporary internet-age creepiness.
Jason posting the trailer for "Her" (which I love and feels like my life except I'm the one in the phone?) reminded me a lot of this episode of Black Mirror titled "Be Right Back". Black Mirror is a modern, British version of The Twilight Zone. The title refers to the dark, reflective surfaces of our smartphones and TVs and how we're constantly staring into them. There are 6 hour-long standalone episodes of Black Mirror, many of which are available on Vimeo (for now, at least). They're all great but "Be Right Back" is my favorite.
The third episode of the first season of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror was called The Entire History of You, in which many people have their entire lives recorded by implants. Brooker's take on the self-recorded future and Google's rosier view meet in this video:
Black Mirror is currently in its second season in the UK, with no US release on the horizon. Here's what one of the season two episodes is about:
A CG character from a TV show is jokingly put forward to become a member of Parliament. The actor behind the character is uneasy about this new political world he's found himself in, and as the character's popularity among voters increases things begin to take a turn for the worse.
See also The real Google Glasses.
The UK's Channel 4 is bringing back Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror for a second season of three episodes.
He said: 'British drama seems particularly obsessed with murder and the past, often together. Black Mirror is a rare modern look at where society and individuals could be headed, given the all-pervasive deluge of social media and technology.'
The first series prompted 322 complaints over a story in which a Prime Minister was blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on TV.
Brooker said: 'Half of the things in the first run of Black Mirror seem to be on the verge of coming true. They've got prisoners in Brazilian prisons pedalling on exercise bikes to reduce their sentences (not entirely dissimilar to the episode 15 Million Merits) and Google Glass looks like copyright infringement as far as The Entire History of You is concerned.
Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:
And this one gives new meaning to the phrase "banner blindness":
While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:
I will also direct your attention to the second episode of Black Mirror, a UK drama series by Charlie Brooker.
A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a "doppel", a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.
(via jake & stellar)