Black Mirror is a British television series, created by Charlie Brooker, which debuted in 2011. Shortly after Netflix picked up the critically acclaimed show (already on its 5th season), it became one of the most popular sci-fi series in the world. Inspired by The Twilight Zone, Brooker has described Black Mirror as having the unique combination of “satire, technology, absurdity, and a pinch of surprise.”
The show borders between delight and discomfort and are “equal parts wonder and horror.” It does a masterful job displaying in disturbing detail the ways technology is shaping society. A very dark show in its own way. it’s not for the everyday viewer, Black Mirror is engaging and compelling because it shows us what the scary future will most likely look like.
The Dark Side of Technology
Technological advancement bring with them the dream of an easy streamlined life, but Black Mirror vividly shows that these dreams can become nightmares.
But Black Mirror isn’t just about technology. It uses technology as a thematic backdrop but also to “mirror” the realities of today’s society in a larger sense.
“Each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality,” Brooker said. “But they’re all about the way we live now—and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.”
The title Black Mirror keys us into how to watch the show. When our devices power off, our screens become literal black mirrors in which we can see ourselves. As powerful as technology becomes, its greatest power is in how it reflects who we are and what we choose to do. As Brooker says, “It is not a technological problem we have; it’s a human one.”
As powerful as technology becomes, its greatest power is in how it reflects who we are and what we choose to do.
As much as Black Mirror speaks directly about modern society, it is also about the near future, society “in 10 minutes’ time.”
Most episodes end bleakly: with isolation, depressing epiphanies, families torn apart, slavery, imprisonment, blackmail, adultery, death, and murder (season three’s ‘San Junipero’ is the lone exception).
Black Mirror reminds us that technology reveals who we are, but it also changes us. We carry these devices in our hands, but sometimes we are the ones being shaped and molded.
We may want to believe Black Mirror is far removed from reality, but these episodes bring sobering clarity to who we are now—and what we might one day be.
Black Mirror tackles politics, capitalism, social media, propaganda, war, artificial intelligence, criminal justice, privacy, virtual reality, immortality, and everything in between. In each standalone episode, difficult moral questions are posed to the characters—and inevitably to us viewers. Technology may be neutral, but the issues it surfaces are not.
This is not a show to binge-watch if you choose to watch it at all. Rather, it’s a show to slowly digest, pondering not only what it displays about a near-future world, but what it mirrors back about us.
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