Friday, January 20, 2012

BLACK MIRROR Discussion- He Said/She Said

BLACK MIRROR is a British anthology television series which features a different cast, setting, and reality with every episode. Each episode has some extreme elements, but nothing that is too far fetched from the reality we're living in today. Charlie Brooker, the show's creator, describes the title:
If technology is a drug - and it does feel like a drug - then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This are - between delight and discomfort -  is where BLACK MIRROR, my new drama series, is set. The "black mirror" of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.  (via The Guardian)

We were able to watch the first season, and both of us could not stop thinking about it. The following is an insanely dense, SPOILER FILLED, discussion of the series, its themes, and what we took from the episodes. (Warning: There might have been beers involved.)


Jonesy: This first episode was insanely uncomfortable, and it was very extreme, but because of that extreme, the point behind the episode came across very well.

Javi: Just to make sure we're both on the same page, what was the "point" according to you?

Jonesy: The point that people, as a whole, follow the masses instead of thinking for themselves, and even though we might know we are doing or watching is wrong, we still take part.

Javi: It made me uncomfortable because I love pigs, and I don't want to see a pig being fucked. For me, the whole point wasn't so much about the masses being sheep, but it was that people are so obsessed with the YouTube and the Internet. The princess had been let go 30 minutes before the actual broadcast of the prime minister. But everybody was so obsessed with seeing the spectacle that they did not focus on reality. The kidnapper's point was that life could happen, but we are so focused on technology and petty things that we let it pass by. While I think that was the whole point of the episode, it also had a lot to say about journalism in this day. There is this whole conflict about embargos that print media has to adhere to, but then institutions like WikiLeaks don't, so what does that do for print media? How do you even compete? What is the point of having "journalistic integrity" if some dude just puts things on YouTube? If anything, the overarching commentary on journalism is the fact that it has become less proactive and more reactive, like the big news stations just find stuff on the Internet and comment on it.

Jonesy: Well, the old style of journalism is dying down where people did days worth of research and scavenging through old and dusty archives. A big subplot of the movie involves a journalist trying to get inside information, and she just sends naked pictures to one of the Prime Minister's assistant. I think a lot of people would agree that's not morally right, but she was trying to get a scoop any way she could. I don't think that investigative journalism can really happen the way it used to nowadays. I enjoyed that this was the first time that you see the fact that a lot of people got their news on Twitter and on their iPads and using those devices to move along the plot. There aren't a lot of movies that do that nowadays.

Javi: It's interesting to think of journalism and investigation and how that works nowadays. The most recent example I can think of, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, mixed both new and old forms of research in a very cool and clever way. And I think about the slutty journalist... what the hell did she accomplish in the plot?

Jonesy: Nothing.

Javi: Maybe it's talking about how some people will go too far? Or are just in it for the wrong reasons? Anyway, what did you think about the Prime Minister? Seeing his desperation made me feel so shitty. When he actually had to do the deed, he looked so hopeless.

Jonesy: I can't even say that it's really the best decision of having sex with a pig to save a princess. But as a public relations situation, to keep the public from turning on their leaders, this was the lesser of the two evils, though it didn't work out so well for him.

Javi: As was shown by the way his wife treats him.

Jonesy: Would you have done any differently?

Javi: No, and I'm not judging her. I'm saying the Prime Minister's position is so difficult.

Jonesy: And even though she could never get over his decision, she could also never leave him. Because she would be committing social suicide by leaving her husband for making a tough decision.

Javi: Overall, this is my favorite if only because the third episode made me so uncomfortable.

Jonesy: I think this was my second favorite. I liked the third one more.


Javi: I thought that as a snobby music lover type of dude, you'd think I would be able to connect to what this episode was trying to say, which is the whole thing of artistic people being completely whored out by corporations behind the X-Factors and American Idols. But I just didn't care. People say that these artists have skills, and yes, they might have skills, but they're not artists because they are just regurgitating bullshit songs that they would know get them to the next round of competition. To me, those types of shows are no better than the horse auctions in WAR HORSE. Then seeing all of this people being commented on; where a beautiful girl with a beautiful voice needs "something else", so then she has to be a freaking porn star? Remind you of anyone, Katy Perry? And then the main character, Bing, who is the most tragic part of this episode. He had good intentions and wanted to change things, and he ultimately comes close to doing something but then bam! "Oh shit, I'll take the penthouse and the OJ, instead." He sells out way worse than the girl did. The other problem is why the hell are people working here? It doesn't sound like they NEED to be.

Jonesy: It might just be that's where everyone works in this world. And I find some interesting notion of "freedom" where you pick where you can ride your bike, what you "wear", what you "have", and what you eat. I didn't think necessarily about the whole regurgitating pop stars like they are basically copy after copy after copy. The extreme of that was the main girl who ends up being literally "whored out" to be a porn star by the corporation. I think that there might have been a bit of actual, legitimate purpose in the ranting that Bing had towards the end of the episode, which I am assuming is something no one has done before him, and this might be the first step in getting things changed. Even though he eventually gives in and goes to the penthouse where he has a more privileged life, he might have inspired someone else later down the road. It was a stepping stone.

Javi: Here's my thing, the series has never been really optimistic (unless you maybe count the last episode), and for me I wouldn't believe that the episode would have ended so optimistically.

Jonesy: I think it does end up pessimistically because he still gave to the system. I'm not saying that he was whoring himself out.

Javi: Did you think it was at all peculiar that everything looked like the Mii's? I guess it's a commentary as well on the people that will pay real money to buy fake stuff, like those people on Farmville, or the ones that pay for TowerBux on Tiny Tower.

Jonesy: Or Hipstamatic lenses?

Javi: Those have uses!

Jonesy: What about Angry Birds?

Javi: Dude, I've never bought the Eagle.

Jonesy: I agree, and what's weird is that they never actually buy anything else for themselves.

Javi: Well, kind of like how I was asking Mark Walters ( about how nerds just amass a lot of things, but without using them. For example, there are movie nerds that just buy movies and then never watch them. Or some of my toy friends have tubs of stuff  they haven't messed with or even opened. We like to posses things more than actually collecting, and admittedly, it's a problem some people have. I wonder if that need to posses is ingrained by the corporation and reflects of our state as we are right now.

Jonesy: This is definitely more of state with people being like today. If you think about how people really don't need to have as much material possesions as we do. Anyway, this was the least favorite episode for me. I don't think the story is as strong. The other episodes seemed more realistic.


Javi: So this episode made me so uncomfortable that I had to stop and start multiple times, and it took over a week to finish. It was so cringe-inducing. I could tell where this guy's head was at. And the weird things that drove him crazy would drive me crazy too. I guess the relate ability is what made so uncomfortable. Like I was talking with James( that maybe SUBMARINE wasn't THAT terrible, and maybe it was because I related too much to the characters which is why I disliked the movie. But I still contested that it was a very over used plot with shy quirky kid. But I digress.

Jonesy: I had to power through once I started. I knew I couldn't stop because then I would think about it too much. This one is my favorite one because I think that the point the it made was so relatable.

Javi: What is the point?

Jonesy: I believe, as humans, we over analyze. We can take a five minute conversation and pick it apart and drive ourselves crazy and come up with 15 different solutions or feelings and assumptions, and it's probably more a hindrance.

Javi: My big thing with this episode was not the the over analyzing aspect, but how it was talking about human instinct will always prevails over whatever technology we have. Think about it, he was aided by the Grain to discover the affair, but at the same time, it was his human instincts that led him to that conclusion in the first place. Because of the fact that we are always recording everything and how that could be potential harmful to us, I say as I check into foursquare or brewski me. What harm and good can come with us? You can look at someones Facebook or Twitter timeline, you can easily catch someone in a lie. If anything this might be the most "hopeful" episode only because this is a more of a celebration of human spirit over the technology. I mean think about it, the supposed friend Jason is jacking off to his own sex life.

Jonesy: There was a lot of good that could come from that technology. If you record everything you could have factual evidence over what someone told you. You could take a look at an argument and see who started it. And even when the main character shows up at the party, all of the people at the party want to talk about his supposed horrible meeting to help him figure out what went wrong. There are obvious negative things that can come with recording everything, like the douche Jason. Or the main guy figuring out from the Jason's memory that his wife was cheating, and that his child might not be his. Yes, he had a gut feeling of the affair, but without the technology, he could not have proven it.

Javi: But the thing is, both of their reactions are exactly the same. She was as equally defensive about the situation just like a guilty person should be. He went crazy just like an normal, relatively sane, jealous person would as well. If anything, this says that we are fundamentally still human no matter what.

Jonesy: I still don't believe he would have been able to prove it.

Javi: What was that quote from INCEPTION? That an idea is the most powerful virus. Whether he found out legitimately or not, he would have found out and the end result would have been the same.

Jonesy: Why do you say that it's hopeful?

Javi: It was an established piece of technology that he was choosing to get rid of in the end, unlike the girl that got hers taken away. Ultimately, he will be okay, even though he took out his Grain because he is grieving for his relationship and his non-existent family, and he will be the better for it. I think that there are reasons to forget, and that the Grain is just unnatural. I think this technically ended up in a better place than the other episodes. Yes, there was technology that can go from a good to a terrible idea, and we will eventually come back to our senses.

Jonesy: Or you just have to be careful with the technology you're given.

Javi: But the way people are in this day and age they give into the new technology sooner or later...cell phones might cause cancer, and there were people that held off on cellphones, but they eventually caved in. Or like Facebook, not everybody had a Facebook, and now even your racist grandma has it.

Jonesy: But in this specific episode, when Jason talks about looking at old girlfriends, some of the people at the party are appalled at that. Then there was the main character and how other people's reactions to his obsession might just be as indicative of the fact that people have to be responsible with the technology that they acquire.

Javi: I wonder if, in this timeline, this was something you were born with or something you could choose to opt into.

Jonesy: The commercials made it seem like you had to buy it.

Javi: No, you had to buy upgrades, like more memory for older people.

Jonesy: What about the girl that got her Grain stolen?

Javi: Her story implied the that there is a black market of pervs that steal other people's Grains to look at the sex files.

Jonesy: I didn't get the sense that you were born with it. Maybe people got it during teenage years? Obviously, you did have a choice on whether you take it off or not.


Javi: So what'd you think of the series? I wish we had something equivalent here in America.

Jonesy: I don't think that I've seen a series quite like it. There have been anthologies before, but nothing like this. I'm really hoping that the next season will be just as great as this. I just wish there were more thought-provoking shows like this period.

Javi: I agree. There's so much that is missing from television, which is why us smart people latch on to four shows a year, because that's all there is.

1 comment:

  1. Bing's situation is not worse the Abi's. May I remind you that Abi is cohersed into being systematically sexually abused in public!!