How the world of Black Mirror has become terrifyingly realistic

credit: independent.co.uk

Netflix’s season three release of ‘Black Mirror’ welcomed old and new audiences to its glossy yet twisted dystopian world of technological advancements. As our world keeps excelling in inventions that keep us plugged into our own personal virtual realities, the stories told in this season make it easy to imagine them as truths.

What makes all three seasons of Black Mirror an intriguing watch is that the characters don’t question their society’s use of technology until they fall victim to it in a nightmarish way. As a viewer, you find yourself being jolted into a frightful realisation of how people can take a creation that is meant for the greater societal good and turn it into something which inevitably gets used for an evil purpose.

Just like in the previous two seasons, creator Charlie Brooker hurls us into the anthology horror series with a suspiciously calm first episode. ‘Nosedive’, exhibits a futuristic society which is vaguely familiar. One that is attached to their smartphones, where individuals seek personal validation through their online accounts and values people based on their ratings, which ranges from one to five stars.

In this dystopia, there’s a chilling false sense of happiness as people go above and beyond to be liked in order to receive high online ratings through unfelt acts of kindness. The superficial desensitised nature of this world is shown through the insecure main character, Lacie. As she obsessively attempts to gain a higher online rating which she thinks would result in a happier life amongst the elite, we’re shown how it quickly leads to her downfall.

There’s been a growing fear of having online activities leaked to the public which has been topical this decade. “Shut Up and Dance” exploits this fear in a frightful manner. In this episode, people are recorded through their webcams and their online actions are monitored.

Once caught doing something illegal, they’re blackmailed into carrying out tasks requested by an organisation of blackmailers. Should they refuse they’re threatened with the consequence of having their secrets sent to all their contacts. This is scary, as it could just as easily happen in this day and age.

Unfortunately, previous seasons have proved that Black Mirror only excels when it sticks to simple narratives where characters are individually developed. This makes it easily apparent in how technology has destroyed their lives. ‘Hated in the Nation’, the final episode, was a hit and miss entirely. It tried too hard in how it pushed the agenda of technological terrorism through social media and how it can transcend into the targeting of civilians. Despite the obvious attempts of inspiring technophobia in the unfolding of the story, this episode loses the acclaimed Black Mirror fear factor and instead, felt more like the unravelling of a murder mystery.

One of the most talked about episodes this season is ‘San Junipero’. It’s slotted snugly in the middle of the season and it follows the story of two compelling female characters whose lives become romantically intertwined. Set in the backdrop of the late 80’s, there’s a strangely modern atmosphere to the world around them.

As the story develops and we realise that all is not as it seems, the characters themselves are physically not in the world they’re partying in, and that the reality of their own lives are much more complicated. It’s not hard to see why this episode is the most talked about as it heightens our emotions and we go from being nostalgic to feeling sympathy for them as they cling on the little joys they can afford in their lives through escapism.

If anything can be said for this season of ‘Black Mirror’, it exemplifies how you can take modern day dilemmas and reflect them back to us in the worst and best ways possible. It highlights the multidimensional nature of technological advancements, all while keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. The season explores territories the sci-fi franchise regularly touches on, but does it satirically better by warping these ideas in the most chilling way.

Zainab Boladale

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