Gazing into the abyss: 'Black Mirror' looks at you as much as you look at it 

click to enlarge Black Mirror

Black Mirror

Black Mirror may have been released back in 2011 on the U.K.'s Channel 4, but it's becoming more familiar to American audiences since its release on Netflix. An anthology series, each episode has nothing to do with the others as far as plot or characters go, but they all share a thematic unity focused on technology and, in particular, screens. Indeed, the show's creator, Charlie Brooker, in an essay for The Guardian, wrote, "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." Over the course of the series' six episodes, that idea is explored in a variety of ways. The public is fixed to their TV screens as the Prime Minister is blackmailed into performing a public act of bestiality. A talent competition show à la Pop Idol or Britain's Got Talent that rules the lives of a population brings new meaning to the concept of being enslaved to entertainment. A crass cartoon bear runs for a parliamentary seat.

But perhaps the best episode of the series, and the one you may want to start out with if you haven't given the show a try yet, is "The Entire History of You," set in a world where most people have a device installed that records everything they see and hear, allowing them to play back experiences for themselves or other people. It takes our current obsession with documenting ourselves via social media to a logical conclusion and examines the toll it takes on personal relationships.

This focus on the personal consequences of techno-saturation can sometimes make the show hard to watch. There isn't an episode that really ends well for the characters involved, and some of the ordeals they have to go through are nothing short of cruel. But if you're looking to watch a show that'll make you think twice about how much time you spend watching shows, take a look into the Black Mirror.



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