Reviews: Black Mirror
I had heard of this show being spoken of as a modern Twilight Zone, but didn't even watch through the first episode, giving up around where Callow was being driving to the studio. I read the spoilers, and am unimpressed. It's just an overblown anti-mass media message which employs the same reliance on Bile Fascination as the antagonist in its own story. And before you tell me that was the whole point, "these awful people are you, audience!", I consider it self-defeating to condemn a practice while making use of it yourself. After a few days, I decided to give the second episode a chance, gave up even faster after I could tell which way the wind was blowing, read the spoilers, and am glad I didn't see this to the end either. Frankly, it seems like it was more awful and pretentious than the first episode. I find it an insult to the Twilight Zone for it to be compared to this. Twilight Zone was dark at times, it did have uplifting episodes, and even at it's darkest it was nowhere near "1.3 billion people watch a sobbing man hump a pig to save someone's life". There was subtlety to it, and variation, hope, fear, justice, cruelty, nobility, irony. This isn't a dark examination of modern culture. This is just being as pointlessly dark as possible under the pretense of social criticism. And you can't expect me to take seriously the moral of humanity's awful fascination with the rape and humiliation of a man for over an hour when I didn't bother to finish the episode.
I enjoyed the first episode of Black Mirror, true. It was a Chris Morris farce without Chris Morris, played straight as a ruler despite having a frankly preposterous premise (if anyone tried to get David Cameron to have sex with a pig to release a princess, Cameron wouldn't be popping Viagra, he'd be getting the Army or whoever to double tap the motherfucker). As such I was expecting roughly the same from Fifteen Million Merits. Oh dear was I wrong. The two are markedly different in tone. Fifteen Million Merits is a gut punch of a television programme that is physically painful to watch. I mean that in the most positive sense that a person can use the term "physically painful". It's not bad - it's excellent, proof if nothing else that Charlie Brooker is a far more talented man than either the public or the man himself truly appreciates - but so truly disturbing, like the best satire is, and so incisive about our present day culture (and our resulting future) that the viewing left me numb, distressed and an insomniac. Yeah, cheers Brooker. Watching it while on Twitter, one of the common criticisms I noticed was that people thought the world was unbelievable. They missed the point almost as spectacularly as the person I saw who thought the omnipresent televisions that forced you to watch them were "cool but would get annoying". The world of 15MM is, as with so much in the programme, a metaphor for the world of today. If you think the concept of a world where millions do pointless busy work in order to earn money to buy imaginary hats for an avatar of yourself is a stupid, unbelievable idea then I invite you to consider the number of people who work in soul-sucking retail jobs and then come home and play Team Fortress 2. As I say, it is incisive about our culture, and specifically the constant dangling carrot apparent in most British media of "celebrity" which is nothing of the sort, as embodied by The X Factor (which it quite viciously disembowels). It pulls no punches and hurts all the more for it. It's brutal, heartbreaking, poignant and (it must be said) downright depressing. Suffice to say, I highly recommend it.