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Fridge / Black Mirror: White Christmas

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Black Mirror Fridge
Christmas Special

  • Fridge Logic of the worst sort, and the entire story hinges on it. Okay, blocked people can't see their blockers, and apparently also can't even see (as in: visually perceive) their own children without any legal recourse - at least not until the mother dies, then everything is like it was before. And there also isn't a workaround, like being able to look at a photograph of the blocked people involved. Apart from the fact that none of this really makes sense (why does the legal system play along with this; and why is this suddenly not a problem anymore once the mother is dead?), there's one very fundamental flaw with this that overrides anything else: Why did nobody ever think of telling the poor sod that the daughter he was pining after isn't his? One would assume that a guy who is so desperate would at least try to get an idea of how "his" daughter looks, badger his friends about describing a photograph of her, hire a private eye etc. who all are definitely not blocked and could inform him about the paternity being questionable.
    • The show takes place 20 Minutes in the Future, so its quite unlikely that modern UK laws apply here. After all, the justice system in this show doesn't seem to care very much for treating people humanely, as Matt was permanently blocked by ''everyone'', and is now essentially unable to function properly in society as a citizen, despite being technically free, and Cookie!Joe's confession is taken at face value despite being tortured and coerced by Matt and then left to suffer for eternity. The fact that Joe is blocked never prompts him to go to the authorities or sue his ex for custody, so it can be assumed that it's completely legal to block others without prompting. It's essentially a restraining order with less steps, and fits Black Mirror's themes of technology meant to benefit people but being abused because of massive oversights.
      • Honestly, it makes sense that the confession would be admissible, given the way that Cookies are handled by the legal system. Matt never really acts in a way that could be seen as intimidating or coercive, always posing himself as a friend and confidant, which are common tactics for interrogators to use in the present day. He doesn't offer to end the situation that the two or stuck in, or bargain in any way in exchange for information from the replicated version of Joe. He just uses their subjectively long time spent together to build rapport, and eventually he's told everything freely, on the volition of the Psychic Clone. It boils down to the same legal framework that allowed him to use lengthy isolation to make Virtual Greta more compliant. Society has developed the technology to perfectly duplicate a person, but the laws that should be in place to protect both the clones and the humans they're copied from just aren't in place yet. Average people, like Matt and Joe, hold widely divergent views on their personhood. How extracting and unknowingly interrogating one is an even more complex issue.
    • As for why no one informed Joe of that, its quite likely that Bethany, when requesting the block, informed the proper authorities that Joe is not their daughter's biological father, and therefore he has no real legal rights to seeing her or demanding custody. The block might have prevented Joe from getting this information, which, again, is another technological oversight. It's also likely that Joe simply didn't ask for help or became isolated from his friends from his stalking, or, alternatively, any friends of his didn't understand how obsessed he'd become and didn't have the heart to tell him she wasn't his kid.
  • A pretty simple one, but I only realized it later. In the Christmas Special, Greta complains that her toast is overdone and sends it back, although she (or her cookie's internal monologue, or both — it's not clear which) worries that the woman who brought her breakfast will hate her. She's exactly the sort of person who would want a "cookie" to micromanage her environment for her (also, she worries about clearing her inbox. Maybe the "cookie" takes care of that too?). And of course, this is emphasized by Matt getting Cookie!Greta to try controlling the toaster and then eating the toast throughout their conversation. Also, considering the fact she worried that the woman who brought her breakfast will hate her, does she really understand how "cookies" work, and does she ever worry if her "cookie" hates her?
    • Since Matt has to explain how cookies work to Greta's cookie, and that cookies are shown to preserve memories of their hosts, it is implied that Greta doesn't know; moreover, given that he explains it to Potter, it seems to be a quite closely guarded trade secret.
    • It can't be that guarded if the police are able to use a confession from Cookie Joe to secure a conviction. It has to be fairly known what cookies are in order for that to even be a possibility.
      • Not really. They can tell people that the cookies know what the client knows (which must be obvious to any client anyway, given the stated purpose of cookies); they don't have to tell them the cookies are sentient.
  • The name "cookie" itself: it's after browser cookies. You know, the ones that websites use to build a profile of your online activities and personalise all content delivered to you. Smartelligence's cookies are this very idea taken to its Logical Extreme.
  • Fridge Logic: If cookies are computer programs, why do you have to verbally explain things to them like a human being? You should be able to go into the folder with all their memory files and add a new one with all the info about being a cookie. In fact, you should be able to edit their existing memory files so they think running a smart house is a great honor that's been their dream job since childhood. Bam, no more need for psychological torture.
    • Because... they're not "computer programs"..? All the technology in White Christmas is 20 Minutes into the Future-style stuff and Matt just says that a cookie is "code". Code does not equal computer program. Matt explains that the cookie just shadows the client's thoughts and desires — that is literally the only "memory file" it has. Hence why Greta's cookie initially believes it's actually her.
    • It is possible that the code itself is too complex for them to insert memories. That's what happens nowadays with algorithm from machine learning, at some point, even the designers don't know how the whole code works.
  • Fridge Horror: Consider how Greta's cookie was successfully broken, but there's still some slight shimmer of sadness you can see in her eyes that this is her "life" now. Now imagine if she was a parent and could never really interact with her kid(s) again. Charlie Brooker actually took this out (Greta had a son in an earlier draft), because it would be too depressing. However, that is the fate of many other cookies.
    • Even better: what if the cookie does learn to communicate with the kid through their smartphone or something? Or a parent tries to use their cookie as a nanny? What if the kid decides their real mommy is the one who's with them every moment of the day?
  • Fridge Logic or Fridge Horror: What happens to cookies when their original changes so much that the routines they know just don't apply anymore? Even schedule freaks like Greta can change in how they think over the years enough to throw off a cookie. It doesn't look like cookies are easy to update in this scenario. If a new cookie is made, what happens to the old one?
    • You can just tell the cookie when you want something different and they'll remember it. If a cookie does stop being useful for some reason, they probably either a.) turn it off permanently, so the 'person' inside simply ceases to exist, or b.) (more profitable, and therefore more likely) they sell it to another company to be used in a video game or coordinating shipping for Amazon or something. It's pretty terrifying when you think about it. At least human slaves know their torment can only last 100 years or so before death releases them.
  • Fridge Horror: While Cookie!Joe is telling Matt his story, he says that legal blocks cover offspring as well. It's quick, but Matt counters with "been there" and seems genuinely saddened for a moment. Considering that Matt had a wife and kids before his arrest, the implication is that he's been completely cut of from his children. He and Joe aren't as different as they seem in that respect.
  • Fridge Logic: Is there really no legal recourse for a father to have access to his children after their mother "blocks" him? It seems a big divergence from Like Reality, Unless Noted that Joe couldn't simply apply to a court for visitation or joint custody of his (supposed) daughter. The truth would've come out in court then, with no need for the violent resolution.
    • Like Reality, Unless Noted doesn't mean that all divergences must be small; it only means that the world can be assumed to be "ours", notwithstanding the divergences. It's also not merely Like Reality, Unless Noted; it's also 20 Minutes into the Future. Obviously the laws are different at that point. And in fact, we already know this, from the very fact that there is such a thing as legal blocking, the fact that criminals can be signed onto registers that have them blocked from everyone, etc.
    • In addition, when Bethany requested the block she may have clarified to the authorities that Joe isn't the father of her daughter, so the law would automatically know he has no rights to her — it's just that no one ever thought to inform Joe of that...
  • Fridge Brilliance: Sex offenders (or whatever specifically got Matt put on "the registry") are in for a bad time. First, they're "blocked" by everyone, so they appear as a human-shaped chunk of static making garbled noises. Next, they also appear to everyone else as special red blocks of static, indicating for all to see that this person did some kind of horrible thing. Seems like an exceptionally brutal thing to do to a criminal, and that their life would be highly visible, violent, and short. Given that the government created an amusement park focusing on the psychological torture of an accomplice in a high-profile child murder, this is probably 'exactly' what the governments expects to happen.
  • Fridge Logic: What is up with the Draconian Police proceedings at the end of this special? How could the cookie's confession of the deaths be admissible as evidence when it was clearly made under duress? Also, how is it legal that the police department can block Matt from interacting with anyone as his plea bargain?!? Doesn't that violate his human rights, denying him basic life services and aid? This episode wasn't set up as Day of the Jackboot premise, so what is their jurisdiction?
    • Well, the confession was less under duress and more under cross-examination. The "blocked from humanity" thing is still bothersome, though.
    • Firstly, the confession wasn't made under duress at all; nothing about the situation involved duress, either in the ordinary definition or the legal one. Second of all, human rights clearly don't apply to cookies, and that presumably includes laws about things like duress. As for the draconian proceedings — welcome to 20 Minutes into the Future; technology clearly isn't the only thing that's different there. Though it does bother me for a different reason: It seems a far, far worse fate than simply being incarcerated, so it's baffling to me that anyone would consider it a good offer, or that anyone would actually take it.
      • From the way Matt reacted when the official told him that he'd be blocked from everyone, it's clear that this was not part of the original agreement. Legally, that's considered a breach of contract and Matt should be able to get some sort of legal recourse.
  • So, blocking. It prevents you from seeing a person as anything more as a grainy outline, and obscures the sound of their voice so you can't make out what they're saying. In other words, you are mostly clueless as to what they're doing at any given moment. If someone you've blocked (or who's blocked you) tries to physically assault you, you will have very little, if any, chance to see it coming.
    • Perhaps this is deliberate, to discourage people from using it frivolously. Or perhaps it's just a technological limitation that people have to deal with, for better or for worse.
    • On the other hand, both parties involved with blocking (the "blocker" and the "blockee") are affected by it so neither can see the other as anything but a blurred and garbled mass of grey which would probably lower the risk of physical harm from one party to another since it's near impossible to see what you're aiming for or even who it is (if multiple people are on one's "blocked list"). And actually, it's entirely possible that the block also extends to physical contact as well - we never see a blocked party making actual physical contact with those who blocked them: when Joe confronts Beth in the street, he just crowds her and waves his arm near her face; Matt pretty much does the same when his wife blocks him; and there's no physical interaction between Matt and anyone at the end, the closest it gets is him trying to step round someone but again there's no physical contact. Clearly, thrown projectiles might still be an issue but blocking itself probably genuinely means cutting that person completely out of your life unless/until the block is removed.
      • Which makes even less sense. As far as we know the lenses only affect visual and auditory, it cant stop some one from physically harming you, Matt and Joe not taking it to the extreme is because they had not reached that breaking point. If a person "blocked" is pushed to that point, all the "blockee" would see is a blob monster screaming static as very bad things happened to them. Yes I am sure the police have a list and could find the person who did it quickly, but at that point it would be too little, too late for the victim.
  • The song "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by the Wizzards is extremely appropriate (and horrifying) choice for the ending. For Cookie!Joe it IS Christmas everyday, over and over and over again for thousands of subjective years!
  • If everyone has Augmented Reality eyes, why couldn't the police just pull a recording of the murder from Joe's eyes?
    • This is a different type of technology as the one in Entire History of You so they can't do that
  • When people like Matt accidentally drive a cookie to insanity, why can't they just delete the insane cookie and start over again with a copy of the cookie before it went insane, instead of selling them to a video game company? Indeed, why would video game companies want to buy separate cookies when they can just make any number of copies they want?
    • Presumably, the game companies want distinct cookies with distinct personality to populate their virtual worlds. Imagine playing GTA, and every pedestrian on the street has a complete personality and life history, and could be fully interacted with (or, could simply be shot). It makes sense that the companies would want a full library of different personalities.
  • Fridge Horror: Speeding up or slowing down a Cookie's perception of time seems to be a significant part of the interface. It has its own representation in the GUI, where a touchscreen wheel sets the ratio of time inside vs. time outside, and the software's operator can watch an indicator showing the progression of "days" and "nights" as experienced by their Psychic Clone. There are some legitimate uses that can be imagined, like speeding up time for a Cookie that just has to fulfill a very basic routine (ex., maintaining a summer home during the off-season), but if that were the only intended use, then it wouldn't be so easy to invert that mechanic and isolate a Cookie for extended periods of time. And I Must Scream, then, is a built-in feature.