By: Joel DiMambro
“Black Mirror” does not fail to label some of the world’s biggest problems in their episodes. It originally was shown on Great Britain Channel 4, broadcasting their pilot episode in September of 2011, but after two seasons it was eventually picked up by Netflix for their third season in October of 2016. “Black Mirror” presents a unique take on real world problems, mainly focusing on new technological impairments. These episodes touch on a variety of subjects like war, and “likes” across social media, exploring the questionable roles technology plays in society today. The relatable content appears across all three seasons of “Black Mirror” which helps with it’s success and popularity today.
One of the episodes that strikes me the most is “Men Against Fire.” This episode highlights a man called “Stripe” who was a new member of the Army. The episode follows a story of the Army hunting a group referred to as “roaches.” For some time in the episode, there is no visual proof of what these roaches look like. While Stripe is on his first mission breaking up a house full of roaches, one of the roaches flashes a stick with some lights at Stripe while he is stabbing the roach to death.
Over the course of the episode, we start to see Stripe struggle with everyday activities and not be able to sleep. Some time passes and Stripe is eventually sent on another mission with some soldiers to get some other roaches. He then finds himself in a building, and his partner on the mission, Hunter, is about to shoot at what looks like an innocent woman and child. Stripe tackles and hits Hunter over the head to let the mother and child run away, but in the scuffle Stripe is hit with a bullet in his torso. While Hunter is knocked out, Stripe and the family eventually drive to a safer place and the woman caring for him gives away the most important part of the episode. She explains how “roaches” are not real at all, they are just part of an implant put into the Army soldiers heads. The implant makes the Army men and women think that these foreign people are creatures, like some from a scary movie. It obviously represents war in our world today, and the ways in which we view our “enemies” as “monsters.” The “roaches” represent the innocent families in Middle Eastern villages that are looked at as terrorists, but actually are just normal humans like the rest of us.
This episode hit hard once the comparison around the roaches and the truth came out. The MASS implants which allowed the soldiers to see the roaches really proved the concept represented by “Black Mirror.” These implants are comparable to the training soldiers go through at war today, and they can alter someone’s entire life, just like Stripe’s. Once his implant was not working and he found out the truth about these roaches, he was sympathetic for the poor people getting murdered for no reason, and angry at himself for going this far with it. I don’t identify as for or against war, but “Men Against Fire” was a reality check for those who don’t know the struggles of living like this.
The next episode from “Black Mirror” that puts a unique twist on the world we live in today is titled “Nosedive.” In this episode, we are introduced to a clean, well put together woman named Lacie who seems to always be on her phone. We follow her through a usual work day as she swipes her phone and gives some sort of rating to everyone she passes by. As the episode continues, we start to see that receiving “5 Stars” is a representation of being an awesome person (or a fake person); usually rich, beautiful and confidence are shown very clearly. Through the time we watch her, Lacie hovers around 4.2 stars from being rated by other people. Popularity plays a big role in star value, and Lacie is trying to expand her’s as much as possible. She lives with her brother, a lazy, low star valued man who sits in his house playing video games most of his day. Lacie wants to move out and eventually tests her luck at an extremely nice complex of homes. She cannot afford the house but their is a discount for those with a rating above 4.5 stars. Her luck turns around as she is invited to be a bridesmaid at her friend from elementary school’s wedding. Her friend, Naomi, is a prestige 4.8 stars, and Lacie is surprised she invites her, but she is very excited for the opportunity, because this will get her star value up.
Over the course of the next day, we start to see some bad luck occur for Lacie. Her taxi driver and brother both give her very low ratings and her star value begins to decrease. She is also given low ratings at the airport where she is eventually denied a ticket and put on punishment which lowers star value one whole point. Her bad luck keeps rolling as she tries to rent a car to drive to the wedding and is given a crappy old car with controls and everything else in a different language. Lacie’s rented car breaks down and she eventually hops in a truck with a woman named Susan who presents one of the most important points in the episode. She tells Lacie how she used to be obsessed with her star value, like Lacie, and stopped caring when her husband died of cancer after his treatment was worse because his rating was a 4.3 instead of a 4.4. I think this is the turning point in the episode which makes viewers realize this comparison to real life today.
We can relate to this by looking around what is going on in our world currently. Social media, magazines and television all promote the most rich, beautiful and privileged people we know, whether they are celebrities or close friends. Apps like Instagram and Tinder put labels on everyone everywhere that they are occasionally represented by. It’s sad to see that people actually care about Instagram likes and how many matches they get on Tinder, when in reality, neither matters at all. The world is being taken over by money, clearly shown by our recent presidential election, and everything we see in news today. I think that “Black Mirror” does a fantastic job at representing life with this episode. In the end of the episode, Lacie crashes Naomi’s wedding and her value is occasionally shot down to zero as she is thrown into a jail cell. “Nosedive” represents the sad truth of your life changing just from the way a couple of people judge you. All it takes is a couple mistakes, and your life is down in the gutters.
This modern day “Twilight Zone” takes some of the darkest components of the world we live in today and stretches the power of them. If there is one lesson to be learned from “Black Mirror,” it should be to not let our world turn into the futuristic dystopia this show has created. We cannot let social media “likes” and star value determine our lives for us, no matter the kind of person we live as. We also cannot go to war with the innocent, and let ourselves be brainwashed by the power above us.