Have you noticed a strange addiction taking over the planet? The side effects are subtle at first. This new drug will, initially, cause involuntary deafness, along with stiffness to the neck; it will affect verbal fluidity, and possibly cause momentary blindness. Once the addiction goes full blown, victims will no longer respond to external communications and stimuli. They’ll lose the ability to keep their heads upright and their hands will be constantly stuck in a rigid position. Are you suffering from these symptoms? There’s no need to panic because Paste has the antidote, and it’s called Black Mirror.
Now, the addiction that has taken over your body, your mind, and every fiber of your moral being is called technology. It’s also called Internet. Sometimes it goes by the name of iPhone. If you are at the beginning stages of this dreadful epidemic, hurry—there might still be hope for you. If at least half of your day is spent suffering from the symptoms above, it may already be too late. Either way, the UK TV series Black Mirror (from Charlie Brooker) offers your only chance of survival.
Once you have acknowledged that you spend more time hunched over your computer chatting to friends on Facebook than meeting them for coffee, and cannot seem to dislocate your iPhone from your cramped hands, your mind will be able to take in Charlie Brooker’s ultimate revelation: Our modern world can be a scary, scary place. In an interview for The Guardian, Brooker urged viewers to contemplate this question: “If technology is a drug—and it does feel like a drug—then what, precisely, are the side-effects?”
Gulp. Let us all sit on this question as we face the wall and bow our heads in pitiful shame. If you haven’t already recognized the side-effects of our insatiable need to keep typing, clicking, browsing and staring into the black mirror at all times, Charlie Brooker will help you along your way. He has long conceded the consequences of our virtual living and with this mini-series he is painting a terrifying picture of things to come.
The 12-Steps program teaches us to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. Black Mirror says that the cure to our addiction is in believing that a power greater than ourselves is, in fact, destroying our sanity and slaughtering our sense of morality, swipe after swipe, mouse-click after mouse-click. Each episode drives this point home with different settings, realities and characters. None of the story lines ever stray from an already evident truth, and they invite you to take a daring look at your own disgusting habits.
The first episode, appropriately titled “The National Anthem” brings you a step closer to understanding the severity of the public climate we are promoting through social media networks and perverse publications. We get to see just how simple it is for a tech-savvy artist to hijack England’s prime minister by way of a YouTube threat: He has kidnapped Princess Susannah, and demands the prime minister have televised sex with a pig, or else she dies. So, what is a prime minister to do? What is a devoted nation to do? Well, it thrives on his helplessness, spurs on the humiliation and anticipates the unspeakable contribution to involuntary art.
You need to understand that your addiction has taken over your own personal will. You may still think you’re wearing what you’re wearing, and buying what you’re buying because you want to, but that’s not the case. Life as we know it is all about the “more.” Remember more, see more, make more, consume more!
Whenever we think of a future setting, a world taken over by machines and microchips, we like to romanticize the image: We think of a life of leisure and infinite access to knowledge and products. “Fifteen Million Merits” is the second episode of Black Mirror’s first season, and it lets us in on how Charlie Brooker views the imminent future. The flashy interiors of Brooker’s game show set introduce a reality that is not far from the point-system we already enjoy at present. We are on metaphorical exercise bikes continuously peddling towards an unobtainable final score. This episode highlights the need for social status, consumerism, public humiliation and dissatisfaction in colorful detail.
All of us addicts have been bombarded with an innumerable amount of shameless selfies and disturbing videos floating about on Facebook and Twitter. We stare, incredulous at the woman who drowns kittens in a river. We are saddened by people’s lack of compassion and humanity as they proudly post pictures of themselves duck-facing and pointing at the scene of a potential suicide. It has finally happened; our egos have morphed into one monstrous entity that solely exists for the sake of finding the spotlight—no matter where it takes us.
“White Bear” is the second episode of Season Two, and it will leave you feeling sick to your stomach. The episode opens on a woman waking up in her apartment, unable to remember anything about her former life or herself. There are several pictures of a little girl and a man around, and her TV is screening an unusual symbol. When she runs outside onlookers remain unhelpful but eager to record her anxiety. No one speaks a word to her, but they are all happy to follow her around and watch her life unravel. We have become the silent mob of amateur directors, too bored by our own pathetic existence. The final conclusion of this episode is gruesome, and introduces the type of trial many of us probably wish to see in the future. The final message? Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re innocent in all this—why the hell are you watching in the first place?
We keep telling ourselves that machines facilitate our way of life. This is of course true. We no longer have to rely on the postal service to get our mail sent, and we can do so instantly. We have a choice of kitchen appliances which eliminate chores such as cutting, peeling and stirring. We no longer need to travel miles to see friends in foreign countries, we can do so by simply sitting in front of a screen. We’re so obsessed with the benefits of technology we’re quite content to ignore the wrongs.
Our desperation for more has affected our ability to draw the line. We have all entertained immature thoughts of clones and such, but up until the 2000s we always managed to stay on reality’s side and see through the infinite complications that may arise from such experiments. These days, we no longer care to explore the consequences behind our chosen addictions. If we had the option to be implanted with a “grain” that records everything we ever do, say or hear, we would do so, without contemplating the wrongs of playing God (“The Entire History of You,” Season One, episode three). If we could bring back a friend or family from the netherworlds, we’d do so, even though we know it would end up hurting us (“Be Right Back,” Season Two, episode one). Come on now, why wouldn’t we want to play God?
There are still a few steps to go until you reach full recovery, but we have faith in Brooker and Black Mirror, which returns in December.
Black Mirror episodes are available on DirecTV and Channel4.