Admittedly I had only seen half of one episode in Charlie Brooker’s one off dramas during its first series and being decidedly non-plussed never bothered investigating any further. However last week on a rainy day I decided to check out the first episode of the second series- social media, twittering etc. had, ironically as it turns out, piqued my interest- and was pleasantly surprised by an episode which was eerily disturbing-not unlike a 21sttcentury update on the seventies classic series, fondly held in many hearts including my own, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’- which raised some thought provoking issues as well as asking us to look at ourselves and the way we live our lives today. The black mirror of its title is presumably the reflection we would see if we actually looked at ourselves properly rather than simply gazing at the contrived self conscious image we hope we reflect to others.
The opening episode ‘Be Right Back’ told the tale of a self satisfied couple. Ash and Martha, whose lives and careers are trundling along very nicely indeed although Ash’s addiction to social media infuriates Martha no end, to the point she even throws something at him to ensure he is ‘still solid’. This proves prescient as soon after he is killed in a car accident and overwhelmed with grief she discovers she can obtain a replicant replacement clone-shades of Bladerunner here- who not only looks the part but actually behaves however she wants him to.
The downside is all his responses and reactions are created by his social media profiles-one part how he actually is to nine parts of how he wants to appear- and he becomes the perfect boyfriend; even sexually as his viewing of porn makes the replicant Ash a far superior lover to the real thing who often preferred the self satisfaction followed by the old roll over and snooze routine, but eventually this inevitably becomes frustrating.
It was an intriguing story which not only showed how our emotions are now controlled by how we want to be perceived and learnt rather than felt. It was a sympathetic treatment which constantly lulled the viewer into a false sense of security whilst raising several questions as to where society is heading.
If ‘Be Right Back’ eased the viewer into Brooker’s observations then the second episode ‘The White Bear’ pulled no punches and moved at full throttle never letting up throughout its duration.
Entering a seemingly totalitarian world where a girl wakes up from a hazy nightmare where she is pursued seemingly with malevolent intent whilst a crowd films the whole proceedings on their phones. Terrorised and in fear for her life she escapes and is caught time and time again until eventually it transpires that she is actually a prisoner who has been involved in a child’s torture and slaying therefore the confusion, uncertainty,disorientation, pain and terror she is experiencing is perhaps indicative to the horrors she herself has previously inflicted and this is a new form of justice being meted out.
It was certainly an interesting observation on how we have all become voyeurs- Big Brother and The X-Factor auditions immediately sprang to mind- and our entertainment resembles a Coliseum where humiliation is our ritual. It also brought the recent paedophilia allegations concerning Jimmy Savile as well as others such as the Moors Murderers very sharply into focus and showed how we are sickly fascinated and attracted by the ghoulish whilst questioning how and why it has ended up this way. Perhaps it is time to put down our phones, switch off our laptops and relearn basic human emotions again.
Brooker has created an inventive series with ‘Black Mirror’ and although I was initially sceptical have since realised he is putting questions on our screens which don’t really have an answer or a solution as he is presenting things-albeit exaggerated for effect- just as they are or at the very least how they are going. I am not sure what the third episode of ‘Black Mirror’ has in store but guaranteed I am tuning in next Monday just to find out.