Whatever, Black Mirror, Technology is Awesome!

Season 5 is Still Pretty Good, Though, Except for Miley Cyrus

Black Mirror often looks at parallel universes. In these realities, technology’s dark side comes out, sometimes in events that are similar to ones that have happened in our world. Creator Charlie Brooker clearly made the show for this generation. When future generations watch it, the issues the show covers will seem stupid and unfathomable. But anyone alive now can relate. The newest season of Black Mirror shows not only how technology can help connect people, but also how it can destroy them.

Let’s Get It On
Hey wanna go online and have virtual sex, Black Mirror-style?

The first episode centers on an ordinary family with an ordinary life. The husband, played by Anthony Mackie (otherwise known as The Falcon from The Avengers movies) seems bored and frustrated. He isn’t very interested in getting his wife pregnant again. Suddenly, his old friend and roommate returns to his life and gives him a new VR game that resembles Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. This game changes his life in a way that no one would ever expect. He comes to question his sexuality in a way that a fighting game would normally never initiate. This ends up graphically showing how people can open up a lot more online.

Being on the Internet gives you a chance to explore other sides of your personality. You can say things to people in private and they won’t even know what you look like. These circumstances can make people more adventurous and explorations. This episode, surprisingly, doesn’t condemn Mackie’s character for his outrageous behavior. It shows the positive effects of technology and how it authentically connects people, which is rare for Black Mirror.

Breaking News: Social Media is Evil
Topher Grace as Billy Bauer in ‘Black Mirror: Smithereens’.

The second episode has the driver of an ordinary rideshare app kidnap an employee from a certain company against which he has a vendetta. His car then breaks down, leading to a standoff with authorities. This episode has multiple references to privacy and the extent companies go to protect it (or not), which has been a hot issue recently. For example, the company in the episode knows more about the driver than the police do. The police have to go to his house and talk to his neighbors while the company has far more information on the computer in nearly a second. A billionaire CEO, played by Topher Grace, invokes “God Mode” and has the entire world at his fingertips. It’s a damning but kind-of obvious indictment of social media, one of Black Mirror’s favorite themes.

Is She Gonna Fit In?

The final episode of the season was my least favorite by far. It starts with an ordinary girl who shares a room with her sister. Their dad is an absent-minded single father who gives little care to the girls and is focused on his work with mousetraps. The girl is really into this one popstar, Ashley O, played by the always-annoying Miley Cyrus. The first 30 minutes of the episode don’t even have anything worth watching. In fact, the entire episode was incredibly boring. Eventually the girl gets this talking robot that has the exact personality of the popstar. I thought the robot had a secret vendetta and was going to turn evil, but none of that happened and there wasn’t a moment worth watching in the entire episode.

Two of the three episodes in the new season of Black Mirror have good character development and plot twists, they keep the audience on the edge of their seat. However, the third episode was so terribly boring and clichéd that it made me want to throw something at the TV. It seemed like it was written from the perspective of older people, because how the kids in that show see technology is not at all how I or any of my peers see technology.

Black Mirror almost is The Twilight Zone for teens and young adults. Younger people don’t know a life without technology, so the show can really pull on that. When Black Mirror presents its audience with aspects of the darker side of technology, such as invasion of privacy or exploitation of workers, it feels real, because we live it every day. Sometimes the show takes a more fun approach, such as with their hilarious Star Trek parody, but other times it can be darker, with a huge twist that leaves you dumbstruck for the next day.  Whether it be evil robots, virtual reality going wrong, or time travel, every episode of Black Mirror shows in some way how technology is the cause of, well…everything.

The show tries to show that technology can be evil and twisted, but a point that they don’t emphasize is that while individuals may use technology for evil, actual technology itself is not inherently bad. It seems as if Black Mirror is inherently always trying to blame everything on technology, like it’s the cause of everyone’s problems.

Technology can do a lot more to benefit people than it can harm them, but the show hardly touches on that, usually opting to show the negatives. Maybe someone should create an anthology show about the awesome side of social media and Big Tech. I’m sure Facebook would love to sponsor that.

Elijah Pollack

Elijah Pollack is a high-school student in Austin, Texas. He's the cohost of the Extra Credit podcast on Audible, and has written for Observer.com.

2 thoughts on “Whatever, Black Mirror, Technology is Awesome!

  • June 19, 2019 at 7:22 pm
    Permalink

    But technology is a problem. I’m an older Millennial, so I grew up without the internet or smart phones for about the first 26 years of my life. Having watched your generation grow up starting when I was about 20 or so, I can tell you that you’ve been obviously lobotomized by Tech. Especially by the combination of smartphones and social media. This is not some wild thing that adults are telling you out of ignorance. It’s a known fact that companies like Apple and Snapchat (and Facebook, and Instagram, and…) have experimented at length with making their devices and products as addictive as possible in order to monetize them. They’ve done this by copying techniques that were already used by casinos to addict people by exploiting risk-reward channels that already exist in the human brain. You are in the position of somebody who has been purposefully exposed to an addictive drug from childhood, and it has re-wired your brain to keep you addicted. Most of the personality traits of Generation-Z are obviously the manifestations of the addictive qualities of smartphones + social media. This will manifest itself more and more as you get older. My prediction is that your generation (the true digital natives) will go on to experience a wave of psychological problems as you get older, especially depression and suicide, at levels unlike anything ever seen before. Tech companies already know of this risk, having conducted experiments on making people depressed and otherwise manipulating their emotions through their products. In the future, far from seeing shows like this as some addled vision, they will be seen as taking much too rosy and innocent a view of what is actually happening. Also, another prediction: the first kid who will reject tech and go “back to nature” has already been born. This movement is coming. Drug epidemics are cyclical, and a single drug usually doesn’t wipe out two generations in a row. When Gen-Z begins to fall apart, the kids who who see it happen will internalize a lesson about the dangers of Tech, and then reject it. Holding a smartphone in public will eventually be as socially unacceptable as smoking a cigarette in a crowded indoor restaurant is now.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *