This is the 3rd installment of my Black Mirror series, "How the the Episodes connect". Taking a look at how the episodes of each season combine to make a cohesive message.
Like seasons 1 and 2, season 3 has a dystopian theme, but steps it up a notch and tackles the ideas of a so-called perfect society...Utopia.
And without further ado, let's get into it.
In Nosedive, we meet Lacie Pound, a young woman living in a society ruled by the amount of stars a person has been granted based on their interactions with others.
With the help of practicing how to act and consulting with an image consultant, she finds herself on the fast track to moving up in the social ranks. Willing to abandon old relationships in exchange for more socially meaningful star winning relationships.
In an effort to keep up appearances and in the hopes of increasing her score, she willingly hides her emotions and true feelings to keep a positive image in the eyes of those around her.
But when plans to go to her 4.8 stars friends' wedding gets halted and she's eventually un-invited, Lacie starts on a descent into madness as she attempts to find a way to sneak into the wedding of her old friend, before having a breakdown - throwing a Kamehameha of emotions before being taken into custody.
By the end of the story, not only did she fail at winning the cherished stars she attempted to obtain, she lost pretty much everything and stopped worrying about being nice and opted to say what was on her mind.
This episode follows the decline of Lacie's mental state as she tried to navigate her way through fake emotions and the appearance of success to other people - but under that, is a story about where society is headed and how it will be regulated.
I would've loved to watch this and feel like the concept was outlandish, but as I stated in my video "Nosedive, a message from the black mirror" social credit is a thing. With policies currently in place for China and the UK.
In playtest, we meet cooper - a young guy who seems to be a little lost in regards to what he wants to do with his life. Still living with his mother, but dealing with the disconnect in their relationship and the recent passing of his father, Cooper decides to travel the world, but doesn't inform his mother of where he's going.
On the last leg of his trip, he meets up with Sonja from a dating app, and they engage in a semi-meaningful conversation before heading back to her place for the night. As they get ready for the day the next morning, Cooper notices one of Sonja's books titled the Singularity and cracks a joke about it, before getting another call from his mother that he didn't pick up.
With plans to buy a ticket for the trip back home, he discovers that he has insufficient funds, but instead of calling his mom for help, heads back to Sonja's house to figure out a way to make enough cash through odd jobs to buy a ticket.
Via an odd job app, he comes across an ad for a company paying very well for test subjects. Sonja informs him that the company is a huge video game development company and if he can get photos of confidential equipment or information when he goes to participate, he could make a lot more money.
With that information in hand, Cooper goes to the facility and hashes out the particulars, but breaks the rules by taking a photo with his phone that was initially shut off by Katie the assistant and test administrator before Cooper cut it back on to get the photo.
As the testing commences, he experiences several visions rooted in his fears, including a vision where Sonja comes to the testing facility and attempts to warn him to leave, before switching that energy to something more sinister - or at least as Cooper thought.
By the end of the episode, it's discovered that everything experienced by cooper, including visions and physical interactions were all a part of the final functions of his brain.
When Cooper broke the rules by cutting his phone on , it rang during the interface process, causing interference and forcing Cooper into shock before his passing.
His visions tapped into his worst fears, before he went into shock. This was expressed by Sonja's intervention and finally with the statement that he doesn't know who he is (I don't know who I am) - Not only tapping into his biggest fear of ending up like his father, but also reflecting what was happening to him in the real world as he lost brain function.
Part of the episode speaks on the decline of the human connection, shown through Cooper and his mother. Mirroring the idea of a disconnect of society in general. As we've become more familiar with technology, with the youngest generation having no clue of life without it, we've become less familiar with the ability to create and maintain meaningful face to face relationships. Making us less likely to create alliances through relationships we've cultivated and more susceptible to joining large groups in an effort to "belong" or fit-in.
But on the other side of the coin, the episode used gaming to discuss the singularity.
Along with being displayed as a book in Sonja's apartment, the Singularity was mentioned at least 3 times in the episode. If I had not heard of the singularity before, I may have just written it off as a filler topic of discussion for the characters. But fortunately or not, I have heard of the singularity and the basis of the theory ties very neatly into the episode.
The singularity, coined by Ray Kurzweil is a theory that states by 2045, technology will be so advanced that Humans will need to merge with it to keep up and engage in everyday life.
In a nutshell, the theory involves adding mechanical elements to or in the human body via an implant or internal device and for everyone to join one consciousness - allowing anyone connected to share thoughts, ideas and memories. Like the Borg for real life - resistance is futile.
Keeping with the dystopian themes of black mirror, this doesn't look at the so-called positives of the singularity, but instead shows a glimpse of what could happen if the mind starts to free-fall into an emotion like fear. Couple that with combined thoughts and fears of everyone else in the collective and it sounds like a scrumptious recipe for disaster.
Like the other episodes in season 3, this episode follows a theme of a molded society or a society being molded and controlled through and by our thoughts, but takes it a step further, giving the theory a visual representation by adding the element of gaming. Gaming is at the forefront of virtual and alternate reality concepts and advances. It can be single player, like in the case of Cooper, but incorporates multi-player options, foreshadowing the idea of many persons sharing an experience together.
Granted, the final visions Cooper had were a result of what was happening to him in the real world, but coincidentally - not, gaming is a perfect visual way to describe the singularity.
SHUT UP AND DANCE
In Shut up a dance, we meet someone who appears to be an everyday young man at work. Someone that argues with their sister when stuff is taken from his room and someone that views things online they may not necessarily be proud of. But what makes this young man different, will force him to take part in a scheme that will change his life forever.
It's never revealed exactly how old Kenny is, but he's a young, quiet guy that still lives at home, seems to have healthy relationships with his family and has a job at a fast food restaurant. His fellow crew members tease him from time to time, but overall he seems like a pleasant individual.
One night, after watching TV with his sister, the imagery from the screen makes him feel a certain way and he heads to his room to get online.
While online, he's prompted to download security software before heading to a site and taking care of himself. Shortly after he finishes, he gets a notification "we know what you did" and he's given an ultimatum to participate in the demands of the sender with the strange avatar, or risk having the footage of what he did sent to everyone in his contact list.
In order to keep from having his secret revealed, he follows the demands of the mysterious sender and is ultimately forced into a kill or be killed situation.
By the end of the episode, we discover the kind of site Kenny was visiting and if you were in support of him at the beginning of the episode, there's a strong possibility that you were against him by now.
We do get a glimpse of what it might look like if we get caught in the clutches of hackers after doing something we're ashamed of - and the dangers of peers taking the law into their own hands...but what stood out to me overall was the lack of "sci-fi", or at least, that's what I initially thought
After trying to figure out the point of what I just looked at, seeing what everyone went through, only to have their secrets revealed anyway - I started thinking of the hackers more as contractors than people working independently to enforce their own moral rules, and started leaning more towards the idea that this is a dystopian future but not for the reasons like rogue hackers and drones on the surface.
Throughout the episode, each participant had a way out - Confess, deal with the public shame and be done with it. But instead of fessing up to what they did, some of them chose to commit crimes in hopes of keeping their secret a secret, entrapping themselves.
Between the tracking and forced camera footage creating evidence, the convenience of Kenny's exact location after everything else was said and done, the fact that the group never threatening bodily harm
and the fact that the information was never used for financial or political gain by the group, I started leaning towards the idea that the group was working with law enforcement or they were law enforcement - like white hat officers or as part of a reform program, working in exchange for lighter or dismissed charges. This is just my theory of course - but this IS Black mirror, and the episode felt like a dystopian sting operation.
Medicine & Health - Elderly Care
Unlike many of the episodes of the Black mirror series, San Junipero takes a look at the softer possibilities of the future and addresses possibilities for elder care.
In San Junipero, we meet Yorkie a young shy woman, planted in the middle of the 80s. Shortly after her arrival in this 80s town, she meets Kelly, a woman that's she infatuated with as soon as she sees her and for a time, we follow the lives of these two at different points in time and not in chronological order.
By the end of the episode, the two have built a lasting bond and decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
When first watching this episode, I figured I was watching someone in a VR environment, but didn't know what was going on until seeing Kelly in reality and at her current age.
On the one hand, it's a love story set in the future, but in terms of the technology, it made me think of possible options for elder care
This episode takes on two ideas, fighting elder abuse and the extended use brain of functions and mushes them together.
In my video, I care a lot, I talk about what many people (more than I initially realized) have to deal with after reaching a certain age, especially if they have a certain amount of resources.
And the idea of freezing the body or uploading one's memories and consciousness into a new or virtual body has been researched and in development with some options being available today if you have enough money. An example of this is shown in the movie Vanilla Sky. I don't want to give away Any spoilers in this video, so if you know you know and if you don't, watch Vanilla Sky. I might, maybe possibly do a review for that movie, but back to the point
As technology grows and pushes humans out of the way, and people opt to have to less children, caring for the elderly may be a major issue in years to come. This episode is an example of what elder care reform could look like as technology advances and if certain laws are passed to reflect those advances.
If there is a goal to build the perfect utopian society, then caring for elders, allowing them to live out the rest of their days as they choose, while preserving their memories and adding them as data to an open source - seems like a plausible method of caring for those that can't care for themselves. Allowing those without families to see happiness, while benefitting anyone that has an interest in the data.
MEN AGAINST FIRE
Disease Control & Prevention
In Men against fire, we meet stripe played by Malachi Kirby. Stripe is part of a special unit on a mission to eradicate disease carrying hosts called roaches.
During this mission, stripes implant is disrupted and what he initially thought were roaches, turned out to be perfectly normal human beings, only being picked off because of their genetic makeup.
Upset by this new information, Stripe has a conversation with Arquette, demanding him to release him from the program. Arquette agrees, but in doing so, explains to stripe that disrupting the software will allow him to see everything he did, with his true sight. After a couple of seconds of his actual memories without the program's filter, Stripe concedes and continues with the missions.
By the end of the episode, Stripe has served his purpose, and the unit drops him off at a house that looks like home in Stripes eyes, but looks like it belongs in the Walking Dead to everyone else.
The story does touch on military projects and the dangers of those technologies being in the wrong hands, but if someone's utopia is being built, it would include the idea of a perfect human. One with the perfect set of genetics that will harbor the highest intelligence with the least amount of push back in regards to rules and laws.
After it's initial introduction to the world, Eugenics has since been ruled inhumane and today instead of destroying genes, perfect genes are being created.
The process and name for genetic manipulation is different, but the concept of something needing to be quote unquote "perfect" remains the same - melting into the idea of utopia itself - A perfect world needs perfect humans.
HATED IN THE NATION
SSO Agencies - Social Special Ops
Hated in the nation is a story that expresses the dangers of mob mentality and the lengths people will go when they think they're anonymous.
The story starts by showing the reception a blogger gets after posting her most recent story. She gets rude comments and hate mail, but due to her line of work, she's pretty thick-skinned, not allowing the negative comments to disrupt the way she feels about the content she posts.
Ignoring the concerns of her husband, she carries out the rest of her night like she would any normal night, but as she's reading an article, she attacked by a wasp that made it's way into her ear canal.
The ear invasion ultimately causes her demise, but what was thought to be a freak occurrence, turns out to be grounds for an investigation carried out by detective Karin Parke and researcher, Blue Colson.
After following the trail of victims and learning why they were being targeted, the duo discover that the mastermind behind all the attacks [[[was a tech mogul who outwardly proclaims that his research]]] is [[[helping the world, while ]]] taking on matters of morale into his own hands.
This episode speaks on the dangers cancel culture and group think, but also ties into the overall message of the disturbing season by showing the merge of data, technology and dystopian law enforcement.
The idea of the episode itself was not a new one, we're all aware of the dangers of cancel culture, but when building a whole new world, there has to be a way to silence those that go against the overall plan for society and being able to carry this out quietly introduces fear and compliance. Causing anyone connected to the society to think twice before making a statement that doesn't represent the mind set of the majority.
As I showed in Seasons 1 and 2, the connections between the episodes are not initially obvious, but each season has an overall theme and message, adding a new layer and season 3 was no different.
It continues to go deeper into the rabbit hole of the black mirror. Seeming to tap into the definition of the series' title, and getting eerily close to the ideals of the singularity, agenda 2045 and someone's dream of utopia.
If you want to watch any of these episodes, they're currently available on Netflix. If you want to visit any of the sites I used for this video, links will be in the description box.
And on that note, have an awesome day. Be good to yourself and good to others. Peace.
Video Content Links
Laurie Sparham for Netflix
Paramount Pictures for Vanilla Sky