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Four episodes of Netflix's Black Mirror that are dystopian gold

There are some episodes of Netflix’s Black Mirror that I’d never recommend to certain people, mainly because of the violent or sexual content. In fact, Netflix argues that there's a black mirror episode for every dystopian mood. Yet every episode does carry the reason why I think dystopian fiction is one of the most important genres of literature.



Black mirror smashed

Every Black Mirror episode stands as a warning or critique of something modern society or technology could entrap us in. Some, as I say, are easier to stomach than others and I’ve selected four episodes that are great simply because of the message they portray and their dystopian details. They each speak to us about modern culture and challenge us to consider what is healthy for our lives.


Nose Dive


Nose Dive is one of my favourite episodes. It actually inspired my own dystopian series, The Merit-Hunters Series but does take a slightly different angle. It follows a young woman, Lacie, played by Bryce Dallas Howard who lives in a world where you are socially ‘rated’ for everything you do. So to buy a certain house, she has to reach a certain score but if she’s rude to someone in a shop, they can score her down.


Throughout this episode, we’re presented with many inauthentic interactions in the selfish gain of points. When her world starts to fall apart and she realises even her deepest friendship is dependent on how fairly she ranks, we see Lacie released into expressing her true feelings and emotions. Not only are the visuals brilliant but it does speak into the inauthentic nature of social media in particular and how our perceptions of others can be written according to their followers and engagement.


As someone in that world, through my dystopian author and marketing career, it’s so easy to value yourself based on these ‘numerical’ social cues, rather than the real authentic relationships we have with those we love most. The episode also challenges us to recognise that just because someone may be ‘scoring’ well, they may be struggling underneath and we can only know that if we KNOW them.


Talk about screwed up?! But isn’t that a subtle stab at how we might view each other in reality? I hear us all shrivel. Such good TV! 


The entire history of you

This next one affected me for a long time. The premise of The Entire History of You is quite a simple one; a piece of technology called the 'Grain' is implanted in your brain that allows you to replay your memories and show them to others. For example, we see the protagonist show his wife the footage of a job interview and they analyse the people’s body language to try and figure out if he’s likely to have got the job.


Basically, you know when you overthink a social interaction and wonder whether it’s as bad as you can remember? Well, with this, you could find out. In some ways, I think that may be quite handy but in others, as we discover later in the episode, it sounds horrendous. We see the pain it could cause in relationships as a weapon to use against others when faced with relationship tensions or conflicts. It asks the question: are you going to use people’s past, quite literally, against them? Would you still try to lie despite the 'Grain' allowing others to force you to show the truth? It’s another classic dystopian move that exposes both the best and worst of humanity.


Hated in the nation


Black Mirror comes for cancel culture in Hated in the Nation! Now this is no comment by me on what I think about online trolling or celebrities expressing their opinions, but this is a fantastic piece of thought-provoking TV. We see another piece of technology, namely robotic wasps, that are programmed to kill anyone whose name follows a hashtag online, for example '#kill-lgjenkins' (please don't). 


It does make you wonder when we jump on the wave of ‘cancelling’ an individual online, what are we actually doing to that person? Do we care? And if we don’t, what does that mean for our own sense of inner morality? Oooooh I just love it! This is such a good example of how screens can numb the relational aspect; we may not see people online as actual people and we should. 


Arkangel


This one, Arkangel, is a GDPR privacy nightmare! We’re given a mother-daughter story with a tablet-like device that allows a parent to track and monitor a child’s progress and whereabouts. As we see their relationship break down, you shiver at the invasions of privacy inflicted by the parent but also the reckless and bitter way the child uses it to their advantage. Ultimately, this one, like most of the others, is gold when it comes to the dangers of technology and how it will, without us realising it, affect our relationships.


It can isolate us, give us an overinflated sense of power, and entrap us in a false sense of reality.


Black Mirror - dystopian gold but close to home


It's scary how close it is to the real world, in fact, this article argues Black Mirror has predicted the future and it shows how dystopian ideas aren't far away from home. Perhaps Black Mirror is one reason I try and leave my phone at home once in a while. And to be honest, I won’t stop doing that because it helps me be present with others. 


If you’re a lover of dystopian fiction and haven’t tried Black Mirror (note: it’s an 18), starting with these four episodes will give you the best Black Mirror has got to give. 

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