Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Will Technology Destroy Us All?

by Kerry Torpey on January 19, 2018

Arts & Entertainment

A still from the episode “Arkangel” from the hit Netflix series Black Mirror.
Photo courtesy of Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

by Julia Vaccarella ’20

A&E Staff

Netflix marked the start of a new year with the fourth installment of their series, Black Mirror. Referred to by some as a modern version of The Twilight Zone, the British series is set in futuristic societies that have implemented various technologies from child trackers to memory implants. Originally airing on the British network Channel 4, Netflix picked up the series in 2015 beginning with season three.

Much of the success of Black Mirror can be attributed to the show’s organization. Creator Charlie Brooker revealed that “one-off idea based stories weren’t really being told on television” before production of the show had begun. Each episode follows a unique plot with a varied cast of characters and the episodes, therefore, can be watched in any order.

The anthology structure fits well, allowing for more content and conflict. One of the six episodes is displayed entirely in black and white, a fitting technique for the minimalistic production that focuses mainly on one character and a less chaotic plot.

Season four features an impressive cast. Most notably, Jodie Foster directed the episode “Arkangel,” which also stars Mad Men actress Rosemarie DeWitt. Jesse Plemons, who is known for his role in Breaking Bad, adopts a chilling persona in “USS Callister,” the first episode listed on Netflix. While some people view progressive movements in technology as positive, Black Mirror generally rejects this idea.

The unfortunate ends faced by many of the characters in the series blatantly reveal the negative consequences of the human pursuit or new advancements. At the same time, this also plays into how one individual’s use of technology can ultimately have a detrimental effect on others.

Although the episodes of Black Mirror do, in fact, take place in the future, the exact decade or year is unclear, which certainly adds to the show’s appeal. Even with its classification as a science fiction series, the unexpected plot twists are exactly what has drawn such large audiences to Black Mirror. 

Regarding season four inparticular, Brooker says, “I genuinely thought, I don’t know what state the world’s going to be in by the time these [episodes] appear.” The creator alludes to the very real possibility that humanity could be heading in a similar direction that has drawn larger audiences to watch the show.

For example, “Arkangel” explores the idea of extreme over-parenting. In the episode, a single mother implants a chip into her young daughter that can display her location at any moment in time. The device can even limit what a child sees by blocking out stimuli that causes an increase in anxiety and fear.

Black Mirror has also incorporated many other relevant topics, such as the power of technology in the context of relationships and crime. No matter what direction our society is heading, Black Mirror reveals that technology has a paradoxical kind of power; it can make things easier for us and propel us towards happiness, but can also do just the opposite.