Reflecting Poorly: Black Mirror

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The first episode of Charlie Brooker’s social networking satire ‘Black Mirror’ aired on Sunday night. It has, among other things, been described as ‘daring‘, ‘brilliantly twisted’ and ‘genius’. The ‘daring’ part is understandable – the premise being a ransom demand for the safe return of a popular British princess involving the Prime Minister having full sex on live TV with a pig.

The rest? I’m too depressed to know.

It should be noted that Brooker is a TV and cultural commentator for the Guardian (among other publications) so he is obviously well placed to write this stuff. And it’s also true that it’s a timely observation of the power of social networking on news gathering and how information is disseminated in the Twitter-verse.

And as far as that goes, it’s very good. When the Prime Minister views the ransom demand video and attempts to comfort himself with the knowledge that as long as it remains private, his reputation will remain intact, he is politely advised that the video was also posted on YouTube and has already been downloaded in excess of 50,000 times. What follows is an inevitable downward spiral of increasingly desperate damage limitation exercises, internet hyperbole and finally a barefaced and brutal collision with reality.

It’s this last part that kills me. Brooker’s point is hardly concealed behind the shock n’awe premise. We all look into the ‘Black Mirror’ but many of us don’t realise that the reflection we get back is darker than we might like to think. Recent racist scandals have demonstrated that people are much braver when hiding behind their online persona and are prepared to make statements they’d never verbalise if face to face with the object of their ire.

I think I’m still pissed that this amazing leap forward in technology has caused us to lose sight (or interest) in civilised behaviour. The possibilities of instant global communication were so shudderingly glorious, but the good is overwhelmed by a dark cloud of destructiveness people seem unable or unwilling to control.

Charlie Brooker’s treatment of the social-networking zeitgeist concludes with a glimpse of something we as spectators to unfolding vicariously-experienced drama don’t usually get to see. The direct victims of the pig-bothering extravaganza are the Prime Minister and his wife, both of whom crumble when the camera lights are switched off and they are alone. In my perfect world, this would be the point that started trending on Twitter.

Either that, or in my role as flexitime animal rights campaigner, how the pig felt about the whole embarrassing episode.

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