Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is a British anthology series of distinct horror stories, disparate in genre and characters, but alike in their focus on the negative impact of technology. The highly anticipated fourth season was released in December 2017, consisting of six episodes. This season is darker than ever, with Brooker and his team taking technology’s deteriorating impact on humanity to the next level. Here are a few simple but effective messages that the final season introduces about society.
Obviously, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Happiness is short-lived
An inherent statement made by Black Mirror’s final season is that in a technology-obsessed society, happiness is uncertain and short-lived. ‘Crocodile’ shows that a surveillance-ridden society means no-one can get away with anything, meaning people go to extreme lengths to hide their crimes.
‘USS Callister’ limits real happiness in terms of the space that technology gives people to be who and what they want, often something they are not able to be in reality. This parallels with the reliance and freedom people have on social media platforms.
‘Black Museum’, the series’ haunting concluding episode, demonstrates that the overwhelming need for new technology or money leads to a deterioration of social relations and often the self, in a never-ending search for more.
This place ain’t for the faint-hearted. pic.twitter.com/gTFYGbrYIP
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) January 3, 2018
Technology is always one step ahead of humanity
What was different about this season compared to the last three was its closer focus on the concept of digital consciousness, something briefly touched upon in the 2014 Christmas special ‘White Christmas’. Several episodes in the new series use this idea, each to great effect.
‘Hang the DJ’ is a weird and wonderful twist on modern-day dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, with the Black Mirror app using computer simulations to see if a couple are really ‘meant to be’. This episode emphasises our reliance on technology rather than real-life interaction to determine whether a relationship will work or not, taking the existence of simulation technology to its logical conclusion.
Another way in which the season shows technology to be one step ahead is in ‘ArkAngel’, an episode which takes the overprotective mother to the next level. An implant allows a mother to learn more about her daughter than she ever would have without it, but as the episode demonstrates, it also prevents her from truly understanding her daughter as a person.
This is Metalhead. Like any good doggo he loves chasing cars and ppl. 0/10 would run. pic.twitter.com/GtwEQfGAC7
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) January 4, 2018
‘Metalhead’, the fastest and arguably scariest episode of season four, shows how technology is just as capable (or even more so) as humanity, meaning we can never physically escape even a metal dog. ‘Black Museum’ kicks this idea up a notch, demonstrating how we continue to create technology that is forever beyond our grasp, and our lack of understanding means things often manage to get out of control.
Humanity, not technology is the problem
Perhaps the most important statement this season makes is that humanity itself is the problem, effectively, the ‘evil’; we created technology, so we created the terror. ‘USS Callister’, the most light-hearted episode, sees something that was originally used for entertainment and distraction used by others for terror and authority.
Your Captain’s collection is not complete without the official Space Fleet™ Lunchbox. pic.twitter.com/FPctVU20PK
— Black Mirror (@blackmirror) January 6, 2018
A similar message is implicit in ‘ArkAngel’, a mother going too far in her quest to watch and understand everything her daughter does. Effectively, therefore, this suggests that we have the potential to use technology for good purposes, but our desire for power and control over others is what creates negative consequences. ‘Black Museum’ is the same, beginning with simple concepts designed to help others, with humanity’s inherent selfishness meaning we use these concepts to help ourselves, hurting others in the process.
This season was by far the best in its attempt to unite such distinct stories, with its finale, ‘Black Museum’, linking the best (effectively the worst) technologies from all four seasons into one sprawling universe. This episode offers a subtle feminist stance, with corrupt technology being at the hands of a power-hungry male, and the day being saved by a moral and courageous female. What is perhaps more interesting is the episode’s conclusion seeing the heroine utilising one of these technological advancements, perhaps emphasising that no one, no matter how principled, can escape the need for technology.
Okay so Black Mirror S4 is up on Netflix. Hope you like it.
— Charlie Brooker (@charltonbrooker) December 29, 2017
Featured image courtesy of Netflix via IMDb.
Image use license here.