When viewers finally had the opportunity to watch the series “Black Mirror” after a four-year hiatus, many were disappointed. Over a decade ago, the series made a global impact with its unusual themes and dark, dystopian narratives.
Its very first episode featured a princess from the royal family getting kidnapped, forcing the British Prime Minister to carry out an indecent act with a pig on national television, which attracted a massive viewership. The main takeaway from the episode was that in a deeply consumerist society, the government was fixated on managing TV screens while paying no heed to the real world problems.
Ultimately, all episodes of Black Mirror aimed to rattle the viewer’s social and ideological bubble. The series exposed the worst possible extremes of modern societies. By doing so, it held up a mirror to society and individuals.
Some episodes took place directly in the present, and some of the fictional technologies debated in the series became reality during the production process. For example, the episode Nosedive examined a near-future scenario in which social media scores directly impacted people’s social lives. Today, China has introduced a similar technology to its social credit system.
However, after many successful years, the last season disappointed many aficionados. It obtained an average score of 6.8 on IMDB, the favoured platform for moviegoers. This inadequate rating comes even when renowned actors, such as Salma Hayek and Aaron Paul, feature in the cast this time.
When watching each episode, one could see how technology appeals to the darker side of humans, prompting them to engage in vile acts. In other words, it served as a black mirror.
With the sixth season, however, the producers have departed from the morbid theme. Not so black anymore, the new season has led many critics concur that the show has lost its distinctive dystopian features.
The creative shift of the narrative echoes the change of ownership. Netflix, the US giant streaming company, has bought the series’ rights from season three onwards.
In this context, one of the most remarkable scenes of the whole season is the tragedy caused by the enemies of technology in the episode “Beyond the Sea”. The episode’s main plot is the attack on the family of one of the two astronauts on a space mission and the tragedy that this attack produces. This attack is depicted in a very short sequence. What is interesting, however, is that in this scene, the attackers are shown as the enemies of technology. The attackers are portrayed as fanatics targeting the technology, allowing astronauts to be in a robot body with their families. Previously heavily critical of today’s technology, the series has now taken a pro-technology stance.
Another feature of season six is that the episodes are set in the past. In this context, the last episode, Demon 79, occurs in 1979 England. We can also say that the criticism of racism and the context of an emerging right-wing politician in the past is a reminder of the rise of right-wing politics today. On the other hand, humanity has progressed. At least against the brutal racism of the 70s, humankind has achieved some success. We remember that, too. All this is good. Of course, one also needs a white mirror.
As a circulating joke goes, a humorous anecdote emerges about a man who will go to Siberia for work. Before the man goes there, he makes a pact with his friends to bypass censorship. If he writes his letters in blue ink, they are true. If they are in the red pen, they are lies. One day, his friends receive a letter from the man written in blue pen. The letter reads, “Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant … the only thing unavailable is red ink.”
The function of dystopia has always been the same: asking questions to reconsider the present trajectories. Black Mirror fulfilled this aspect before losing its character in its last season.
Perhaps the dystopia one needs to see is no longer inside fiction but outside it; the dystopia we live in is the taking away of dystopia, like discarding Black Mirror’s initial messages. People can no longer discover their basic human weaknesses through this mirror. Like the witch in the Snow-White fairy tale, when we ask, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”, it no longer gives an honest answer.
As viewers, we can revise the red ink joke as follows. “Everything is beautiful, comrades. Good actors, clever editing. But there’s only one thing unavailable, the black mirror.”
This article originally appeared in the arts & culture section of TRT World website.