Review: Black Mirrors

By on August 18, 2013


By: Elodie Mertz

Released in 2011, “The National Anthem” is the first episode of the Black Mirrors series. So far, there are two seasons of three episodes, the second one being broadcast this year.

Each episode consists of a different story with different characters and settings. The only common thread is to propose a reflection about the modern world we live in. In November 2012, it was awarded as the Best TV movie/mini-series at the International Emmy’s. And it was well deserved: it’s original, surprising, disturbing and very well done.

The start of “The National Anthem” could sound like a B-movie scenario. British Prime Minister, Michael Callow is woken up in the middle of the night: the Royal Family member, Princess Susannah, has been kidnapped. The only demand from the kidnapper involves the Prime Minister himself: he has to have a live broadcast showing sexual intercourse with a pig, otherwise the princess will die. You think this is stupid or funny? On the contrary, it’s brilliant – even though the reasoning is getting a bit extreme towards the end-, and the treatment is nothing but serious.

The episode itself is nice and easy to watch. However, the demand being at the same time very personal – for the person of the Prime Minister, for his family – and very public – it becomes sort of everyone’s business, it brings up further and interesting questions. Like what comes first: life of morality? Obviously, life appears way more important but what if it’s someone else’s life? What if doing something totally ruins your (public and/or personal) life? And what is life without serious existential principles (let’s agree on the fact that “never-date-your-BFF’s ex” isn’t a serious existential principle)? Plus, even in extreme situations, there’s some truth saying that “if nothing matters, there’s nothing to save” (Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating animals). But what’s worth the morality – that Nietzsche has once described as the herd-instinct in the individual – if it’s a matter submitted to common opinion and then indirectly but basically to peer pressure?

Morality is as old as men but it has acquired a new problematic dimension with the black mirrors we’re surrounded with. These omnipresent screens both modify and reflect our society. They make information accessible anywhere, any time. Being awesome tools they can also endorse voyeurism or even just literally capture our attention/thinking capacity. It just gains other proportions when it’s merged with politics and journalism, two serious fields where we like to think reason plays the main role when it’s in fact an emotional game ruled by the audience. So, morality is definitely some versatile material in the equation.

So really, the question could be: black mirrors or black holes?

My point? Watch the episode!

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