The much-anticipated return of popular anthology series Black Mirror arrived on Netflix last month. Creator Charlie Brooker has changed the show’s tone in its new episodes. There is less of a focus on future technology, such as AI. Instead, he focuses more on individual identity and the consequences of our actions.
Brooker commented on the development of the episodes, stating that he attempted to use the AI chatbot ChatGPT as an experiment, but the results were disappointing.
“Oh, there’s not actually any real original thought here,” he said in Empire magazine, touching on ongoing debates about the use of AI in creating media.
If AI takes away the satisfaction found in art, as Brooker says, there will no longer be any originality or creativity. But this is what makes the Black Mirror series so brilliant—its original ability to depict such biting satire of this sometimes disturbing modern age.
In an episode entitled Loch Henry, characters Davis and Pia are forced to commodify traumatic events to earn a living. Another episode entitled Mazey Day follows Bo, a paparazzi photographer intent on getting a shot of a Hollywood starlet.
The final shots of both episodes show how deeply affected they are by having to make such decisions —they are distressed but silent.
The financial rewards that were dangled before led to harrowing consequences. Brooker uses dark humour and irony in Joan is Awful, particularly in the scene where Annie Murphy defecates in a church during a wedding.
They show the ridiculous, dangerous ways we can be compelled to sign away the rights to our private lives to greedy yet seemingly untouchable and faceless corporations.
Altogether, the episodes reflect on the logical conclusions of a profit-driven system of capitalism and how technology and people can become corrupted by this. This always makes Black Mirror a challenging watch. Episodes Beyond the Sea and Loch Henry were harrowing stories involving death, abuse and how people can somehow reconcile with violent events.
These episodes, however, were rewarding. They all say that capitalism creates self-destructive technology and systems that tear apart families and other relationships.
One of the most exciting episodes was Demon 79, ironically set 44 years ago, part of Brooker’s newer horror genre, under the Red Mirror title. The main character, Nida, is a reserved British Indian shop assistant who faces daily racist microaggressions from co-workers and her community.
One day the National Front fascists spray paint her door. After these hostile experiences, a curse befalls her, and a demon requires her to murder three people in three days. The reason? To save the world from fiery annihilation.
Despite appearing to be a terrible quandary, as Nida completes the murders, there is a growing sense of catharsis in what she is doing. The people she kills are abusers and murderers, and the final would-be victim is the hopeful Tory MP who secretly harbours violent, xenophobic, fascist ideas.
Yet, she doesn’t succeed in the last murder, and the curse comes true. Here is perhaps the only problem with Black Mirror.
It fails to identify that the greed or personal motivations that appear inherent in individuals are due to alienation. Human nature is not immutable or inevitable, or driven solely by biology. It is directly influenced by and shapes the world we live in. Therefore, human nature has the capacity to change.
But I don’t suppose anybody watches Black Mirror to feel hopeful about humanity’s future.