Black Mirror: Why it’s so effective in highlighting societal issues

Black Mirror is a Netflix series, currently on season four. Each episode is independent of all the others, with different characters and different plots. They are all very intense, as you’ll know if you’ve seen them, but they’re also extremely intelligent. So what exactly makes the episodes so well done?

The first episode of season 1, The National Anthem, portrays the British prime minister, and a disturbing decision he becomes faced with. The fictional Princess Susannah is abducted and, to secure her release, the prime minister must have intercourse with a live pig; this would be broadcast live across the UK. At the end of the episode, the princess is released unharmed onto London’s empty streets. We find out that she was released before the prime minister had intercourse with the pig. This episode arguably highlights people’s obsessions with sensationalism and looking at screens, that they fail to notice things happening in the real world. If people had not been fixated on the broadcast, someone would have noticed the princess, and thus could have prevented the prime minister’s ordeal.

Another episode from season two, White Bear, is also extremely powerful. It shows a woman who wakes up in a house with no recollection of who or where she is. In a state of distress and confusion, she goes out onto the streets, where people film and photograph her on their phones. However, they do not interact with her. Another man and woman appear to team up with her as they face ‘hurdles’ from those around them. But we find out that the woman had filmed her boyfriend killing a young girl, and that the filming of the woman was an act of revenge that people were working together on. At the end of each day, the woman’s memory was wiped, for her to experience the same the next day. This episode was highlighting the idea that society demands revenge, and an eye for an eye. There appears to be the attitude that what goes around should come back around.

So why is Black Mirror so effective in highlighting societal issues?

Each episode arguably evokes a strong sense of emotion, from shock, to anger to sadness. It shows that people aren’t always what they seem at first (White Bear and Shut Up and Dance are good examples of this). The series almost plays with your emotions – it makes you feel one thing for someone before showing you realise they’re not exactly what they were initially made out to be.

So I’d definitely recommend this extremely eye opening and thought provoking series.

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