‘Black Mirror’ Doesn’t Have To Be Bleak
Black Mirror creator Charlie Booker has a point when he says he doesn't know if the world needs more episodes of his show about collapsing societies as society collapses around us in real life. More often than not, Black Mirror gets so bleak that it makes me wonder why I'm doing this to myself when I can be watching something less upsetting like execution videos, or my parents having sex on a Zoom call with an image backdrop of the dancing old man from the Six Flags commercials. The world probably doesn't need Black Mirror's gloomy take on the present and near-future of our relationship with tech right now, but we can sure use its optimism.
When it wanted to, Black Mirror could be happy, heartwarming, and even optimistic, at least for a show where the big twist in one episode was that it turns out a woman wasn't being hunted by mind-controlled townsfolk, she was just getting her memories wiped every day and tormented anew as punishment for murdering a child. But then it'd deliver a beloved tearjerker of an episode in season 3's "San Junipero," a shining beacon of positivity about how love can overcome anything, even death. Season 4's "Hang The DJ" was a joyful celebration of how love can overcome anything, even giant walls bordering towns in dating apps that people live in? That was a weird one, but the point stands. Black Mirror can use all its "tech gone wrong" genre tropes to tell stories dripping with positivity, but it always chooses to err on the side of grim.
Being a fun depressing slog is what earned Black Mirror it's spot atop the pop culture mountaintop. People actually love adding a healthy dose of horror stories into their diets when times get tough. Synthetic fear helps us work through real-life fear. In that sense, a bleak, miserable sixth season could be the catharsis people could use to work through the anxieties of today. Part of the show's appeal is reveling in darkness but never confining itself to it. The feel-good episodes are outliers, for sure. That doesn't mean that the show can't occasionally tell a story that doesn't make you want to jump out a window before Netflix can auto-play the next episode.
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