In the future we’re
all unlikeable Wankers
Black Mirror S1E3 is boring and not worth watching. Here is
how it could have been better.
Here is a basic soap opera/lifetime plot that is reassuring
in its predictability.
Husband suspects wife is cheating on him. He
suspects this because he comes home early from a business trip, arrives late to
a dinner party his wife is at, and his wife is surprised and embarrassed because
she was talking to another man, who she clearly finds much more interesting
than her husband.
(This is, hilariously, similar to the start of
the Will Ferrell movie Old School
Husband becomes further suspicious when wife laughs
at other-man’s jokes that aren’t funny.
Husband becomes annoyingly passive aggressive in
his accusations of wife being interested in other-man.
As suspected, wife and other-man did indeed used
to make the sex together, before she met husband. Wife admits it.
As further suspected, wife admits she’s actually
slept with other-man recently, despite being married to annoying passive-aggressive
And, by the way, that daughter that wife and
passive-aggressive husband have? Yeah…… it’s other-man’s kid.
Passive Aggressive husband and wife break-up. Husband
You’ve likely seen this story before, and it’s not any more
interesting this time either. It is in fact woefully boring.
What’s disappointing is that the above scenario actually is
the exact synopsis of the 3rd
episode of the much buzzed about, much
talked about UK Sci-Fi Horror Series – Black Mirror.
The buzz, save for this episode, is well deserved. Like all
good Sci-Fi, Black Mirror takes a future setting and uses it to comment on the
Now. Black Mirror is the best (arguably only) Sci-Fi fiction to really take the
world of the internet, social media, and the death of old-media, and break it
open to see what it’s guts look like.
Now available on Netflix in the US, the Yanquee’s are
finally able to catch up on the best Sci-Fi series since the Twilight Zone
The first episode of Black Mirror is a somewhat
puerile (but worth watching) meditation on out-of-touch journalism, the wisdom
of crowds, narcissism, shame, and participatory art.
The second episode is a combination of facebook,
Wii Mii’s, American Idol, reality TV, prison, maintaining authority, subjugating
the masses, freemium gaming, and love, all rolled into one of the most
depressingly tragic visions of the future ever created.
The third episode is a soap opera in which every
character is unlikeable and nothing interesting happens.
“How exactly is the above plot supposed to be Sci-Fi
Horror?” you ask?
It’s not. Black Mirror S1E3 “The Entire History of You” is
not Sci-Fi, it’s not Horror, and it’s not interesting. It’s standard soap opera
drama. Its derivative and you should not waste your time watching it.
But – it’s clear that the writers/producers of Episode-3
think (incorrectly) that it is Sci-Fi because of a Sci-Fi tech feature in the
world of the episode called a ‘Grain’.
Basically, nearly everyone in the show has a ‘Grain’
installed in their heads, a little piece of tech that allows them to replay the
audio and video of every moment in their life (or maybe just since the grain
was installed, it’s not explicitly clear). They can play back for solo watching
in their own eyeballs, or they can seamlessly project the Grain video onto a TV
for others to view as well.
This has some interesting implications that are sadly only
touched on briefly in the epsidoe; for example to get through Security at the
airport, you let security peek through the last 6 weeks of life, so they can
confirm you weren’t building bombs or mingling with terrorists. The Grain is
also a great nanny-cam, as you can play back the baby’s audio/video to ensure
the babysitter cared for the baby properly. (Dealing
with parents monitoring teenager’s activities via this process, without the
teens consent, would have been interesting)
Instead, in Black Mirror S1E3, the Grain tech is merely used
to confirm (not
development of the plot. Rather than having passive-aggressive husband obsesses
on his lonesome over whether wife laughed too much at the joke that wasn’t
funny, he literally plays it back on the TV for himself, and other people.
Rather than argue inconclusively (he-said/she-said) about
whether wife had mentioned having a brief one-week fling with other-guy or a
6-month relationship, husband plays back the memory of their pillow talk after
their first time, where wife lists her past relationships, and she really did
downplay the other-guy incident to be only one-week. Yes. The husband is really
that bad at pillow talk. “That was great.
So now tell me about other times that were better!”
(Pro-Tip: guys – you
should never ask about your girl’s past. If you ask, that just lets her know
that you’re a weak insignificant tool who lacks confidence)
For additional terrible effect, the Grain is used to confirm
that wife and other-guy did indeed sleep together recently….. and without a
rubber (the Grain records all the close-up intimate details!) proving that
daughter does not belong to passive-aggressive husband, but to other guy.
All of those plot events would have happened without the
Grain. Wife was clearly unhappy with passive-aggressive husband, and their
divorce was coming, Grain or no. And, for clarity, the episode makes it clear
the cause of the initial rift in their relationship is not an over-reliance on
tech, or living in the past via-Grain obsession, but just on the husband being
a passive-aggressive unlikeable sad-sack loser.
And, because the paint-by-numbers plot could exist
functionally without the inclusion of the Grain, the episode fails as Sci-Fi,
and lacks any poignant social commentary bite. There is no commentary on the
dangers of tech, or analysis of the dangers of replaying memories rather than
experiencing them as they are happening. It’s just a story about unlikeable
people in which the tech is incidental.
Here is how it could have been better.