|YMMV • Radar • Quotes • (Funny • Heartwarming • Awesome) • Fridge • Characters • Fanfic Recs • Nightmare Fuel • Shout Out • Plot • Tear Jerker • Headscratchers • Trivia • WMG • Recap • Ho Yay • Image Links • Memes • Haiku • Laconic • Source • Setting|
Black Mirror is a trilogy of television dramas, loosely linked by the fact they're all dark comedies with themes of techno-paranoia and unease with the modern world. The name stems from the reflection that can be seen in the blackened screen of a switched-off glass screen (such as can be found on a smartphone, computer monitor, etc). Two of the episode are written by Charlie Brooker, who also produced the entire series. They are, in order of broadcast:
The National Anthem
Princess Susannah is kidnapped while the abductor taunts the police and press by releasing videos on the internet. The singular demand? That the Prime Minister have sexual intercourse with a pig on live television.
15 Million Merits
The only distraction in a life of endless physical toil is a TV talent show on every screen. The only chance to escape is to enter the show. This episode's premiere screening was deliberately scheduled to begin on Channel 4 immediately after the 2011 final of The X Factor ended over on ITV 1.
The Entire History Of You
Set in a world where every memory you've ever had is stored digitally to be watched and re-watched. Naturally, this is not necessarily a good thing.
- An Aesop: A rare in-universe example. The kidnapper actually releases the Princess half an hour before the 4pm deadline into a desolate country where everybody ignores her in favour of the Prime Minister fucking a pig on television, solely to prove a point.
- Actor Allusion: one of the talking heads on TV is described as 'an actress from Downton Abbey who knows the princess.' Allen Leech (Branson in Downton Abbey) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Sybil from Downton Abbey) are both in Black Mirror, although Leech is in this episode while Findlay is in 15 Million Merits.
- Black Comedy: Blacker than black. You will laugh after the ransom demand is first read out; from thereon in it gets a lot blacker and much less comedic as the full implications of the kidnapping and its ransom start to play out.
- British Royal Family
- Decoy Hiding Place: The abandoned college, complete with a decoy damsel.
- Distressed Damsel
- Dogme 95: Two characters discuss whether the list of demands about the filming of the video - meant to make it as hard as possible to fake - are references to the movement.
- Downer Ending: The Prime Minister does...it, saves the princess and even boosts his political career after the act. The ending shows that he's been pretty much destroyed as a person anyway, traumatised and with an utterly destroyed marriage. And it turns out he didn't even need to go through with it in the first place.
- Finger in the Mail: The kidnapper mails the Princess' finger to the press after it is revealed that the PM is using a body double in a sex tape. However, forensic examination shows it's NOT the Princess's finger. In an appallingly extreme bluff, it's the kidnapper's.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The kidnapper's list of demands at the end of the YouTube video.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Hamlet is the Prime Minister!
- Hostage Situation
- Hostage Video
- Hot Scoop / Intrepid Reporter: Malaika, a rare completely negative example of this combination.
- Humans Are Bastards: In between a faceless and ill-informed mob loudly braying for the Prime Minister's actions on social networking sites and watching a man who's been compelled to have sex with a pig live on national television with horrified fascination, self-serving politicians and media cynically attempting to twist the issue to their advantage while putting on an air of 'above-it-all' self-righteousness and self-importance all throughout out and the kidnapper who put everything into motion in the first place solely to prove a point and create a twisted art performance, humanity as a whole doesn't exactly come out of this one well.
- Mad Artist
- Who is also revealed at the end to be a Turner Prize winner in a rather blunt Take That against the modern art world. The whole sequence of events is even described, a year later, as "The First Great Artwork of the 21st century" by a controversial critic.
- New Media Are Evil: While shaping up to be an overarching theme in the series, it's presence here is overt nonetheless.
- Old Media Are Evil: This said, however, from what we see of the traditional forms of media they don't exactly escape unburned either.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Princess Susannah is basically a cross between Princess Diana - widely popular among the public and a campaigner for good causes - and Kate Middleton - a fashionable recent university graduate, only recently married.
- Pass the Popcorn: During one of the news reports dicussing the reactions on YouTube and Twitter a message to this effect is briefly shown
- Black Comedy Rape: Having sex with an animal is pretty much by definition raping it, and the Prime Minister being effectively forced to have sex against his will would in itself be rape, yet soon as the video of the demand is posted on YouTube, people are leaving comments mocking the Prime Minster for what he has to do. Everyone in the country is tuning in to the broadcast of the act and looking forward to it with a sort of horrible glee. This lasts for about a second once it has begun and then practically everyone is shaking their heads in horror. They keep watching though. YMMV, though, but this could also be Rape as Drama as the act is presented as awful and traumatic for the PM, and Charlie Brooker is using it as a fairly obvious An Aesop about new media. Also used in-universe: part of the whole point is to show the initial belief of Black Comedy Rape and then move to Rape as Drama.
- Save the Princess
- Sensory Abuse: In a last ditch attempt to stop people watching the broadcast, it's preceded with a minute-long tone that supposedly causes nausea.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: Poor, poor Michael Callow.
- Advert Overloaded Future: Adverts aren't just omnipresent - viewers are forced to look at them, and fined for skipping them.
- An Aesop: Several. Chiefly that our current state of affairs is soul-destroying - of doing pointless work to buy pointless items and with the carrot of celebrity dangled as the only way out. That people will subject themselves to ever greater indignities to escape this prison, but that in reality find that it's just another prison. That real talent and real spirit is being filtered out in favour of homogenous slop, as helped along by the former. That Simon Cowell is a prick.
- Animal Motifs: Abi's is a penguin - she makes origami ones out of packaging, one is seen waddling around on a screen in her cell and Bing has a wooden one in his Gilded Cage as a reminder. There may also be a bit of subtext in Bing sitting and pulling apart one of the origami penguins after he inadvertently leads her into life as a porn star.
- Not to mention the replacement of the paper penguin with a wooden one later, as Bing realises he's only succeeded in swapping one fake and unfulfilling existence for another, slightly more expensive one.
- Apathetic Citizens: A whole society content to ride exercise bikes; the only available way to express themselves is to buy pre-approved items for their virtual avatar.
- Biting the Hand Humor: The show is a satire of The X Factor... and it's written by Konnie Huq, former presenter of "The Xtra Factor" spinoff show.
- And produced by a subsidiary of Endemol, the producers of Big Brother.
- Bread and Circuses: Food provided, at a price. Shelter given, but with a catch. Entertainment and hope supplied, to keep you content. Seeing as we never see who is in charge though, we're not really sure what is really going on.
- Break the Cutie: Abi, intending to be a singer, winds up going into pornography, more or less forced into that position through public humiliation and harassment on Hot Shot.
- The compliance serum probably had something to do that too, to be fair.
- Chekhov's Gun: The empty Compliance carton which Bing hangs onto after Abi's audition.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Bing's heartfelt speech on stage ventures into this territory, though it initially sounds like he's employing a Precision F-Strike
Bing: Fuck You! For Me, For Us, for everyone. Fuck You!
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Everybody apart from Bing (and perhaps Abi).
- Curse Cut Short: The Scouse Hot Shot hopeful to the judges: "This is my destiny- and I can sing! F-"
- Downer Ending: Our hero gets to be part of the entertainment he hates while looking at trees he'll never touch, while Abi is doped out her mind, exploited, and filmed for the pleasure of thousands... if not millions.
- Dystopia: In a very thinly veiled metaphor, everyday people are made to cycle on exercise bikes all day (the bikes are connected to generators which supply all of the country's electrical power) to earn money (the "merits" of the title), with the only escape being through a nakedly manipulative and psychopathic talent show. Some are then demoted further to being cleaners ("lemons", due to their yellow uniforms), and thus subject to mockery from everyone else (including a video game where they get blown to pieces).
- Empty Shell: Abi seems to be one by the end.
- Fat Slob: How the media portray overweight people, and how the citizens are encouraged to see them, especially with the games Botherguts and Fattax, not to mention the one where they get to shoot overweight cleaners.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Media gossip is very briefly visible scrolling along the top of Bing's mirror.
- "People who liked [apple] also liked [banana]"
- Future Slang: A few examples, such as the nickname for the avatars ("Doppels").
- Gilded Cage: Bing's new home is more of a plasma-screen cage, but as we leave him gazing upon the simulated forest we can see he'd rather be free to explore a real one.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Sybil is Abi.
- Hopeless Auditionees: The silver-haired Scouse woman plays this role. The show keeps her waiting for what must be months before letting her on, just to tell her to go home.
- Hypocrite: By the end, Bing.
- Ironic Echo: Bing holds a shard of glass to his throat and gives a heartfelt rant about how people waste their lives consuming and criticizing others, how television is completely synthetic and that everyone will do anything for money. The next time Bing is seen, he now owns an expensive apartment, and spends his time holding the same glass shard to his throat while criticizing consumers and giving manufactured speeches he doesn't believe for money.
- Jerk Jock: "Dustin liked Botherguts"... and when he's not busy laughing at fat people he can be found abusing the cleaners and leering at violent porn.
- Lack of Empathy: Dustin, essentially.
- Manipulative Editing: Parodied with the Hot Shot producer who makes Abi record a pre-prepared soundbyte ahead of her audition.
- Only Sane Man: Bing.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Where Bing hides the makeshift glass dagger. Fortunately the Hot Shot judges don't ask him to take a seat.
- Product Placement: Parodied by pushing it to its limits.
- Rape as Drama: Abi's first porno film is effectively this. And Bing is forced to watch as someone he loves is raped on camera.
- Screens Are Cameras: With a very similar technology to Microsoft's Xbox 360 in use.
- Self-Deprecation: In the last few scenes, Bing is a fairly obvious Charlie Brooker parallel. His speech sounds a lot like some of Charlie's angrier pieces... and promptly gets resold as a twice-weekly TV show. He becomes richer and more famous, but stays just as empty inside.
- Sensory Abuse: That high-pitched tone again... here it's used to ensure citizens RESUME VIEWING if they try to avoid watching the screens. The true horror of this reveals itself when Bing is forced to watch his beloved be raped.
- Show Within a Show: Hot Shot, among others.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Used to great effect with Anyone Who Knows What Love Is - Abi sings a cover on Hot Shot and Irma Thomas's original version plays over the credits. While the schmaltzy version of I Have A Dream is very fitting as we're introduced to this made-up world, a sweet song about experiencing love as something real sounds depressingly ironic as we leave it.
- It also plays during Abi's porn.
- Stepford Smiler: The female judge is hinted as being this. Despite playing along, some of her actions and expressions seem to indicate that she is physically uncomfortable with what happens on her show.
- Token Minority: Bing gets himself onto the show just because the staff need "an ethnic" to round out the auditionees.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bing delivers one when he gets onto Hot Shot, and all it gets him a spot on a TV channel, where he can rant and rave and just be another part of the landscape.
- Truth Serum: Compliance is more of an obedience serum which is forced on all Hot Shot contestants.
- Up to Eleven: The X Factor parody takes the judges' nasty comments in this direction: "You came across as unlikeable and fundamentally quite worthless".
- We Will Spend Merits In The Future
- Amoral Attorney: At the very beginning of the drama the main character has a job review at a Law firm. The interviewing panel mention a new initiative to allow Adults to retroactively sue their parents for not paying enough attention to them as children/infants - using the drama's 'Grain' technology (lifetime memory recorder) to elicit evidence. The main character briefly questions the ethics and morality of this.
- Downer Ending: Completing the set, this ending sees Liam without a job and without his family, cutting out his grain which risks leaving him blind.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Happens around half way through the episode.
- Enhance Button: Regardless of the distance or clarity of an event, the "grain" can zoom close enough to read lips and examine facial expressions, even if the event was across the room. Taken to the extreme when Liam loads a memory where he briefly looked indirectly at a TV, before zooming so far into the said TV that he can clearly see what the people in the background of the footage are doing.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: In-universe. Memories can be paused, rewound and manipulated to zoom in and analyse faces or even read lips.
- The Glomp: Much to Liam's surprise, he gets to do his own as a joke later too.
- Little White Lie: A fib about the length of a relationship with an old boyfriend kicks off the drama.
- Longing Look: Perceived by Liam, and with the beauty of replay you can search for every instance, and watch it; over and over again.
- Love Makes You Crazy
- Mental Affair: It's a subtle one, but in the scene where Ffion and Liam are having sex whilst replaying their memories, the memory Ffion is playing back isn't Liam.
- Transferable Memory: The "grain" that almost everybody has implanted in their skulls. Used to play back memories on any TV complete with zoom, crop and reconstruction technology. Is also used in security checks when boarding planes. Oh and it's implied there is a black market for memories, as one character had hers forcibly removed.
- Who's Your Daddy?: It's pretty heavily implied that Jonas is Jodie's father.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Given that the couple were trying for a baby at the time.
- Your Cheating Heart: Turns out Ffion did have a relationship with Jonas when they fell out for a week, and he might be the father of her child