Some reflections on Black Mirror

The fifth series of Charlie Brooker’s anthology series Black Mirror landed on Netflix this month, and we were surprised to find it’s moved away from making terrifying technology predictions to become an unwitting homage to the Not a cell phone in sight meme.

The second episode, Smithereens, is gripping drama, but it hardly evokes the show’s trademark dystopian dread of yore. Its main insight, that everyone’s addicted to their phones, is the same one your dad started making 10 years ago – and no one cared then!

It’s calming, though, to know that in a world of supposedly uncontrollable exponential technology, one of the country’s most vivid creative minds can currently only come up with an Uber driver-type demanding to speak to a Twitter CEO-type about the trappings of his ruefully engaging social media platform.

That got us thinking; technology’s often used as a scapegoat for human confusion and fear, isn’t it? The antagonist’s angry with the Jack Dorsey figure for creating something that once fatally distracted him, but what if instead he’d been spirited away by a bucket of KFC? Would he have gone on a mission to give Colonel Sanders a dressing down for his irresponsible fusion of 11 herbs and spices?

The answer is “no”, because the Colonel is dead, and no trope works quite like “technology is bad” to absolve us of our own scattiness.

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