12 June 2019 | ml_nhf_kjd
Once truly amazing; now becoming a parody of itself
Black Mirror was once known for projecting a grim future, 10 minutes away from where we are. We didn't watch it to be amused nor excited, we watched it with the intent of being bummed out. We expected to welcome the credits with an awesome feeling of self loathe. This was the point. Black Mirror is the reflection of yourself in your phone screen when the screen is turned off. A dark reflection of who you are. The intention is to show a dark depiction of ourselves through technology. Exactly what a Black Mirror is.
Throughout its time on Channel4 it was allowed to explore this, thus generating a huge following of people like myself who demand depth, intrigue and not your typical fairytale stories made to meet a wide audience to generate ££. It was so ridiculously thought provoking I would go as far as to say it was one of the greatest TV programmes to come out of the UK! Which leads me to the problem.. it came out of the UK.
I was slightly nervous when I discovered it was moving to Netflix. Anxious as I knew the Americans were going to have a huge hand in the subject matter and storylines, yet marginally comfortable in knowing Netflix (like Channel4) has a reputation for taking risks on out of the box stories. The reason I was anxious about the Americans is not some deep shred of racism. It is simply that there is a huge difference between how British and American audiences receive TV programmes. This is common fact when it comes to comedy, but it is also apparent in emotion inducing drama too. If you study popular American TV versus popular UK TV you can easily see that British audiences are more comfortable with 'out of the ordinary', uncomfortable and especially dark subject matter. We don't mind hating ourselves, in fact we quite like it and are pretty good at it!
Series 3 turned out to be pretty damn good actually. San Junipero in particular is my favourite episode of the whole programme! The programme was allowed to retain that awful feeling of dread, the familiarity, the dark techno-aware subjects that depicted who we could be, who we would be and who we are now! There did seem to be a little more of a Hollywood type of feel to the whole thing, yet that didn't matter too much as long as the stories could run their course!
However. Since then there has been a huge decline in what we come to expect of the show we know and love. USS Callister was, for me a small shining light (or rather a welcome opposite to that entirely), but still didn't give me that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. The episodes began to get milder and milder, taming down to suit a wider audience who would be at greater risk of running away If you were to show them an early episode. Yes there was tragedy, yes some of the storylines were dark. But its where the darkness comes from that matters! We didn't want obviously fictional narratives, we wanted ones that seemed real! That could be here and now and not too far away. We didn't want the big dramatic moments, the killer shots or the epic finale, we want mellow darkness and discomfort.
Finally we reach series 5. A series that has completely and utterly disappointed me on all levels. Well, not all. They are entertaining, but definitely not in Black Mirror fashion. Where are the twists, the thought provoking, self hating moments. The situations which present to you a perfectly twisted, yet astonishingly accurate version of the world we live in?
If you were to grab someone who was disinterested in Black Mirror's subject matter, and ignorant of its relevance and show them just a couple of episodes from the first series, but let them just mildly watch it without truly getting it.. then ask them to describe it to you: what you would have is Series 5.... A few entertaining yet dark stories with a bit of technology thrown in. Yes we know that the app they use in episode two is metaphorical of our current social media platforms and how we are all addicted. You are not incredibly smart for figuring that out because it's so blindingly obvious and in your face. Black Mirror has been showing us that same metaphor in so many episodes, but it's been so good because it has been a genuinely clever metaphor and has been presented perfectly!
I genuinely feel as though the smartness of the programme has been lost. That it has now become a parody of itself and is simply a few slightly tragic (but not too tragic) stories with some technology in them. It doesn't take a great deal of intellect or understanding to grasp the concepts. Themes are also being rehashed into more diluted versions that are easier to palette for everyone! This might sound extremely harsh and make me sound like an awful person, but I see from my social media, so many more people talking about how amazing it now is. These people are the type that find films such as White Chicks funny and who's favourite film is Titanic. They talk about how clever the programme is after watching the latest series and that it's got so much more better as they didn't understand the first few series. I find myself internally screaming at them "NO YOU DON'T DESERVE TO APPRECIATE THIS PROGRAMME" the message is lost on so many!
I still have faith, which is why I've given a 9. The first 3 series get 10 from me, the 5th gets a 2.