Listen to the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about Black Mirror, with guests Brittany Luse and Chris Klimek below.
Black Mirror is an anthology where technology, at times, might seem like the lurking monster. Originally created for British television and now produced by Netflix, the series imagines leaps forward in software, surveillance, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and biotech that result, usually, in disaster. Not always — but usually.
In fact, Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, is largely a multi-part study of power. The relevance of technology is mostly that it grants power around which the people who receive it haven't yet developed ethical ideas. In the show's gentler episodes, it allows people to explore love and connection in new ways, across what we now believe to be barriers — like mortality.
But very often, the moral of the story, so to speak, is that we are worse than we believe we are, only because our behavior is constrained by what we can do, not what we are willing to do. For instance, we may believe that we do not spy on our loved ones because we have developed trust, when in fact, we do not spy on our loved ones because it's too difficult to do reliably without getting caught. With great power comes great responsibility — you've heard that from the story of a man who can climb buildings and shoot webs out of his wrists, right? Well, Black Mirror spends much of its time considering what happens when more of us have great power, given that we have no reason to believe we are prone to exercise great responsibility.