Reflections on another Black Mirror

Black Mirror 2 - 15 Million Merits

The second installment of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror leads us to another implausibly grim vision of the future, but the main difference between The National Anthem and 15 Million Credits, is that the latter is actually rather good.

Co-written by Kanak ‘Konnie’ Huq (of Blue Peter fame) and directed by Euros Lyn (Doctor Who), this modern fable is a surprisingly entertaining glimpse at a possible future dystopia. We can only guess that what unfolds is society’s answer to the impending energy crisis, as people are put to work on millions of exercise bikes to fuel a hi-tech, computerised existence, obsessed with mindless entertainment and online living – distractions from their slavery.

The plot is much more emotive and engaging than the first episode, with characters you actually care about and everything – and it does what all great satire should do, which is to push the current way of things to the extreme, in order to reveal some hidden truths about their nature.

It’s also really heartening to see some proper Science Fiction back on the television. The best Sci-Fi uses the future to tell us about the present, and 15 Million Credits does this better than most. Its exploration of the cruelty innate within Reality TV shows like The X Factor is undertaken by pushing them further in that direction. Its subversion of the idea that social networks somehow bring us closer together, its parody of throwaway digital culture, web advertising and online pornography and its use of a Microsoft Points-style credit system in place of a currency – all have deep sociological and psychological resonances with the new ways we have begun to live our lives through technology.

Black Mirror’s dark future is like our own world with the volume turned up, and what is reflected back is not a pretty picture. Most worrying of all is how the technology is used to placate us, used to make the population do the bidding of the powers-that-be, by removing people’s freedom of choice and disempowering them, while making them believe they are actually getting exactly what they want. In full high definition. Just keep peddling and saving up those credits and all your dreams will come true, citizen. It’s the same lie we’ve always been told, and the black mirror of the ubiquitous LCD screen reflects both that, and a ghostly wan imitation of our vitamin D-deprived faces. Now plug in, shut up and resume viewing.

This is a very clever caricature of our increasingly digital world, the full consequences of which, we are still oblivious to. Let’s just hope Brooker and Huq’s vision of a malevolent force behind the network is just another dark fantasy and not a true sign of things to come.

Can’t wait for next one now…

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First Impressions on Black Mirror

Black Mirror Part 1 - The National Anthem

Unbelievable, nauseating and bleak are all suitable adjectives for the description of Charlie Brooker’s latest satirical drama, Black Mirror. When I heard about the premise, I suppose I was hoping for something akin to a dramatised Brasseye Special, or Nathan Barley with added politicians and bestiality – but struggled to find the humour in it to be honest.  The TV-crime-drama aesthetics and tempo also put me off a bit, and the implausibility of the plot left me cold.

Having said all this I will still be watching the next two instalments of this mini-series, as I’m interested to see where he takes it next. Certainly, the YouTube generation is ripe for satirical analysis, and holding up a “Black Mirror” to the unseemly side of our digital lives and the effect it has on society and politics, is virgin territory that needs to be charted. And who better than Charlie Brooker to have a go!

I hope the next one is either more believable or more comedic, as I think The National Anthem fell between two stools, in so much as it was neither, and needed to be both, to be all that effective as a satire on our networked zeitgeist. The first episode felt like watching someone’s dark fantasy made real, rather than a future history playing out – but maybe that was the point Brooker was trying to make – that the internet age can bring that dark fantasy one step closer to being real. And that people will watch it. In their millions…

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Rap News 9

Robert Foster tells it like it is!

If you haven’t seen Rap News yet you’ve been missing out!
A no-bullshit hip-hop news channel from Melbourne, Australia, taking on the biggest stories of these troubling times – it is a must-see for all comedy hip hop fans and liberal-minded fuckheads everywhere. The news is spat by fictional b-boy anchorman Robert Foster aka Hugo Farrant…

“Hugo Farrant fills the role of the amiable Rap News anchorman, Robert Foster – as well as all the guests who appear on the show. Hailing from Branksome in the UK, Hugo is a prolific rhymer and orator, MC and spoken-word poet who regularly graces the stages and festivals of Melbourne. Having spent seven years rhyming and rapping, he now co-rhymes/writes ~TheJuiceMedia: Rap News.”

See more here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/thejuicemedia

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Why 10 O’Clock Live is Important

10 O'Clock Left

Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock Live has been the subject of much criticism, some of it justifable, some of it not. I’m not writing this to defend the show because I think it is perfect, I’m defending it because I think it is sorely needed.

Christopher Hooton of the Metro has commented that the show is “as overtly partisan as Fox News.” I wonder which party Hooton believes the show is Partisan to? It is heavily critical of all the major political parties as far as I can see. I suspect he is deriding the show for being overtly left-wing – a horrible sin as that may be, comparing the show in any way to Fox News is obscene bullshit.

It pisses me off when people equate a bias for the left with a bias for the right. These are not equal, comparable opposite ends of a single political continuum as some would like to have us believe. The right serves to protect the status quo, the hidden agenda is exploitation. Extreme right wing views are often moral perversions born of fear. Fear of change, fear of outsiders, fear of losing material possessions or status. They come from self-interest, patriotism and nostalgia. People who harbour right-wing views tend to want to preserve privilege and protect the inequality of capitalism.

People who sympathise with left-wing idealogies are not immune from self-interest, they are not saints and they certainly aren’t always right. But their ideas come from a desire to make the world fairer – their hearts are in a more altruistic place. So when someone says that something has a left-wing bias as some sort of a criticism, I can only assume that they are a cunt. Balance in this case is an illusion – and frankly impossible. The news is biased to the right, most newspapers are biased to the right, most political parties are biased to the right, and are there to preserve the status quo… so when something comes along that isn’t, I say, well, good. About fucking time, in fact.

10 O’Clock live is biased to the left. Great.

The program has also been criticised from the left – for not being left enough, for being too soft on certain issues, and missing opportunities to give people who deserve it, a good grilling. For example, the interview with Alastair Campbell in Episode 2 of the first series was painful to watch, as David Mitchell was obviously in awe of him, and seemed unable to take command of the situation, ask any pertinant questions, or hold him to account in any way. This isn’t that surprising though. David Mitchell is a comedian (albeit a politicially astute one), and Campbell was the UK’s Spin Doctor in Chief – not a fair fight.

To those on the left who criticise this show, I say, give it chance. Hopefully it will get a second series and continue to mature into a quality vehicle for political satire. In Tory Britian (sorry, Coalition Britain… pfft), we need a mainstream left-wing voice that is actually heard by people in their living rooms. People saying these important things in an inclusive, funny way that is accessible and entertaining – and this show does just that. If you want to keep your left wing views undiluted and pure in your little middle class left-wing clique, you may as well surrender this country to the fuckers who want to carve it up, and sell it off in bits, to their friends, for a tidy profit.

Most importantly 10 O’Clock Live is hilarious. David Mitchell is in his element – self-indulgent ranting that is cheered because it is heart-felt – often you can’t even be arsed to listen, the guy is so verbose, but you know it was probably fucking excellent. Charlie Brooker has shit hair, but who cares, the man is a miserablist genius. Jimmy Car is much funnier than I ever thought he could be and even Lauren Lavern is getting better.

So long may it continue. We need it in these dark times.