Black Mirror: The National Anthem (Spoilers ahead)

I have now seen 3 episodes of Black Mirror. Without reading anything from the directors and writers, I can’t say much about what the actual motives behind the show are. But from what I can tell, it is about technology creating an estrangement of people with others. It looks like it really is the show that this generation needs. It gives pause to trust in technology, especially it’s progress; the show reminds people that they are people and not items on a screen with events that entertain us; and it offers a heavy deposit of moral values at a time when people seem contented with the idea that there is no such thing as too far.

For the first episode, “The National Anthem,” you get a real sense of this latter quality. Everyone is out of the streets and in front of a screen watching the horrendous act on television like it’s some movie or, as may be implied, a work of art — something other than reality.

People comment on the youtube video and other social media sites at the expense of the prime minister and in a way that resembles the many times people have done so in real life on the internet. The shocking reality of what the prime minister is asked to do doesn’t strike anyone until it actually happens, sort of like Kathy Griffin beheading the president wasn’t appalling to her until after she did it and was rebuked publicly.

The show also brings into question what the cost of doing the right thing is. After the artist behind the whole thing ends up getting what he wanted and thus proving something shameless and perhaps incorrigible exists in politicians, he still kills himself. Yes to keep from going to jail, but his death does signify more. The artist is willing to potentially ruin the life of a politician solely for the sake of a political message.

THe PM on the other hand goes through with the act and then, albeit marginally, becomes more popular with the populace. In public things have returned to normal, but in private, a marriage has changed forever.

I don’t know how to really take the episode, but I like the idea that there is still some dignity left that provokes the PM and his wife to both feel shame for his actions, even if they did save a life. So far as I can call it, the show accuses audiences of being indifferent to the suffering of others, elected officials specifically, until they’ve proven themselves — even to morally repugnant ends — whereby they then lose something.

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