I had a whiff of a hope when I set out to watch Black Mirror that it would be a truly conservative show. I know that title is heaved at every impulse from the right, each time with the dim hope that it is true, and each time at the sight of something that gives our culture cause for pause in it’s incessant march forward in the mighty name of Progress.
But with Black Mirror, I get a deeper sense of the gravitas I’d expect from conservative artists, writers, and filmmakers. What I would say makes for conservative art is the indication that the good we have discovered and kept is too easily lost. With Black Mirror, I get just that feeling. In fact, I get the feeling it already has been lost and we may continue losing it if we continue in this way. Yes, people will have food, shelter, sex, friends, families, the right to vote, a sense of humor, and a black mirror of mass communication in every room and car, but yes we may also humiliate one another to ends we couldn’t foresee until we actually do so, we may forget the humanity of the unjust, we may have passionless sex because we’re so desensitized to one another and hold a secret wish to live in the past, we may allow ourselves to become dependent on an artifice to convince us that that past is not gone, we may become entrenched by those black mirrors on which a ceaseless admixture of our dreams and our basest desires plays to remind us to continue working for nothing but the opportunity to survive.
The director of the show, Charlie Brooker, said in an interview that the show is about ” the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy. And if there’s one thing we know about mankind, it’s this: we’re usually clumsy.” No there is no platform for the Republican or Conservative party. No he isn’t saying end abortion. No he isn’t saying make the market free and go to Church. However, the show he’s helping to create is a part of a deeper part of what it means to be human and to live in an inherently tragic world — or, rather, a world inclined to tragedy. Hence, every show I have watched so far ends with characters in a place no better than the one where they started. Conservatives have often been accused of being naysayers and against progress. I wish they would do so with the poignancy of Black Mirror. They might actually convince someone that morality — an “artifice most fragile” as Russel Kirk said — can be lost and so can all the rest of what we’ve gained through centuries of liberation, war, recovery, farming, religious devotion, education, etc.