Positivity Could Revolutionize Black Mirror

The techno-paranoia series works best when providing an optimistic vision of the future.
By  · Published on October 28th, 2016

Science Fiction has long been known for tales of misery and woe. The message that rings loudest is that the dangers of technology are real and we should be afraid. What if instead of fearing technology we could embrace it instead? Given the joys of discovering new tech, why should it always come with a caveat? Black Mirror is at its strongest when delivering stories between lovers, but the episode San Junipero shows that a little bit of hope can go a long way.

One does not simply binge watch Black Mirror. Individual stories that typically destroy the lives of the characters within them take a lot out of you. Sometimes though there can be some happiness. There are certainly many reason why San Junipero has been named the standout of season 3: whether it be the killer soundtrack, the adherence to a particular time, or the outstanding performances of MacKenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Perhaps most of all though, it is because it gives a glimmer of some form of happiness for the two leads at the end. If the entire run was able to provide relief for the characters throughout, it would be a much easier watch.

Some of the standout episodes from previous seasons could’ve been given a little leeway from the dark and stormy nature of Black Mirror. Take for instance the season 1 episode, The Entire History of You. The episode features Liam Foxwell (Toby Kebbell) in a time when recounting your memories is a simple as pressing rewind. While it would be lovely to relive all your greatest moments, that ability also comes with the ghost of your past sins. Liam Foxwell goes down the rabbit hole of discovering his wife’s infidelity, but even after the entire mess of it all, he would’ve been able to move on with his life. Black Mirror highlights the negativity of the situation in great effect, but optimistically he was getting out of marriage of falsehoods.

Each season seems to have a highlight of its own. For season 2, it was the episode, Be Right Back. Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) have a satisfying marriage in their remote cottage home. Tragedy left Martha a widow and she desperately misses her husband. Technology has enabled her to interact with collection of her late husband’s social media profiles. Everything he ever said or shared with the internet would be used to recreate Ash’s personality in this new A.I. Martha eventually realizes that this recreation will never truly be her husband. There is a pivotal moment she backs away from and we learn that she has accepted this A.I. into her life, no matter how artificial it might be. The pessimist perspective would say she doomed her life because now she will never be able to move forward, she will forever be attached to something artificial. Optimism would say that while she will never find complete happiness, she has found some form of peace.

San Junipero decided to take that viewpoint of optimism much further. The season 3 episode, allowed viewers to witness some form of happiness which in Black Mirror is a rarity. When faced with death, the elderly have the opportunity to live out eternity in a virtual world. What is eternity without the one you love though. Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) lost her daughter before the technology was available and her husband refused to be there without their daughter. Why should she choose this eternity without them with her? Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) gives her another option. Kelly shouldn’t abandon the new happiness she has found with Yorkie and there is some hope that their union will last forever in this fantasy world. There are certain to be bumps along the way due to immortality, but perhaps their happiness won’t be fleeting.

Current television trends show that viewers like to be depressed and miserable. Whether it be from hit shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, to just about any show on television these days, ratings are not in happiness. Optimism and hope is decidedly not what Black Mirror generally goes for either. Every episode likes to boil things down to technology is bad and here’s why you should beware. The love for San Junipero should show the showrunners that perhaps a little optimism now and then would improve the show. If nothing else, it would inspire more people to invest in the show when they knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.

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