Black Mirror, season 4: the unnerving series continues to rock our moral compass with a stark reminder of our technologically determined society.
As the new season of Black Mirror returns to Netflix, it's being talked about more than ever.
The series initially aired at the back end of 2011, but it hasn't caught my attention until now.
I never get drawn to start a new series until someone stands in front of me saying, "you have to watch this."
Whilst working the twilight shifts at work, I find the idea of starting a new series difficult. It feels wrong to binge on a program before my shift, as I really should do something more productive with my time - whatever that means.
However, when I found out that Black Mirror is an anthology series, it instantly became more appealing to me. It means I can watch each episode when I want and in whichever order.
I don't need to fear I'll forget what happened in the previous episode and have to watch it again before moving on to the next - a very time-consuming process I often find myself stuck doing.
The logical part of my brain instantly went to start watching from season 1, EP01. But then the eager and slightly impatient part of me wanted to jump ahead, all the way to season 4 - because that's what everyone's talking about right now.
So that's what I did. 😎
After briefly reading the episode overviews, I started with Arkangel, EP02.
This created a sense of unease for someone who thrives off structure and order - but, I needed an engaging episode to hook me into watching more.
Straight away, the concept of this episode became relatable as a 23-year-old female with an overprotective mother.
Black Mirrors' core purpose as a series is to highlight our culture's reliance on technology and provide a futuristic reality of how technology can manipulate people into making detrimental decisions.
Although we view this series as futuristic - the most frightening aspect is how close we are to this dystopian nightmare. The relatability of the series, combined with the horrific outcomes is what makes each episode truly disturbing.
The likely consequences of advanced technologies are portrayed in a dark and sinister way, and Charlie Brooker explains the meaning of the name Black Mirror by saying -
Any TV, any LCD, any iPhone any iPad – something like that – if you just stare at it, it looks like a black mirror, and there’s something cold and horrifying about that, and it was such a fitting title for the show.
The series also backs up the reductionist theory of Technological Determinism.
Is society's development and actions determined by technology, or is it society that influences technology development?
Both are arguable, as the technology we use has undoubtedly shifted the way we communicate, how we perform in our jobs (or how we get one in the first place), and the things we consume.
Technology doesn't just aid our daily activities, but, in most cases, it drives them.
For that same reason, however, society influences how technology develops. The more our society relies on technology - the further technology will develop to meet those needs.
We live in an efficiency-driven society. Efficiency = better economy. Therefore, technological development is equally determined by a society's success'.
So, what are my thoughts on Arkangel?
With both determinism theories in mind, Arkangel can scarily
be visualised as the reality of a society that influences and is influenced by its technology.
In summary, the episode implicates the everyday anxieties single mother Marie goes through with her child, Sara, as she grows up in our technologically engulfed society.
Marie faces a scare in the park as Sara goes missing for what is presumed a few hours, which leads her to pursue the Arkangel tracking device that gets implanted into Sara's head.
Initially, we understand Marie has taken this step for Sara's safety and her peace of mind.
But, this is a Black Mirror episode - so we know things are about to turn ugly.
Marie latches onto the device as it becomes a detrimental habit to check on Sara's location and actions as she tries to grow into an independent young adult.
The device's purpose is abused.
It's no longer a precautionary act of safety or reassurance - it's an invasion of privacy and has only fed into Marie's neurotic parental nature to protect and control her child.
This then begs the question - would Marie's neurosis develop to this destructive level if she hadn't had the Arkangel installed?
Did the technology set out to provide safety and relief, but result in the progression and inflation of an existing neurosis?
This concept is similar to the GPS chip installed in smartphones. iPhones are the best example I can give (as I have one). Apple has their own find apps installed like Find iPhone and Find Friends.
These apps are a perfect example of technology being incredibly helpful by offering a sense of security - knowing where friends and family are and where your phone is if it's been lost or stolen.
Similarly, this technology can be abused and result in unwanted intrusion or the illusion of ever having control.
Of course, you don't have to participate in this as an iPhone user. You can stop sharing your location whenever - which I suppose is the only difference from the Arkangel device.
Oh, and the chip is in our phone, not our head... yet.