Five episodes of the Black Mirror series that are literally based on reality
Sitting down to watch a new episode of the Black Mirror series always comes with emotional baggage; excitement, anxiety and fear are just some of the feelings this dystopian anthology will provoke. The dark and satirical science fiction show well and truly captures our imaginations with its audacious approach to life in the 21st century. But the most terrifying thing about the whole show? Anyone who viewed it had an uncomfortable feeling that it most definitely wasn’t fiction and that any of the situations seen in the show could actually happen.
Creator Charlie Brooker confirmed that this feeling was wholly accurate, stating that "each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they're all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes' time if we're clumsy.” But what if the situations in Black Mirror weren’t actually predictions? What if they were actually Brooker taking storylines literally straight from real life?
1. Season 3, Episode 3: Shut Up and Dance
One of the creepiest episodes of Black Mirror was Shut Up and Dance which saw computer hackers spying through a teenager’s webcam and blackmailing him when they find out that he’s been watching child pornography. While we would all hope that it is a myth that hackers can watch us through our phones and laptops, the reality is a lot more terrifying.
In fact, the US Justice Department’s website tells of "sextortionist" Luis Mijangos, a 32-year-old hacker who terrified teenage girls from his home. Mijangos would search his victims’ computers for sexually explicit photos and then engage in psychological games, threatening to publish the intimate photos on social media if they didn’t give into his demands for videos or photos of sex acts.
2. Season 3, Episode 5: Men Against Fire
In Men Against Fire, soldiers must protect terrified villagers from an infestation of vicious feral mutants known as “roaches”. But after killing two of them one day, a soldier starts to feel strange and is shocked to witness his fellow soldiers murdering innocent civilians. Eventually it is revealed that an implant in his head causes him to see ordinary people as gruesome mutants and to interpret their peaceful actions as violent in order to make the act of killing them more tolerable.
The unsettling episode is somewhat reminiscent of the face swap technology currently available on Snapchat and other social media sites. In fact, a team of researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg are working on a program that lets you take over the face of anyone in a video clip, convincingly manipulating a video.
3. Season 2, Episode 1: Be Right Back
The opener of season two tells the story of Martha, a young woman whose boyfriend Ash is tragically killed in a car accident. But, as she starts to mourn him, she discovers that technology now allows her to communicate with an artificial intelligence that imitates him, eventually becoming completely obsessed with it and developing Ash in the next phase of the program, an android.
The idea of being able to talk to your loved one after death is one that’s becoming incredibly real in this day and age; there are currently several websites which promise to produce digital versions of our personalities, using anything you’d ever posted to social media, your thoughts and smartphone pictures, so that our friends and relatives are able to talk to us online after our deaths. Is the next step an android?
4. Season 1, Episode 3: The Entire History of You
The Black Mirror series features some scarily dystopian ideas and in the final episode of the first season, every human has a grain implanted behind their ear that records everything they see and hear. But this new invention causes trouble when Liam begins to suspect that his wife Fion is cheating on him. At the end of the episode, he forces his wife to play back a memory of her having sex with another man and catches her out in.
As hard as it is to comprehend, in 2014 Sony actually began work on a contact lens that would record and play back videos. According to reports, the smart lens is capable of using the movements of the eyelids to activate various functions in the contact lens, meaning that we could soon be reliving moments in our day just like Liam and Fion.
5. Season 3, Episode 1: Nosedive
Nosedive sees Lacie Pound live in a world where everyone can rate each other’s interactions from one to five stars. Audiences watch as the former 4.2’s approval rating hits rock bottom after she accepts a free smoothie from a workmate, causes a scene on a flight and makes a fool of herself at a highly rated childhood friend’s wedding, ending up in jail.
The rating system is similar to that employed by Uber however, while it’s hard to believe, an actual system of social credit scoring has been proposed in China. The government is reportedly planning on implementing a system that connects citizens' financial, social, political and legal credit ratings into one big social trustability score, the idea being that if someone breaks trust in one area, they'd be majorly affected everywhere else. If they have a lower score, they face harsh penalties including not being able to run for public office, being shut out of higher-starred hotels and restaurants and not getting a bed in overnight trains.
So, are you feeling a little worried now you know that, rather than just being inspired by reality, the creators of Black Mirror instead mimicked real life to a tee? Having seen the fates of the characters involved, I know I’m feeling less than comfortable.