Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Black Mirror, Season 2: almost everybody just became onlookers who don't give a shit about what happens

see also: Black Mirror - season 1

02х02 Be Right Back

Martha is devastated when her partner Ash is killed in a road accident on the day they planned to move to a country cottage...

• A service called "That can be my next tweet!" has existed since 2013 that will analyze your twitter stream and attempt to create a tweet that you could have written.

• Journalist Adam Ostrow gave a TED talk on this very subject in July of 2011. "Adam Ostrow - After your final status update."

Sarah: I can sign you up to something that helps. It helped me. It will let you speak to him. I know he's dead, but it wouldn't work if he wasn't. And don't worry, it's not some crazy spiritual thing. He was a heavy user, he'd be perfect... I mean, it's still in beta, but I've got an invite... You won't have to do anything, I'll just sign you up... You click the link and you talk to it.
Martha: You talk to it?
Sarah: You type messages in, like an e-mail, and then it talks back to you, just like he would.
Martha: He's dead.

Sarah: It's software. It mimics him. You give it someone's name. It goes back and reads through all the things they've ever said online, their Facebook updates, their Tweets, anything public. I just gave it Ash's name. The system did the rest. It's so clever.
Martha: It's...sick. It's sick!

Sarah: Just say hello to it. If you like it, you then give it access to his private emails. The more it has, the more it's him.
Martha: It won't be...
Sarah: No, it's not. But it helps.

Martha: Jump.
Ash copy: What? Over there? I never expressed suicidal thoughts, or self-harm.
Martha: Yeah, well, you aren't you, are you?

Ash copy: That's another difficult one, to be honest with you.
Martha: You're just a few ripples of you. There's no history to you. You're just a performance of stuff that he performed without thinking, and it's not enough.

02x02 White Bear

When Victoria wakes up in a chair to find she can't recall anything about her life, she quickly learns that she is in a world where almost everyone appears to be either a psychopath or a voyeur. However, the truth to be far darker than she ever could have imagined.

[My fave episode of “Black mirror” series so far. In places reminds “Invitation to a Beheading” by Vladimir Nabokov.]

Jem: The onlookers sometimes wait in the windows, keeping lookout. I'm pretty sure that's how they find us. Through the cameras somehow. Onlookers spot you and a few minutes later the scary bastards turn up.
Victoria: This is mad, this is just mad!

Jem: Hold it together and do what I say or you'll get us killed.
Victoria: I... I woke up in this house and I don't even know if it's my house. I don't even know who I am.
Jem: You must know something.
Victoria: There was pills.

Jem: I don't blame you. Lots have tried that fun fork in the road since it started. They did something to people. Like, almost everybody just became onlookers, started watching, filming stuff, like spectators who don't give a shit about what happens. That's, like, nine out of ten people now.

From a review, via

"Charlie Brooker based this particular episode of Black Mirror on an incident that occurred during the filming of Dead Set. While a particularly nasty moment was being filmed, he witnessed some people recording the scene on their mobile phones and found that scarier than what was actually being put into the programme.
[…] From the reviews and feedback I have read so far, it would seem that "White Bear" might end up being the most misunderstood of the Black Mirror episodes so far. Some people have felt satisfaction at the ending (don't worry, no spoilers here) and some people have commented that Brooker is clearly asking us to stop living our lives through screens and viewfinders.

Only a few have mentioned the way in which the episode looks at mob mentality, heightened in the internet age to a terrifying degree, and the bloodlust for more and more "fitting" forms of punishment. There are also, of course, the usual questions asked about what people look for in their entertainment - from the gladiator battles of Rome to the humiliating rejections from The X Factor - but it could be argued that "White Bear" packs even more ideas and hot topics into its runtime than any of the preceding episodes. Yet another phenomenal episode of a phenomenal series".

02x03 The Waldo Moment

Jamie Salter, a failed comedian who has found unwanted success by performing the voice and movements (via performance capture) of a blue cartoon bear named Waldo, reluctantly agrees to allow his character to stand in an upcoming by-election. What begins as a piece of harmless fun however soon spirals out of control.

Trivia: In robotics terms, a waldo is a device that allows a machine or computer image to be controlled by a hand operated device, such as the one that is used to control Waldo the Bear.

Jeff Carter: You look at human politicians, you're instinctively like, "brrrr" - uncanny, right? Waldo bypasses that. You already know he's not real, so no personal flaws.
Jamie Salter: I'm a person.

Jeff Carter: With respect, Waldo's more than you. He's a team, and you're open about that, which is fantastic. The honesty thing works. Waldo is a construct people not just accept but embrace. At the moment he's anti-politics, which is a political stance itself, right? But he could deliver any brand of political content, minus the potential downsides of a human messenger. In a debate, your team could Google every word the other guy says, then let Waldo hit him with debunk stats and spit a Twitter-ready zinger into the next sentence. He's the perfect assassin.
Jamie Salter: We won't win, though.

Jeff Carter: You guys are so British! No, of course he won't win. You started out too coarse off the bat. There's no substantial basis to what you offer, and the whole nihilist "democracy sucks" thing, yeah, is kind of wack-a-doo, but with a targeted, hopeful message, which we can provide, energizing the disenfranchised without spooking the middle via your new platform... You got a global political-entertainment product people actually want. You could roll this out worldwide.
Jamie Salter: Like Pringles.
Jeff Carter: Absolutely.

An extract from comment (via

Directed by Bryn Higgins and written (as most of the episodes are) by Charlie Brooker, "The Waldo Moment" shows just what can happen if a void in society is filled by something that can be made into a powerful brand, made to deliver any message that people in power want it to and made to seem harmless and fun when it has the potential for real harm. It also has more to it, more than I could write cogently about here, and there is still enough worthwhile ideas packed into the episode to make it worth a watch and worthy of being included alongside the other tales.

see also: Season 3
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