Several years after the first season, Black Mirror is now a consolidated phenomenon that everyone is waiting for whenever a new season is coming. And it’s also a natural istinct to deepen the episodes once you see them for the first time, to be sure that we didn’t miss the important messages about the risks and threats of technology and progress. As a matter of fact, the meaning of the whole idea behind Black Mirror is precisely this: to explore the effect of technology on our perception of the world and of ourselves.
After the release of the fifth season, there were two episodes that prompted viewers to investigate the meanings: Striking Vipers and Smithereens. Let’s see together the meanings of the endings of the two episodes.
Striking Vipers, first episode of the Black Mirror‘s fifth season, uses the topic of 3D video games to deepen the virtual reality and the way it affects us, after we abandon ourselves to a fictitious dimension to satisfy the desires that we cannot reach in the real life. Specifically, the protagonist of the episode is Danny, a husband with a wife (Theo) and a son. By chance, he discovers the incredible sensations of having virtual sex in a 3D video game – sensations that he can’t feel with his wife and that constitute an irresistible temptation.
After several attempts to hide the thing, in the episode ending the protagonist confesses everything to his wife. The final scene shows the way the couple managed the common problem of the unsatisfied needs without getting divorced: every year, for Danny’s birthday, his wife allows him an evening inside the video game, at the condition that she can spend pass a night without wedding ring, so open to flirt with other men. A way to openly admit that both have desires that the other cannot satisfy, a compromise that offers a solution that can limit the effects of the problem.
The second episode deals with the effects of social networks and the addictions they trigger, telling the story of a man who, as it turns out in his final telephone conversation, caused a car accident and the death of his girlfriend due to a quick check at the smartphone, in order to read notifications. The reference to today’s role of Facebook or Twitter and to the figure of Billy Bauer as alter ego of Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey is evident.
In the end of the episode, the policemen shoot and kill the protagonist, who had kidnapped a hostage in order to talk to Billy Bauer. The shot, however, is followed by images in which users from all over the world apathetically scroll the notifications in their smartphones, devoting little energy to everyday life. A way to raise attention to the loss of meaning that the virtual world can bring, even in the face of tragic events such as those told on screen.
Both episodes therefore try to warn about the damaging effects that virtual realities can have in real life: taking energy away from us, creating fictitious needs, distracting us from important things, making us lose sight of our true life goals. It is Black Mirror‘s way of making us reflect bitterly and pessimistically about what we risk living life passively, giving up to technology without using the right amount of common sense.