Joan is Awful explained: how does StreamBerry work?

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Black Mirror returns with Season 6 in June 2023, and obviously, it immediately became one of the most significant events in the world of TV and streaming. Every episode introduced a new pessimistic version of the future waiting for us; every story needs a dedicated analysis to have its plot and ending explained. In this article, we will talk about Episode 1, Joan is Awful, how the StreamBerry service works in the TV show, and if this could really happen in the future.

You can watch the official trailer for Black Mirror Season 6 here on Youtube.

Black Mirror Season 6, Joan is Awful plot & ending explained: how does Streamberry work?

In Episode 1 of Black Mirror Season 6, Joan is Awful, we follow the daily life of a woman, Joan. We see her going to work and firing another employee, following instructions from the company board. We also see her secretly meeting and kissing her ex-boyfriend, then returning home to her current fiancée. Together, they open the streaming service StreamBerry, an apparent reference to Netflix itself, finding a new show called Joan is Awful. To their surprise, the series shows a dramatic version of what really happened in Joan’s life, portraying her as a more evil character but essentially repeating the actual events of her days.

After the initial shock, Joan talks to her lawyer, and that’s where we discover how the streaming service Streamberry works and how it makes that possible: as a StreamBerry subscriber, Joan accepted the lengthy terms and conditions of the service without reading them. In that agreement, she basically allowed StreamBerry to develop a show based on her, with a possible dramatization of the events. The show is created by artificial intelligence in the “quamputer,” a mysterious quantum computer located at the StreamBerry headquarters. StreamBerry app on Joan’s phone keeps listening to what happens to the real Joan, then produces a CGI show that offers a dramatized version of her life. The actress playing her is not the real Salma Hayek: in the show, the Mexican actress also agreed to allow StreamBerry to use their face and develop shows where a digital representation of her portrays characters.

When Joan is Awful gets closer to its ending, we have a plot twist that needs to be explained: the reality we are watching is not actual. The version of Joan we’ve been watching so far is already a CGI representation of the actual Joan. In the Black Mirror episode, we watch the first level of the simulation, where the actress Annie Murphy interprets Joan. Salma Hayek is the actress chosen for level 2 of the simulation, and Cate Blanchett was chosen for level 3. The events we see are happening in all the simulation levels. That’s why the Joan we follow in the episode decides to break the “quamputer,” although it could “kill” her (since it’s a simulation): she understood that the source Joan is already doing the same in the real world, so it’s not her decision. All simulations needed to be destroyed, and she would eventually die as well.

When Joan destroys the quamputer, we get to see the only reality that remains valid: the one with the real source Joan. In that reality, Jaon teamed up with the actress who gave her face for level 1 of the simulation, Annie Murphy. Both Annie and Joan are arrested because they broke the law by destroying the quantum computer: this implies that the conduct of the streaming service StreamBerry was actually lawful. Joan will continue her life under house arrest, she will open her own coffee shop, and Annie (also on house arrest) will become a friend and a regular customer.

StreamBerry service explained: can it really happen in future?

Part of the success of Black Mirror comes from the fact that it really touches on topics that one day could become actual with the progress of technology. So besides having doubts about how the plot & the ending of Joan is Awful can be explained, people have wondered: can a streaming service like StreamBerry, which records what happens to you through your phone and creates an AI-generated show based on your life, really be a thing in the future?

Technology will surely be able to do that, yes. Our phones can “listen” to what we say, and theoretically, they can “watch” us through the camera. The possibility that the apps are already doing that to drive advertisement has yet to be proven in real life, but it’s definitely technically possible. And soon enough, artificial intelligence will be advanced enough to generate a show like Joan is Awful as quickly as we see in Black Mirror. As of 2023, AI hasn’t reached that progress state yet (we had proof by seeing the poor results of AI-generated commercials available today), but we also know that the capabilities of artificial intelligence improve day after day.

What’s unlikely is that a streaming service can lawfully define this kind of behavior as part of its terms & conditions. There are universal rights that every human have, like the ones related to privacy and dignity, and those cannot be overruled by just accepting the terms and conditions of any service. Therefore, if the law keeps its focus on protecting human rights, it’s very unlikely that what we see in Joan is Awful could really happen in the future.

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