Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Black Mirror: What's the Point? (SPOILERS) – Wisecrack Quick Take

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Hey guys, Jared here and today were diving back in to Black Mirror.

The fourth season of this modern Twilight Zone just dropped on Netflix, and with it

some truly thought-provoking episodes including a loving homage to Star Trek, an Apache among

helicopter parents and a rather utopian alternative to Tinder.

In the wake of season threes super popular San Junipero the show has traded its trademark

pessimism for a slightly more positive tone, injecting a measure of justice and happiness

previously unseen in the series.

But its in the season finale where the show does something drastically different.

Black Museum not only provides the high concept technological nightmare weve come to expect,

but reflects on the legacy and function of the show as a whole.

Black Museum asks: What is even the purpose of Black Mirror?

Welcome to this Wisecrack Edition on the Philosophy of Black Museum.

And obviously- Spoilers ahead.

The episode follows a young woman named Nish as shes given a private tour by proprietor

Rolo Haynes of the eponymous Black Museum, a seeming tourist trap that houses a collection

ofauthentic criminological artifacts.”

Viewers will be sure to spot a number of prominent props from past episodes including the DNA

analyzer from USS Callister, the parental control pad from Arkangel, the bloody bathtub

from Crocodile, and even the strange symbol-marked ski-masks from White Bear.

These are more than easter eggs.

Theyre visual clues to the viewer that Black Museum is a metatextual reflection of

the show itself.

The artifacts it contains serve as physical representations of the episodes they appeared

in, and even the name Black Museum is deliberately evocative of the shows title, Black Mirror.

Like the holiday special White Christmas, Black Museum is an anthology within an anthology,

with three separate subplots loosely connected by Rolo Haynesnarration.

In utilizing this same anthology structure, Black Museum is mirroring the format of Black Mirror.

But if the exhibits in the background represent past episodes, what do the three new gadgets

Dr. Dawsons symphatic diagnoser, the Monkey stuffed with Carries consciousness,

and Clayton Leighs holographic holding cellrepresent?

Each item is an interface for human consciousness; a more direct means of what television and

social media already do today.

These fictional items represent the different ways our current technology both connects

- and disconnects - us as a society.

Dawsons implant connects him and his patients, signaling their sensations to him via the

hairnet-looking headgear.

The upload which inserts Carries mind into the back seat of Jacks brain allows her

to see and feel as he does.

And the thin screen separating Claytons consciousness from the museums visitors

creates emotional distance akin to the distance between fictional characters and desensitized audiences.

Dawsons subplot comments on mediaability to let us empathize with characters and experience

thrills without any physical ramifications.

Jack and Carries story reflects medias ability to turn us into voyeurs, Claytons

story reflects on the guilt-free gratification we get from consuming violence in media.

In all of these cases, technology allows individuals to experience things vicariously.

This episode dramatizes what all fiction generally does, and what Black Mirror as a television

program does specifically.

All fiction is delivered to us via a mediumin the case of Black Mirror, through television

Television itself is, in Rolos words, "a receiver for human experiences."

And one that often, as Rolo says, offers:

With a particularly compelling show like Black Mirror, we become increasingly invested, and

share in the same sense of joy in San Junipero as Kelly and Yorkie, the same indignation

as Bing in Fifteen Million Merits; the same initial prejudices and gradual awakening as

Stripe in Men Against Fire.

For philosopher Martha Nussbaum, this kind of connection is emblematic of narratives

role in one's moral development.

Narratives, according to Nussbaum, free us from the parochial confines of our own lives

and places us in a position both like and unlike our own.

Like, in that we are emotionally involved with the characters, active with them, and

aware of our incompleteness; unlike, in that we are free of certain sources of distortion

that frequently impede our real-life deliberations.”

For example, Take, a character like Bing in 15 Million Merits.

His love for Abi might remind us of our own lives, but, unlike Bing, we're not sent on

a downward spiral when that love is lost, yet we can still experience it from a distance...

Black Museum, however, explores the danger of this distancing effect through Dr. Dawsons

subplot, and it is here that the episode looks at the potentially desensitizing nature of

the seriesown violent imagery.

In a series which premiered with the Prime Minister of Britain fucking a pig, maintaining

that same sense of shock requires increasingly more shocking scenes.

Thus they need to surprise audiences in Shut Up and Dance by revealing that the protagonist

theyd been rooting for had been in to kiddy porn.

"What did you do Kenny? They're saying it's kids...that you've been looking at kids?!"

Only to be topped in the subsequent season in Crocodile as experience an average human being transition from

innocence to infanticide.

"Who kills a baby?"

Per Rolo as the show progressed, ourrelationship with pain had shifted.”

Were not merely desensitized to the violence on screen, we take a twisted kind of pleasure

in the discomfort it inflicts upon us.

But Black Museum is ultimately not apologetic for engaging in such extreme emotions, arguing

through its third subplot that the show is not empty sensationalism, but rather has a

purpose motivating it.

In the main exhibit of the Black Museum, we see what remains of Clayton Leigh, the alleged

murderer whose arrest and execution had been alluded to throughout the episode.

Like Carrie in the monkey, his consciousness continues on even after the expiration of

his physical body, albeit this time as a self-aware hologram..

As the museums grand attraction , visitors are invited to pull the switch themselves,

not merely inflicting real torture on this Leigh, but in the process creating a sentient

souvenir, that eternally experiences the moment of execution.

Similar to White Christmas in which the cookie of Joe is confined to a virtual cabin for

what he experiences as hundreds of thousands of years, its the the punishment made perpetual

that most offends our innate sense of proportionality; even had he committed the crime, no finite

offense could merit infinite punishment.

As such, the show forces us to empathize with one character who may be a murderer, and another

absolutely guilty of man-slaughtering a child on Christmas.

We dont merely feel bad for them; from the safe distance of our side of the screen,

we feel their pain with them.

Likewise, we feel a sense of vindication when our audience-surrogate Nishrevealed to

be Claytons daughter and carrying her mother inside her headenacts retribution against Rolo.

Its not just that Nish seeing the suffering of her father or hearing the story of Carrie

engendered empathy in her; its that such empathy then motivated her to moral action.

This is Black Museums statement about how Black Mirror sees itself and its purpose.

It is not desensitizing spectacle and empty entertainment.

Its not even a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology; after all, the same

mind-sharing method which caused Jack so much grief is shown as being beneficial to Nish

and her mother.

Rather, Black Mirror sees itself as serving the same role as a long line of literature

and science-fiction shows which connect us emotionally to their characters in order to

engender empathy and in turn encourage us to enact justice.

In the episode Arkangel, our empathic attachment to the constantly-surveilled Sara is supposed

to incite us against similarBig Mothersurveillance systems pervading our lives.

Or in the episode Metalhead, our investment in Bellas survival against what is essentially

Boston Dynamics Big Dog invites us to scrutinize the militarization of autonomous machines.

In all these cases, Black Mirror is able to raise our concerns for these societal issues

as effectively as it does only because it first causes us to care for the characters

its crafted.

Black Museum is the whole of the show Black Mirror distilled down to a single episode,

preserving the same content, the same format, and most importantly, the same purpose: to

see ourselves reflected in the black mirror that is our television screen or smart phone,

engaging empathically with the characters were connected to by that screen, and by

doing so expanding our moral imagination and motivating us towards justice.

Thanks for watching guys. Hope you enjoyed season 4! And as always, peace!

The Description of Black Mirror: What's the Point? (SPOILERS) – Wisecrack Quick Take