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Black Mirror


Nick R
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I like the drug being called, simply, 'compliance'.

I felt this had the tone of a horror film, actually. It's horrible.

Cuppliance, even - it's commercialised and made all cuddly by marketing.

It's the little details that make 15 Million Merits so great, I think. Stuff like the shard being adopted as a purchasable item for doppels, all that. I also like how the girl who was snubbed by Bing at the start is pretty much the most sympathetic character in the whole thing, and is something of a vessel for the viewers' emotions.

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I just watched 15 million and would go so far as to say it had a powerful emotional effect on me, I could feel my heart breaking when the girl had to strip with all the viewers shouting encouragement. A powerful statement about the sexual bias of the media combined with crowd mentality.

I saw a few parallels with Brave New World, openly commercialised and encouraged (rather than furtive) sex, obsession with constant activity, main character wanting to feel something 'real' instead of some packaged emotion.

I'm very grateful to have some good thought provoking shows on TV recently.

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& another thing that makes it all the more awesome. Didn't kinnie present for the x factor for a bit? Ha good on her!

I liked the female judges comment about singers reaching saturation point. Again very true of x factor. So I guess porn factor will be next...

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I'm not sure If I remember it correctly, but at the point where a tear rolls down the girls face as the audition ends, did the judge also have a tear running down her face? Perhaps I didn't see correctly.

I think so but I read that as faux joy that she accepted to be a porn star. I saw no redeeming features in any of the judges at any stage at all.

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It's one of the few shows I can think of where I'm gutted the lead didn't kill himself.

Yeah, I remember thinking 'I hope he kills himself on this stage' but I don't think I had actually registered how weird that feeling is.

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I think so but I read that as faux joy that she accepted to be a porn star. I saw no redeeming features in any of the judges at any stage at all.

Just re watched that part, yes you are right, perhaps I was looking for a redeeming feature.

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It's slightly creepy because of its plausibility.

I don't think anything in the story is actually plausible (no more so than the PM fucking a pig), but it magnifies things in the real world to horrific effect.

While I was watching I thought, "The first guy in real life who decided to put unskippable adverts without a volume slider at the start of online video content... the very first guy... the one in the creative media wanker's meeting who was the first to voice that idea... he's at the root of all this." :)

Well, that, and lots of other advertising ideas that could turn into monstrosities in Charlie Brooker's world.

Actually, perhaps it is plausible. What a logical conclusion: "Pay to skip this advert". The only thing stopping people from implementing it today is that it's not convenient enough to be charged for such a thing. But in a future where your credit is directly linked to your always-online profile? Sure. And we'd do it. We'd pay a few pennies to skip the advert.

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I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of the pig fucking episode but this one was one of the best things I've seen on TV in aaaaages.

I'm not sure If I remember it correctly, but at the point where a tear rolls down the girls face as the audition ends, did the judge also have a tear running down her face? Perhaps I didn't see correctly.

I thought the female judge was upset at the misogynitic behaviour of her co-panel but knew that if she said anything they'd get rid of her, illustrated by some of her little glances and expressions when the talk turned to porn. I actually thought the ending was going to disappear down the U-bend when Bing did his big speech as it started off just like a transcript of a Charlie Brooker column but once he began speaking about Abi and doing the fuck you thing I got goosebumps.

I like this series, it is TV with ideas behind it, drama with ambition above the narrative level and it's really well made to boot. More please. Oh look, there's another one on next week. Yay!

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The point isn't that there isn't some inspiration there, the point is about how this powerful performance can only be described with a reference to some other thing thought to be similar.

Just a quick note on this, as i see the conversation is rightly moving on. But I don't think it's fair to say that it's the only way it can be described. Also I don't I think referencing another performance diminishes or devalues the original.

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The last third of the episode struck me as. 'No matter the idealism that people have, they will happily trade it in for the good life (even if it isn't as green as one would expect)

Bing wanted to show the stark reality of how the world was, but given the choice of making a real statement, or taking the easy road, for the 'easy' life. He chose that instead.

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The last shot, in your opinion:

TVs or windows?

My vote's on the latter. The ultimate irony about the hellish situation they're in, with only virtual things to consume and trade, is that it's actually pretty good for the environment.

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I don't understand what they were pedaling for. Some future horror world where the environment is sucked dry of resources and people need to pedal for power? That's a lot of TVs for one miserable future-man to generate though. Maybe it's just pointless toil for nothing at all other than control I guess. Who does the merits they were spending benefit? Is that just another control device to apply fake worth to things? Or maybe it doesn't matter because that wasn't the point.

Someone help my shit mind get the point. Smitty?

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I don't understand what they were pedaling for. Some future horror world where the environment is sucked dry of resources and people need to pedal for power? That's a lot of TVs for one miserable future-man to generate though. Maybe it's just pointless toil for nothing at all other than control I guess. Who does the merits they were spending benefit? Is that just another control device to apply fake worth to things? Or maybe it doesn't matter because that wasn't the point.

The pedalling may be a comment on how pointless and demotivational most occupations are in the 21st century. Nobody has a craft any more, nobody takes pride in their work any more. So why don't we all just pedal a bike all day to power the national grid? It's about as fulfilling as what most of us already do. It's the extreme example of people toiling all day in a shoe shop whilst dreaming of "meeting the judges" and elevating themselves out of their shitty lives. Take away the shoe shop and you've got bikes... a literally meaningless grind.

I took the "merits" system as a reference to the Gamerscore on Xbox consoles, where some people will honestly work their arses off to get all 1000 achievement points for each game they play. And what have they really done? They've pushed light around on a screen to see a number go up higher. Unlike a game's hiscore - which can at least be valued against other players - the Xbox Gamerscore is a useless arbitrary number. Mine is around 50,000 -- but can you tell whether I played 50 games expertly, or or 80 games averagely? Or whether I have played Xbox intensely for a couple of years or leisurely for nearly a decade? The gamerscore is pointless nonsense, yet there are people right now grinding in games to get that last Achievement.

I think Brooker took this to its logical conclusion: at least if they were pedalling an exercise bike, they could be generating some electricity! And what can the electricity power? More entertainment!

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Yeah, I could see the parrallels in the mindless toil, I just couldn't see what benefit it really was to the world they were living in. Though maybe that's the point. I was going to say I don't see why Wraith and co are so keen to have everyone spend their merits on their shows as I don't understand what they would use them for but more meaningless tat, but I guess, again, that's the point.

So... Bing was a replicant?

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Pedalling for power is nonsense - it's massively inefficient to grow food, feed people and then use the energy they use on a bicycle. It's probably a prison of some kind - but then this is good sci-fi so it doesn't need to stand up to scrunity.

One of the big ideas of the 20th century was that consumerism can be used to distract the masses away from extreme branches of politics (like communism and facism) by offering people gratificaiton in small doses. Brooker has just taken this idea to the extreme. The people therefore are prisoners, and so are we if we buy totally into the myth of consumerism.

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There was a program on bbc 2 a while ago where they tried to power a house with cycliepower. They had 80 people continously cycling and they just about managed it, albeit at one point the draw was too much and everything failed. They replicated a standard detached house with 2 adults and 2 kids. So it's not vastly out of the realms of possibility. Arguably the cycling could be extrapolated as a visual metaphor for the 10% idea/rat race/ daily grind.

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I just saw the pedalling as a way of keeping everyone busy/subdued, everything around them was a carrot on a stick.

They probably were generating power to keep the war going on the surface or whatever, but in this future, they may have invented this dynamo that can generate silly amounts of power through slight physical movement. I think this sort of philip k dick style sci-fi allegory is more about the ideas and the symbolism and stuff so I wouldn't let the technicalities and real world physics make a plot hole. You have to suspend your disbelief to a certain point.

Absolutely..I saw the bikes as a metaphor for the eternal drudgery of work.

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I don't think anything in the story is actually plausible (no more so than the PM fucking a pig), but it magnifies things in the real world to horrific effect.

Oh, come on. It's mostly just an amplification of current trends.

Your whole room being a TV is implausible? Unskippable ads is implausible? I could go on.

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The last shot, in your opinion:

TVs or windows?

My vote's on the latter. The ultimate irony about the hellish situation they're in, with only virtual things to consume and trade, is that it's actually pretty good for the environment.

They looked like TV screens to me.

I imagine at that point it barely matters to Bing.

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Thought Tea Leaf's monologue was a bit too... written. And too obviously pointmaking. Dude's an amazing actor though, smashed it out of the park. And the whole thing just kind of worked, in spite of the obvious reference points and the heavy-handedness. Some of the details like the unskippable adverts were grimly believable.

And the ending was great.

I initially thought he was gonna try and kill the judges, but when it became clear what he was actually doing I kinda guessed where it would go. But it was still the perfect ending, especially the way you could still sympathise with Bing even as he sold himself out. What else could he have done?

That's been my general opinion of both episodes: not perfect, but they managed to transcend their limitations and their obvious parable nature much better than I would've expected, and achieved something close to genuine profundity. I actually didn't have much faith in Brooker to pull it off but he's really made something special here.

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Oh, come on. It's mostly just an amplification of current trends.

Your whole room being a TV is implausible? Unskippable ads is implausible? I could go on.

Good thing you didn't go on, because most things past what you mentioned were actually implausible, weren't they?

At the very least once you'd got to "everyone lives in a few small rooms and apparently has to pedal an exercise bike their whole lives for some reason to earn some sort of money to spend in a very spurious economy". You'd be at pretty implausible then.

I'm not criticising the show. It's presenting a skewed look at the modern world to make some points. That's what it's trying to do. But that doesn't make it in any way a prediction of things to come, except maybe in the absolute broadest sense.

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