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Black Mirror


Nick R
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I'm not saying it in a grandiose way. It's just a matter of fact: Saturday evening telly is not designed to make you think or expand your mind. It's candy. It's non-nourishing. Candy's fine as long as it's not the only thing you eat; but what would happen if shallow entertainment television was all you could watch? Culture would die. That's one of the points considered in 15 Million Merits.

I think it's mostly hollow, shallow, and lacking anything that makes music "alive". The careers of the contestants speak for themselves -- a Christmas single, a year of deeply mediocre ballads, then obscurity. Even the audience that laps up this shit doesn't want to buy it for long. Why? Because it's fairly bad music.

"Indier-than-thou"? Why did you feel the need to say that? Actually think about it. You're so contradictory. You talk about Charlie Brooker like you hate him for trying to look intellectual... but then you trot out all your literary knowledge. You defend people's right to be fully satisfied by candy entertainment... but then you suggest that I should not engage with you until I have read a particular book. You say The X-Factor is real music... but with the authority of an "indie" musician. This is why you look like a troll.

You continue to prove that you didn't understand or digest the programme we're discussing. There's no conspiracy theory. TV executives don't have a diabolical plan to kill culture. The scary point is that it's just naturally happening. The dystopia of 15 Million Merits was probably not crafted by an evil overlord -- it is just the natural consequence of a thousand entertainment services that grew more monstrous until they took over.

It's so strange that you take it personally. I don't share your observations: I think Brooker has nearly always been on the ball. If he attacks something, he makes valid arguments to justify the attack. If he suggests that people are dumb to watch something, he explains what makes people watch it. I think his Screenwipe and Newswipe shows were very informative and well-written (although I have an education in media already, so I was mostly just nodding along). I really don't understand your criticisms.

Point 1. Nonsensical elitist bollocks.

Point 2. Massively nonsensical elitist bollocks.

Point 3. I made it clear i'm an Independent musician as you keep talking as though anyone who likes mainstream music or the X-Factor is a moron who doesn't know any better. Nonsensical elitist bollocks.

Point 4. Its you who sounds like a conspiracy theorist, with all this daft as a brush X-Factor rots your mind arse. That's what i was trying to get across. You then tell me i've failed to understand the show. Elitist bollocks.

Point 5. I think 15 Million Merits is a dark comedy/drama in the vein of Chris Morris' work. Its got some nice ideas, its well shot, some decent acting, but the humour is weak and the jokes fall totally flat, and its not half as clever as it thinks it is. Its nowhere near as original, intelligent, inventive, funny and daring as something like Four Lions. View it as anything more than a dark comedy/drama and it completely falls apart. What do you not understand about that?

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A few observations:

1. I think some people may be overstating the level of profundity in these shows, but then I think fiction's capability to express profound messages is often exaggerated anyway. That's not to say that fiction can't communicate anything, or be powerful in that regard, but the communication is always going to be very limited in depth compared to more direct, non-fictional forms of writing, and thus it typically only lends itself to expressing very simple ideas (or if it does express complex ideas, it can only express simplified versions of them).

2. What this means is that Aspel criticising this show while seemingly holding up 1984 and Brave New World as containing incredibly profound philosophical messages is rather stupid. 1984 and Brave New World were better stories than 15 Million Merits, but their messages are little more profound than what 15 Million Merits has to say -- they're on a very similar level, with all of them many rungs below actual theory.

3. I think Brooker himself would agree with my first point, and would be the first to admit that these shows are not as profound as many people think they are. He's a self-depreciating kind of person, as it is. This makes Aspel's arguments seem even more stupid, since Brooker would be the last to claim that his shows are incredibly profound, subversive pieces of work, let alone that he is some kind of "authentic" voice that stands apart from consumerism.

4. If people are interested in some of the ideas 15 Million Merits raises, particularly things like how capitalism co-opts protest and resistance back into the system, and whether there can in fact be any "authentic" resistance, I'd recommend reading some of Baudrillard's work, especially The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. His obscurantist language can take some work to decode, but with some effort, you should find it very illuminating.

Oh, and for the record, I enjoyed the episode, probably more than the first week's. Best British drama we've had in awhile.

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A few observations:

1. I think some people may be overstating the level of profundity in these shows, but then I think fiction's capability to express profound messages is often exaggerated anyway. That's not to say that fiction can't communicate anything, or be powerful in that regard, but the communication is always going to be very limited in depth compared to more direct, non-fictional forms of writing, and thus it typically only lends itself to expressing very simple ideas (or if it does express complex ideas, it can only express simplified versions of them).

2. What this means is that Aspel criticising this show while seemingly holding up 1984 and Brave New World as containing incredibly profound philosophical messages is rather stupid. 1984 and Brave New World were better stories than 15 Million Merits, but their messages are little more profound than what 15 Million Merits has to say -- they're on a very similar level, with all of them many rungs below actual theory.

3. I think Brooker himself would agree with my first point, and would be the first to admit that these shows are not as profound as many people think they are. He's a self-depreciating kind of person, as it is. This makes Aspel's arguments seem even more stupid, since Brooker would be the last to claim that his shows are incredibly profound, subversive pieces of work, let alone that he is some kind of "authentic" voice that stands apart from consumerism.

4. If people are interested in some of the ideas 15 Million Merits raises, particularly things like how capitalism co-opts protest and resistance back into the system, and whether there can in fact be any "authentic" resistance, I'd recommend reading some of Baudrillard's work, especially The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. His obscurantist language can take some work to decode, but with some effort, you should find it very illuminating.

Oh, and for the record, I enjoyed the episode, probably more than the first week's. Best British drama we've had in awhile.

Point 1. Its partly what i've been saying all along. Its just a dark comedy/drama. A bit of entertainment. In that respect its no different to the X-Factor or watching Eastenders.

Point 2. I don't agree. I'm not a fan of Brave New World as a story, 1984's doomed romance is far superior in that regard. However the concepts and issues they deal with are are based on reality. Existentialism, human nature, how regimes/governments/societies function etc.

Point 3. Charlie Brooker would be agreeing with both me and you then, as that's exactly what i'm saying. Its just a dark comedy/drama, its clearly meant to be absurd, not an incredible, artistic, meaningful statement on modern day life. He's just taking the piss out of stuff he thinks he's above, at the same time as being part of that system. That's were it starts to grate with me.

Point 4. I'd recommend people reading Brave New World Revisted if they've not already done so. Its a look at the world, governments, media, individuals, etc and seeing what 1984 and Brave New World got right and wrong in their predictions of a possible future, and what may or may not happen further on in time. I'd also recommend one of Aldous Huxley's other books where he's out of his tree on Acid.

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Point 1. Its partly what i've been saying all along. Its just a dark comedy/drama. A bit of entertainment. In that respect its no different to the X-Factor or watching Eastenders.

Point 2. I don't agree. I'm not a fan of Brave New World as a story, 1984's doomed romance is far superior in that regard. However the concepts and issues they deal with are are based on reality. Existentialism, human nature, how regimes/governments/societies function etc.

Point 3. Charlie Brooker would be agreeing with both me and you then, as that's exactly what i'm saying. Its just a dark comedy/drama, its clearly meant to be absurd, not an incredible, artistic, meaningful statement on modern day life. He's just taking the piss out of stuff he thinks he's above, at the same time as being part of that system. That's were it starts to grate with me.

Point 4. I'd recommend people reading Brave New World Revisted if they've not already done so. Its a look at the world, governments, media, individuals, etc and seeing what 1984 and Brave New World got right and wrong in their predictions of a possible future, and what may or may not happen further on in time. I'd also recommend one of Aldous Huxley's other books where he's out of his tree on Acid.

And now you're trying to co-opt my arguments! I'm not agreeing with you at all. You've been calling out Brooker for being some kind of sell-out and a hypocrite, I'm not saying anything like that.

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And now you're trying to co-opt my arguments! I'm not agreeing with you at all. You've been calling out Brooker for being some kind of sell-out and a hypocrite, I'm not saying anything like that.

I thought this place was for discussing stuff, and voicing opinions. That's what i've been doing. Its clear some people are just trying to stretch out some kind of argument with me now though. I'm agreeing with many of your points, they're points i brought up in my initial post, yet you don't want to be seen as agreeing with me or sharing similar views. Very strange.

I'm saying that Brooker is laughing and having a pop at things that he sees beneath him. Look how the characters in this that watch the X-Factor style show and enjoy watching mindless programs are portrayed as total fucking idiots. It makes fun of things it deems to be above. I sort of agree with Stewart Lee, that comedy should really be aimed upwards at things above. I just sat watching bits of this thinking Charlie Brooker is a very bitter man.

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A few observations:

1. I think some people may be overstating the level of profundity in these shows, but then I think fiction's capability to express profound messages is often exaggerated anyway. That's not to say that fiction can't communicate anything, or be powerful in that regard, but the communication is always going to be very limited in depth compared to more direct, non-fictional forms of writing, and thus it typically only lends itself to expressing very simple ideas (or if it does express complex ideas, it can only express simplified versions of them).

2. What this means is that Aspel criticising this show while seemingly holding up 1984 and Brave New World as containing incredibly profound philosophical messages is rather stupid. 1984 and Brave New World were better stories than 15 Million Merits, but their messages are little more profound than what 15 Million Merits has to say -- they're on a very similar level, with all of them many rungs below actual theory.

I've read this a few times; it seems like a strange approach to take to reading fiction, like criticising science writing for not having a strong enough aesthetic quality - a very 'Two Cultures' tone, as if fiction where getting in the way of proper, objective learning. Plus, and I'm not sure if this is exactly what you mean, the profundity of a text doesn't have much to do with the depth or learnedness of its message. You'll learn more in a narrow, didactic sense about existentialism from reading Kierkegaard and Satre, but you'll probably 'get' it through Raskolnikov's angst by reading Dostoveksky. You can't look at Brave New World and 15 Million Merits and say, 'well, there's a sketched theme of recuperation in both so that's 1-1. The story and its message aren't sealed off from one another; I'd like to think that's partly the reason why fiction tends to 'communicate' more than non fiction and can be really very affecting, moving and informing in a way that non-fiction rarely is (and why, in my world, you're better off getting an English degree than a Science one).

Again, I've got the feeling I've misunderstood, but yeah, If You Liked This... read Baudrillard, Adorno, Benjamin etc.

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I've read this a few times; it seems like a strange approach to take to reading fiction, like criticising science writing for not having a strong enough aesthetic quality - a very 'Two Cultures' tone, as if fiction where getting in the way of proper, objective learning. Plus, and I'm not sure if this is exactly what you mean,

I'm not criticising fiction at all, though. I was laying out where I see its limits in terms of providing explanations, but I don't expect it to provide explanations anyway.

As far as existentialism goes, I've never thought there was much to 'get' about it, anyway. Nietzsche diagnosed it and resolved it long before Sartre got his clumsy little hands onto it, anyway. ;)

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What i really don't like about this show is that its slagging off stuff like X-Factor, elements of modern pop culture, mass market consumerism etc, yet its part of the system its slagging off. Its bollocks. You can dress it up as much as you like but its hypocritical.

Point 3. Charlie Brooker would be agreeing with both me and you then, as that's exactly what i'm saying. Its just a dark comedy/drama, its clearly meant to be absurd, not an incredible, artistic, meaningful statement on modern day life. He's just taking the piss out of stuff he thinks he's above, at the same time as being part of that system. That's were it starts to grate with me.

Brooker's well aware of that: he's acknowledged in the past that his TV shows are made by a branch of the company that makes Big Brother (Endemol). Bing's story was Black Mirror's way of acknowledging that, just like in Nathan Barley it was represented by Dan Ashcroft's inability to escape from SugaRape magazine.

One thing I was curious about was how the yellow-clothed cleaners got into their situation, and if there was any link between that and their Avatars/Miis being enemies in the FPS game.

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People who are too overweight to pedal the bikes are demoted into an underclass so they are made to wear yellow and perform menial and humiliating duties; also the people on the bikes/general population are encouraged to hate them through their use as videogame enemies and embarrassing gameshow fodder. It's similar to the way that shitty tabloid newspapers continually go on about benefit scroungers so that their readers have obvious hate figures to complain about rather than turn their attention to the higher ranks who are the real shitmongers.

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I finished 1984 last week. It's not a love story.

Er, yes it is. The main "story" is about Winston discovering the emotion of love, and thus his humanity and freedom of mind, through his feelings for Julia. Its saying that even in the darkest situation, the human spirit cannot be conquered, and there is a spark of good inside of us all.

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Er, yes it is. The main "story" is about Winston discovering the emotion of love, and thus his humanity and freedom of mind, through his feelings for Julia. Its saying that even in the darkest situation, the human spirit cannot be conquered, and there is a spark of good inside of us all.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever. And then the human jumps up and says "YOU CANNOT CONQUER ME, FOR I HAVE LOVE ON MY SIDE!"

Seriously though, did you read the end of the book? They're not even really in love, they just represent a rebellion against the party to each other.

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Er, yes it is. The main "story" is about Winston discovering the emotion of love, and thus his humanity and freedom of mind, through his feelings for Julia. Its saying that even in the darkest situation, the human spirit cannot be conquered, and there is a spark of good inside of us all.

I don't agree with this at all. Winston has plainly not believed in Big Brother or the society in which he lives for years before he meets Julia. He has freedom of mind long before the book begins, hence his unwillingness to submit to doublethink or the idea that 2+2 can equal 5 or believe that they have always been at war with Eastasia. I think it's even debatable whether he loves Julia. Julia could have been any woman who rebelled against Big Brother and the system, I don't think he necessarily loves her, so much as the acts they are committing together against authority.

Winston's human spirit is conquered in the end, and I never once got from the book even the hint of a message that 'there is a spark of goodness in us all'. Where have you got that from?

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If there is no love story and Winston does not feel love for Julia, then the book starts to unravel. You have to believe that Winston truly loves Julia, for his torture and ultimate betrayal of her, to have any weight and meaning. Its not until Winston truly feels love for Julia that the government intervenes. He is only supposed to love Big Brother.

At the end of the book Winston still loves Julia, he still has his humanity. This is what makes the ending so bleak. He doesn't truly love Big Brother, he's trapped in hell on earth.

Just like countless people were trapped in and survived hell on earth, in Nazi concentration camps. Something that inspired 1984. Many of them came out the other side with love still in their hearts and minds. You can take away peoples dignity and humanity, but you cannot conquer the human spirit.

It sounds like some of you would be better off sticking to a "mans book" like Bravo Two Zero. Cue Ross Kemp, and hi-octane action music.

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He doesn't want to betray Julia because of what his relationship with her represents rather than him actually being in love with her as a person. Any other woman could have taken Julia's role and he would have 'loved' her as well.

Are you suggesting the very last line of the book is ironic?

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And this is where you lose us. This is the childish spin you put on all your posts which makes you look like a troll. You have this weird contradiction: you seem to feel personally insulted that Charlie Brooker "looks down on people", but then you say something patronising like this. If someone has a different interpretation of Nineteen Eighty Four than yours -- which is likely since millions of words of academia have been spent discussing this text -- you sneer a retort about how we might be better off reading a less intellectual book instead? :facepalm:

I personally think you're wrong about Brooker on two counts: That his script didn't have anything to say and that he was "looking down" on people. Wrong and wrong. And although you have protested that you thought the point of this forum was to discuss things, you haven't actually said much to explain your discussion points.

I wrote a long list of the points that I thought 15 Million Merits raised, and most other people thought it raised interesting points too... but you seem to deny the programme was even capable of those points. I explained why the programme doesn't look down on people who watch light entertainment, but rather it explains how everyone could have their human potential limited if it was all they were able to watch... but no, you set your jaw and say, "Nope, the Bad Channel 4 Man is looking down on us!"

Think of it this way: imagine you were born into a society where you weren't able to read Orwell or Huxley, but you could only read Nuts and Zoo magazine... tell me honestly if you think your intellect would suffer. Go on. Am I "looking down" on you for raising this point?

And Bravo Two Zero actually improves with every read

post-13438-063179500 1324051654_thumb.jp

This is where you come across as somebody who lies in wait for a few people to disagree with me, before deciding you're in the majority and its ok for you to start talking shit and having a go at me for no real reason. My comments were in relation to Morrius U, and the people who seem to be upset that they might have read a love story, and something with a positive message. They are clearly mocking me. I'm just having a little dig back. Not having a go at them are you? Didn't think so.

They are telling me that there is no love story to Big Brother, they are telling me i'm wrong and they are right. Just as you are doing above. Quite amusing seeing as we're discussing 1984. If you bother to take note you'll realise that i'm not actually doing that. If they bothered to take note, they'd realise its a commonly held view of the book.

As i've already said, has have others, 15 Million Merits is just a bit of light entertainment.

I wasn't going to say anything, but i watched the National Anthem repeat last night. Sub sub-standard Chris Morris rip-off. None of the substance, none of the intelligence, none of the balls, none of the laughs. Proper trash tv. I read a few reviews earlier and they were full of empty waffle. Some of it was almost like reading a Nathan Barley script.

"I'm so trending watching this, yeah!?"

"Pig fuck! I'm so shitcock for watching this, yeah!?"

"He's soooo, saying something about something, yeah!? YEAH!"

Again, as i've already said though if you see it as some kind of great artistic statement then fair enough, that's your opinion.

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He doesn't want to betray Julia because of what his relationship with her represents rather than him actually being in love with her as a person. Any other woman could have taken Julia's role and he would have 'loved' her as well.

Are you suggesting the very last line of the book is ironic?

Quite a few people see it in that way. Probably says a great deal about the person reading it. I see the end as Winston realising he was capable of betraying someone he loves, still loving them, and realising he will never be free. Throughout the book the ministries have names that mean the opposite to their real purpose. When Winston loves Big Brother, i read it as Winston hates Big Brother.

The great thing about the book is its open to interpretation. I think there's no doubting the love story element Orwell intended though. Its dealing with human emotion and human nature, and how people are capable of doing wrong, even to those they love.

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